The first time my 9-year-old son firewalked, he came off the 12-foot bed of burning coals and shouted, "It wasn't even hot! It felt like oatmeal!" And then he ran with his little brother to get back in line to do it again, as if it were a Slip 'n Slide.
The local news team was there, and my 13-year-old was interviewed. He said that he imagined himself "walking on a bed of Rice Krispies," which never burned anybody. The next day, he went to school a hero.
There are two guys leading most of the firewalking in America today. Tony Robbins gets workshop participants on 2000° coals the first evening. He wants people to really mix it up - to do something outrageous, even impossible, to create a momentum for positive change.
The other guy is Tolly Burkan, and he was Tony's teacher. I did firewalking workshops with both, and their methods were very different, yet both effective.
Tony encouraged loud, animated enthusiasm and excitement -- with live music and a lot of shouting and fist-pumping. And every participant was cheered to walk.
Tolly kept it mellow -- holding hands and chanting around the fire. He said it was necessary to be "relaxed, comfortable and confident" and to have a "deep sense of knowing" that everything would be all right.
In both cases, it was a workshop on "listening within," in order to know what to do, whether to walk or not -- because all the answers we need are inside us.
When I walked with Tony, I wasn't nervous because I'd already done it with Tolly. And I'm not the fist-pumping type. So I just did what I'd learned from Tolly, which is to walk calmly yet firmly down the bed, never running! Something about how the embers might get stirred up and land in your rolled-up cuffs. In other words, your pants might burn, but your feet should make it fine.
Tolly talks to the participants about the importance of listening to a spiritual power within. Then everyone joins hands. And he goes to the end of the bed and steps onto the coals. That's the point where the group-mind turns inside out by witnessing him walking on fire. Nothing is ever the same! And anyone who feels moved can follow his example.
Firewalking is life-changing because you accomplish something that everyone -- including you! -- believes is impossible. And it has a lasting impact.
Today, as young men, my sons believe that they deserve the best and can make it happen for themselves. They have that "deep sense of knowing" that they'll always be all right, no matter what happens.
By the time of my last firewalk, my "oatmeal" son and I were even -- we'd both walked eight times. As I headed out the door for that final workshop, he said to me, "Mom, please don't walk tonight." What a sweetheart, thinking about my safety. Then I realized he just didn't want me to break our tie and beat him! So I didn't.