Autobiography & Memoir
Feel and fear and do it anyway
Have you ever conquered your fear?
I have experienced walking on hot coals in the late 1980s. One of the most exciting and memorable experiences of my life.
I was a member of the enthusiastic YES group in London, which was the support network for Anthony Robbins, the American Personal Power and Life Coach Guru. I was the only member who had not unleashed the power within (UPW) and walked on hot coals. I felt like a fraud.
I had a fear of fire which stemmed back to my innocent years in Manchester when I first left home at the tender age of 19. I moved from Liverpool, my place of birth, to Manchester where I accidentally set fire to my bedroom one winter night.
Picture the scene. it was the 1960s and the coldest winter recorded since 1924. You could see your breath indoors. I even went to bed in my woollen underwear and three pairs of nickers. I had a gas fire in the Victorian fireplace of my bedsit in a house in Withington, Manchester which I shared with three psychology students. The gap between the gas fire and the mantelpiece was so enormous and draughty, that I stuffed it with pages from The Guardian to make the room warmer. The heat of the fire made the newspapers grow brittle and to my horror saw flames leaping out and licking the mantelpiece. Somehow I managed to turn off the gas fire and scream "fire". I then filled a bucket of water to extinguished the flames. I remember shaking afterwards. As a result I hated fireworks, bonfires and flambe dishes. Every time I heard the woosh, like lighting a gas fire or the hob of a cooker, it would trigger my fear.
It took me seconds to volunteer as a French interpreter for the UPW seminar in Bruxelles but about a month to commit myself filling out the application form moving it from one room to another before finally faxing it to Amsterdam, the HQ and The Robbins organisation in Europe. One day I just did it and was on my way to the challenge.
I was one of the 50 volunteers and it turned out the only one who had not experienced the fire walk. I even shared a room in Heysel the exhibition grounds where the event was taking place, with a Greek girl who longed to be part of the fire building team. We were told that in order to get into the spirit of the event, led by Robbins himself, each one of us had to do the fire walk early on the Friday evening as it was getting dark before the 1,5000 participants took part later that evening in lines as there were about 10 paths of glowing red embers.
I had little time to prepare myself, whilst speaking French, giving out headphones to guests. My legs were trembling so badly that one of the volunteers noticed and coached me telling me that I could do it. He told me to repeat "I can. I can".
I was surprised to meet three Hassidic Jews who did not speak English at the registration desk, it seemed an unlikely place for them to be. I was even more amused when they mixed with us volunteers queuing up to do the walk instead of joining the other participants. When I asked them in French, they explained that they must not walk on the Sabbath!
If they can do it, then so can I. And I did. I just put my mind to it and focused on my walk saying "I can, I can" all the way to the end of the glowing path. I cried at the end and received hugs and cheers from my colleagues. "That's it?" I said looking back at the path of embers crying with relief.
I felt the fear and did it anyway.
Toastmasters. Level 3, Brighton 2005.