Tuesday, June 21, 2011
I can't exactly tell you where I got the notion that I wanted to walk across burning hot coals, but there it was, sitting on my list of things to do in 2011. (Along with: fly a kite, visit Portland, OR and book a solo art show...)
It seemed to pop up naturally considering my early years were spent with a pair of very over protective parents. Though I'm sure they meant well, this led me to being afraid to live life for fear of something bad happening. And bad things can happen- but what life is worth living when you live it inside a box of fear? You will never experience the good without exposing yourself to the possibility of the bad. And whose to say what "bad" really is? "Bad" is often a growth opportunity and also a matter of perspective.
One day I realized that not only could I make my own choices about what's right or wrong for me, but that I could also start to live the life I've always wanted. This all started in late 2001 after suffering for months of debilitating depression when on a whim, I jumped on a plane (for the first time ever, AND right after 9/11) to California so I could see Hollywood and all of the other sights that had been a part of my TV childhood. It was also during that year when I started to make and sell my own jewelry at local craft shows and art festivals. I was finally asserting my creative identity and people were responding in a very positive way.
2005 was the year I found the drumming community and for the first time ever, felt a deep connection to people just like me. Spiritual minded and seeking to transform, I would attend numerous personal growth workshops by my friend Jim Donovan, (former drummer from the band Rusted Root) and would later pair up with him to work on a number of exciting projects. It was through that friendship and all those interrelated that I would be encouraged to LIVE my life and to let go of being so afraid.
From 2007 forward, I'd get my GED, help to write a book, start teaching my own workshops, quit my "day job" to pursue my creative ventures, perform music in front of thousands of people, drive to central Ohio, NY, VA & MD, create over 1600 pieces of art, author 2 popular blogs, participate in a live art competition, and generally put myself out there as much as possible. This is how I chose to give back and leave my legacy to the world- through my writing, art, music and teaching, Through my own personal experiences, my goal is to inspire and empower others to live their own lives to their fullest potential.
Oh, AND I walked through fire. But that was only the beginning. Like I said, I wasn't even sure what prompted me to want to do it other than I knew that any kind of transformational event can help move out mental and emotional baggage and help you to become a better person. I guess you could say that a fire walk is a right of passage in a society that doesn't really offer any such thing. While ironically I wasn't afraid to walk the fire, I was terrified of who I would be on the other side. While I love transforming all this unhelpful baggage, there is a certain amount of responsibility needed to take each new risk and it's scary to think of leaving anything behind, (Even the "you" you no longer want to be.)
While we were waiting for the fire to burn down, I had the opportunity to experience something that for me, would prove to be even more intense than the fire walk. I participated in an arrow breaking ritual. The way this works (Don't ever try this at home!) is that you place the tip of an arrow at the hollow of your throat at the place where something pointy was never meant to rest. The back of the arrow is set into a notched board and after taking several deep breaths, you step forward while holding your breath into that sharp pointy thing lodged right at your throat. I cannot begin to tell you how effing afraid I was to do this. All I kept thinking about was how wrong this could go - but I told my subconscious to take a hike, that I was going to do it anyway, that I needed to do this.
Before placing the arrow at my throat, I was asked to name a belief I wanted to break free from. The facilitator had told us that this intention combined with the action would often times immediately break a person of the thought pattern connected to the unhelpful belief. My fear? The fear of success- but more specifically, the fear of losing people closest to me as I progress.
That said, it was my turn to move forward. Not only was I about to walk into a sharp pointy thing, but one that represented by biggest fear. I had no idea if it would work but I could only trust that my intention would carry me through. One...two... I held my breath, pushed forward, and the arrow shattered to pieces. The facilitator turned to hug me and I collapsed in her arms. I started to cry and then the big heaving sobs took over and I just let it all go..... I will never forget what it was like to physically take that step forward... Never. And just think about what that single motion represents- conscious movement towards that which scares us the most AND which could cause us physical harm. But it didn't. :o)
After that, the fire walk was a piece of cake. (That doesn't mean I wasn't respectful of the fact that I was walking over 900 degree hot coals...) I stopped looking so far down the road of what might happen and concentrated only on getting to the other side. And that's what this whole thing was really about- conquering the obstacle right in front of us. I walked the fire that night 7 or 8 times, and no, I never burned my feet. I was never worried about burning my feet.....
Big huge to Kat Naslas for teaching me how to walk the fire and for lending me her shoulder to cry on and to Mary Cameron, owner of Walking Winds Holistic Center where the event took place. And to my soul sister Debbie, who did the arrow break first.
Short video of an arrow breaking ritual. Once again, do not attempt this without the guidance of a professional facilitator.
Top image is me holding charcoal from the fire. I will be using it to draw...