Into the Fire
Warning: this is a woo woo post.
A while back, I studied contemporary shamanism. A shaman is believed to be a healer who travels between the world as we know it and the world of the spirits. I wasn’t looking to become a shaman, assuming such a thing is even possible. But I was definitely looking.
Our first assigned meditation, I got way more (and less) than I was expecting. We were supposed to meditate our way into the spirit world and ask for a guide. I wanted something cool, like a panther. Instead, I got a toothless old aboriginal dude who wouldn’t talk to me, but who seemed very amused by me and my presumptions.
I wanted a mysterious jungle to travel, me and my exotic panther. Instead, I got an other-worldly beach with a purple sky, indigo blue sand, and red water.
My annoying guide pointed at the horizon down the beach, which just so happened to be completely on fire, and gestured that I should walk into it.
What the what?!
I cried. I pleaded with him. I was terrified. “I’ll be burned alive,” I sobbed.
“No,” he ‘said’ gently without moving his mouth. “It’s the only thing that will save you. Everything that is not you will be burned away.”
So I stepped into the flame. I could feel it burn my clothes, lick at my limbs, crinkle the hairs in my nose. Ash swirled around me. But the rock pathway under my feet was surprisingly cool. Eventually, it led to a clearing, an eye of the firestorm.
I stood there, eyebrows singed, hair thick with ash, skin smudged with soot, and all my clothes burned away. And I laughed. I had never felt more alive in my life.
Just a silly and overactive imagination? You tell me. Over the next few months, I lost my job, my marriage, my health, a lot of money, almost everything I owned, and the ability to care independently for my son. Lying bedridden, stripped of everything I thought had mattered and defined me, I was forced to admit that without any of these things—my stuff, my job, my societal roles, my money—I was still here. So it must be true that I was not any of these things. I was simply me.
I couldn’t get up to shower, but in many ways, I had never felt more alive in my life.
That was years ago. I have recovered a great deal, I have a vibrant coaching practice, I moved cross-country, I take care of my son. I am surrounded by stuff, but I don’t care about any of it. The lesson remains.
If you’re facing a trial by fire—and that fire could be as tragic as the loss of your job or your health or someone you love, or as exciting as knowing you want something different or more from your life—I invite you to step right into the flame. It’s counter-intuitive but true: the only way out is through.
And if you want some help, some reassurance that your essence, the things that make you really you, won’t go up in smoke, I’d be honored to be your guide. I know fire. And I know its power to forge something beautiful.