It all seemed like a good idea at the time. A firewalk to raise money for our school. What I didn’t know at the time was just how far and deep I would have to reach inside to achieve it.
That’s what they’re called… tiny little marks, where the red hot embers made contact with the bare soles of the feet.
Marks of an adventure, a challenge met, a fear faced head on, when terror raises it’s fierce head…
“We’re going to organise a Firewalk for the school to raise funds… would you like to do it? Walk across the coals? Chris has ran this event lots of times, he’s a trained Firewalker!”
Lucia (Mum of Jack, Class One) looked at me as she posed this question.
My initial reaction was one genuine excitement – I mean, what an AMAZING fundraiser that would be? Something totally different – this was going to put us on the map!
“So would you? What do you think? There’s no pressure.”
Ohhh.. I think I WOULD like to have a go…
“How does it work? I mean, how do you not burn??”
Lucia’s reply was a brief explanation, but the words ‘you must walk with purpose’ hung in the air. I would have to ‘walk with purpose’.
“Ah. Maybe not – I can barely walk down the road with purpose!”
The day before the walk, Lucia again asked if I would like to join the Firewalkers for the training. ‘Then you could do it too if you feel like it, on the night?’
I laughed – I’d love to, but with a limp due to hip dysplasia and carrying some *ahem* ‘extra’ weight, I did not want to be that idiot that fell over whilst trying to ‘walk with purpose’, needing some serious First Aid and ruining the evening for everyone.
“Maybe…I’d love to, but…”
The day came. I entered the hall to see 29 people sat on chairs, facing Lucia’s partner, Chris Jones. I’d said hello to Chris a few times, had a little chat. But boy… I was not expecting this…
There was huge silence in the room, all attention was totally focussed on Chris. It turns out that Chris Jones, Film Director, Author, Firewalk Trainer, Dad, partner to the lovely Lucia, had huge energy, huge charisma, and all of a sudden the journey began.
This is where it gets hard to describe… We listened. Music was played. We watched. We talked. We hugged. We shouted. We yelled. We laughed – a lot! We danced… Boy did we dance!! Feeling uncomfortable reading this?! Yeah, we were too – at the beginning!
Inhibitions lifted, and the energy began to make the room buzz.
Chris is a powerful speaker, a motivator and he knows his stuff. He knew how to get us all more and more out of our comfort zone, with people that we knew and we didn’t know. It felt like we were on a journey that would, without a doubt, take us somewhere that most of us hadn’t been before.
He began using visulisation, a powerful tool that uses the power of your mind. We had to all choose something to focus on, something big or small, something that was holding us back from doing the things that we really wanted, really needed to do in life. And then Chris through in a curve ball – “Now you’re going to walk on broken glass.”
Real glass, from wine bottles. My favourite kind of glass. And now I was going to walk on them? With this body? Surely my weight alone would cause me to lacerate my feet? The terror, the utter terror must have shown on my face…
“Claire! Would you like to go first?”
Yikes. In for a penny…
And do you know what? Terror showed up, right there. My hands were sweating, my feet were sweating… I nearly got the giggles (my default in a scary situation, believe it or not!)
“You’ve got this!” whispered Lucia in my ear… Chris offered his arm, which I took, just to balance myself. I took a deep breath. Focussed. Put on my big girl pants (Metaphorically. I already had my big girl pants on).
But do you know what? It felt AMAZING! It almost felt nice…is that possible? And as soon as I reached the other end, the roar, the cheers, and the support from my friends old and new in the room… it nearly made me cry! Every single person walked across the glass, with no injury… our confidence and belief soared!
I could go on (even more than I already have!) – but suffice to say, Chris had us all reaching inside for our inner Wonder Woman (did I mention that most of the people on this course were women?!). When it was time to light the fire, Gwen, a friend and parent, asked me the question… ‘Are you going to Firewalk?’
“Too bloody right!”
I am not entirely sure who was more surprised…
The Firewalk itself. 1,600 degrees. Hot coals. Not a thick crust to protect our feet with embers underneath. No. Freshly raked hot coals. Hot enough to cook steak. Hot enough to melt lead. Hot enough to BURN OUR BLOODY FEET!
I want to tell you how it felt. I want to tell you about the commitment, the self belief, the power of the mind, the support of our Firewalker comrades. The leadership from Chris. The quiet, unassuming support and strength from Lucia. The feeling, oh the feeling of DOING it! Not falling down, not worrying about limping, forgetting the pain in my hip… for some, forgetting the mental anguish that faced them right there, in front of the coals…
I can try… I can try and tell you what it meant for me. It’s personal, for everyone. No one, but no one knows what goes through other peoples minds.
The hardest part for me, was when we had to focus in on our fears… what was holding me back? To start with, I thought that there was nothing. Truly – I’m confident, right? Right! My life seems to be going the way I want and need it to be, yes? Yes, more or less!
So what is it? What is my fear? What IS holding me back – because we all have something.
I’m lucky to have the support of a wonderful family, a stable and happy upbringing. A fantastic husband, who loves me, and I him. Amazing kids. So surely there is something?
I need to be the best parent that I can be.
I need to be present and positive.
I need to be supportive and understanding.
I need to be well.
I need to be healthier.
I need to be mobile and active and mindful so that I can be present at all times.
I need to be pain free. Oh to be able to walk, pain free!
To visualise my future was frankly terrifying and deeply upsetting. So upsetting, that I stood rigid in that hall, with my eyes squeezed tightly shut. But not tight enough to stop the tears from rolling down my cheeks. In my mind, I was scared to see what I was looking at, at my future…
Then Chris started to draw us back, to start to focus how different things would be WITHOUT these fears, these feelings, these things that hold us back.
We began to visulise a different future without these restraints. And I smiled! My tears dried up, and I began to see what could be, what was possible, if I let go of my restrictions that I had placed on myself.
And so I was ready. Ready to face my fear.
I was full of adrenaline, full of excitement at the prospect of pushing my limits – I really began to believe that I could do this, this Firewalk. I could override any pain, any fear… I could do this…
And do you know what? I bloody well DID IT!
It was utterly amazing…
I watched Lucie, wondering what fears she faced, as she strode across the glowing coals.
I watched my friend falter, and then find her inner Wonder Woman – she nailed it!
I watched another friend take a deep breath, stride across the red hot coals – and fall into Chris, sobbing.
I stood at the start of the coals, anxious… “Will I be able to walk quickly enough, Lucia?”
Quietly, positively, Lucia responded… “of course you can. You’ve got this. I believe in you”
Chris called from the end of the coals -“look at me…focus…Are you ready?”
I walked once… I felt fear and then elation. I walked again – and again… with no fear this time, only determination and courage, to the cheers and support of my friends and family. I’ve got this.
So it starts here. My journey to better health, to more mobilty, to being the best that I can be for my family, and for me…it starts right here.
Will it work for you? You are just going to have to do it for yourself…
Come on. Put your big girl pants on, and find your inner Wonder Woman. We did.
You can still contribute to the campaign HERE.
Claire Coles Jones
Wonder Woman Firewalker