Monthly Archives: June 2012

Poem upon Firewalking

June’s firewalk was almost cancelled. Six last-day cancellations drove me to fear that I would not have enough attendees, so I called the local attendees I knew, and asked them if they wanted a small firewalk or a rain check — they opted for the rain check. I glumly accepted my disappointment. Then I went out to dinner. My cellphone rang at 7:01pm — a couple had driven from Rochester, 3 hours away, to firewalk — and where was I? They had registered months ago and I forgot. I told them to stay put, promised them a firewalk, had the restaurant pack up the food from the table, and got on the phone. I reassembled my team, got my local friends back into the game, and we were on! I drove fast. It ended up as a wonderful, rich evening.

Alison Taren participated in the workshop. Following is a poem she wrote about it:



small split logs
carried piece by piece
to the waiting earth
already scorched and knowing
like an old man, wise

the fire is lit
by many hands
sending hot red spires
into the evening air
eyes squint, wondering
the scene is set

over cold, wet grass
we walk indoors
where the one who’s guiding
tells us to pay attention,
play full out, and
let it be easy
his words hit deeply
like the arrow we later break
against our soft throats
awakening places in me
too long asleep

boards are broken
as are fears
taking me back
to the first time
into others’ arms
having to catch
then blunt arrow tips
into throat hollows
greensticking the shaft
never thought I would
never thought I could

warm hugs all around
lots and lots of hugs
even the one
who cringed at the thought
now hugs and hugs

we walk back to the fire
burnt down low
red glowing embers
like an angry god laughing
daring us to tread
more threatening
than I had imagined
I close my eyes and listen
to the one who’s guiding
bless and chant
bringing me into a space
where I know I can
I know I will
walk across fire

’nuff said.

Healing Trauma Through Firewalk: Discovering Possibility

My friend Erik Lehmann is “The Dream Catalyst,” or that is his nonprofit and his mission. He finds young people who do not have anyone who believes in them, and he helps to make their dreams matter. He brought a young couple to Friday’s firewalk. 18 and 19 years old, engaged. Pregnant. Both unemployed. Both victims of long-term, repeated abuse — physical, emotional, sexual. Oh, and the guy has rage issues where he becomes a “monster” (his word). And that is not all: he is martial arts trained, at competition level. So when he loses control he can do more damage than someone who is not trained. Wow.

They were both totally open about their challenges right from the beginning of the workshop, as it explained why they were there: They both wanted to turn a corner and become better — for each other, and for their child-to-be. They both bravely took on the challenges I offered them. They wrote a ton on their boards about what they wanted to break through and towards – and then they broke them. The girl decided not to do the trust fall to protect her baby, but the guy, strapping and fit, said he almost peed his pants over that challenge. Trust does not come easily to people who have faced more than their measure of cruelty.

They both broke their arrows and they both walked through fire, joyfully. They said it helped them feel they could handle more than any of those horrible people in their past could dish out to them.

I do a bonus exercise for just a few people each workshop – where we capitalize on the elated moment after the firewalk to reprogram some negative self-images. His was “I am a monster.” Hers was that she is worthless. After the firewalk, they each design and proclaim a new truth to the group, until the group accepts they are speaking with full force and full conviction. He announced that he is a loving father and partner, always. She announced that she believes in herself, and she wept. Both received many hugs and much celebration for their new convictions. I asked them both to hold each other accountable for their new stands in life.

They were both wobbly and thrilled at the end of the workshop.

His testimonial: “Life changing. Tony helped me understand I am a person not a monster.”

Hers: “Tonight’s experience was fulfilling, relieving, and really made me feel like I am more than what I originally believed. I am strong, willful, and beautiful inside and out. I never felt like I was able to express myself until now. I am not who people say I am. I am myself. Thanks for the firewalk!”

Erik’s: “Tony, thank you for taking in the people I send and showing them your brand of love. What happens here is sacred!”

Other participants noted how they were moved by what they witnessed. I am reluctant to claim to be a healer, but healing happened Friday night. Those young parents-to-be got a look at what it would be like to be free of their burdens. Their challenges are just beginning, of course. Hopefully we can get a good local counselor to work with them for charity. But it was an honor and a privilege to serve them so deeply. I know this experience made a difference for them. Keep the momentum going, shining souls!