I knew it was the perfect location for a Firewalk workshop. It's stones had surely experienced so many human transformations before we came along that I felt certain the building would be supporting us that evening. It may seem an odd thing to say, but to me it almost felt as though the old school had been waiting for us. And I felt entirely at home.
People started to arrive just after 5pm, and soon the main hall was filled with chatter and laughter - together with a sense of uncertainty that was without doubt stronger in some more than others! This particular workshop was to be led by Simon Treselyan, a master firewalk instructor, and one of only two people in the world certified by Peggy Dylan to train other instructors.
Simon and I have a long history stretching back twelve years to the time when we first met. We'd discussed working together at that point, but it wasn't to be because he didn't get on with Cam (perhaps another one of those many red-flag signs I failed to acknowledge at the time?) After more than a decade our time had come, and Simon was finally here in the UK from Australia so that we could run this workshop together. So it was bound to be a great experience.
My role on this particular event was to tend the fire and offer support to the first-time walkers - and it suited me perfectly. It gave me the opportunity to sit back from the event, to let someone else take control, and to allow myself to experience the evening without judgement or expectation.
The group consisted of a network built from friends and fellow Top Bananas, each person having arrived by different routes, and each with their individual personal goals - but every one of us tied by the common intention of growth and transformation. For me, for the first time since I'd first learned to Firewalk, I took the workshop as an opportunity to achieve something personal for me - yes, to be there to support others as usual of course, but also to consciously create something for me. For Mel the person, rather than Mel the Firewalk Instructor, Coach and Motivator. For me, this was personal now. So much of my life up until then had already been affected by my first firewalking experience, this was now my opportunity to move up still another level in my real life.
As is traditional, before the workshop even started we all stated our intention, or if you like our goal for the workshop. The fire - along with many other transformation tools - is a flexible, obedient, and directly reflecting medium that offers you whatever you ask for, and will deliver whatever you expect you can receive. So I thought carefully about what I wanted to achieve, and when it was my turn to speak I made my statement: "To find a new power in my life, by re-connecting with more of my own personal power, which is going to carry me and Top Banana through to greater things"
The workshop got underway and we all helped to transport the logs and build the fire - placing the logs with intention, and then lighting the fire from just one single flame. Then as the others went in to continue with discussions, activities, explorations and discoveries, I stayed by the fire and tended the flames.
This was the first time in eight years that I had been Fire Master for such an event. Normally I have been up there co-running the workshop. Building up the energy, introducing the exercises, and guiding people through the process. But eight years ago I was Fire Master. And eight years ago had been another time of massive transformation, when I found myself in a viper's pit as a result of Cam's behaviour. So, yes, Saturday evening was a huge event for me - on more levels than I can even begin to explain here. Suffice it to say it was big. Very big. And very important.
So I walked around the fire, and looked after the flames for the next three hours. I talked to her (it had become a 'she' by this stage) and I could feel her listening and responding to me. I shared with her my fears. My frustrations. My battles. My hopes. My history. My questions. My confusion, and my understanding. And she listened. And she took them on board. And we danced together - the smoke curling around me as I guided another stray log back on to the fire, the colours of the flames changing from orange to red to blue as the temperature changed, the crackling turning to a roar and then back to a gentle rythmic breathing as the fire wove a dance of her own. And it was a magical experience.
Occasionally I would hear a roar from the school hall - sometimes laughter, other times determined shouts, but always an energy that was clearly building as the workshop progressed. And all the time, I stayed with my fire. We got to know each other. And I knew she was burning brightly so that others could let their potential shine brightly as they walked across her burning embers. 1,645 degrees of heat to be precise. She was living her entire life to the full over only a few short hours. And I felt honoured and privileged to be the one who would be there with her and accompany her from her birth through to her eventual death.
Eventually the time came for people to walk. They came out together, a new energy of determination showing through the faces and movements of each and every one of them. And as the first person walked (Ewan - you're a star. You said you would, you did, and I'm proud of you) the energy increased. Calm, clear, centered.... and every single person walked with conviction and power over the fire. Not just once, and not alone. People walked in pairs, in threes, they sauntered, they marched, they danced... and it was beautiful.
After a certain amount of time we did a final walk, and were invited to stand in the middle and state out loud, in one word, what we were going to bring to the world as a result of the workshop. Something that was important to each individual. There was peace. Love. Happiness. Power. Strength. Belief. Hope and so many other words that people chose to say out loud. For me, it was Truth. For that is where I am. Because for me there is no other way - no matter the consequence.
And as these final walks were happening, I felt the fire giving thanks for her part in helping these beautiful people with their own transformation. Their experience had given her life meaning. And I felt her begin to burn down and leave with grace and gratitude while the group of new-born Firewalkers made their way back in to the old school hall. I stayed and waited for a while, giving my own thanks to the fire, before joining the group for the final de-brief and wrap-up.
And do you know what I've actually truly discovered through this process? I've just this very minute broken away from writing and been outside in my courtyard here at home in France - the sunshine warm and comforting, and talking with my dear and very wise friend Beatrix. I was explaining to her that I'm writing about my experiences from Saturday, but that I hadn't yet finished. I'd hit a "break" point. At the same time I felt able to explain to her my surprise and sense of freedom about some of the words I now feel comfortable in writing. My personal expressions of emotion and experience that I'm happy to share. And as I was sharing this with her it hit me.
I felt a strange but familiar question bubbling up from deep inside of me. The feeling was in my tummy. Gurgling, rumbling, and working it's way up... urging me to give it a voice. But as soon as I understood the message, it became clear. I had no need to speak it out loud. Just to write it, and make sense of it that way. Explain and share my "ah-ha" moment as it's happening. So here goes - I hope it makes sense.
OK. I'm now almost taking it for granted that things are suddenly all going so well for me... hmmm... well alright, actually it's not exactly "sudden" because it's been a long time in the making, and lots of tough stuff to go through, but I can suddenly realise that things are consistently going well for me. No glitches, no dramas. I'm in synch, in the groove, tip top, tickety-boo - whatever positive words or phrases you can think of, they apply to me right now. But... you know what? It's scary! And, up until this point I hadn't recognised quite how scary it is! And here's why:
It seems natural to be happy and in synch, right? The good stuff is what we all want, right? A happy and fulfilled existence is what we're all searching for, right?
OK.... so get this... because as I realised just how in synch I was, how happy I am, the question I was about to ask Bea was this:
"Do you think this means that I'm about to die?"
What????? And at the same time.... Doh!!!! Because there it was. All of a sudden. Out in the open. The truth. The final frontier that has kept me "in my place" for so long. It suddenly came to light that somewhere deep in the recesses of my unconsciousness, I have had the belief, the knowing, that while there's a struggle, then I'm alive. For while I'm struggling then I'm learning and growing.
If things are good then there's no more need for struggle. And if there's no more need for struggle, then there's no more need to learn. And if there's no more need to learn - well.... then there's no more need for life. So, therefore, if I'm happy - then I die. Boom. Finito. Game over. But I don't want to die - I want to live. So in order to live, I therefore needed to struggle.
Wham bam and thank you ma'am. Gotcha you slippery little sucker!
Cos you know what? Catch myself unawares and the truth is that life, for me, is so much more satisfying now that it's finally unconditionally good and supportive. Added to that, in fact, it actually provides so many more opportunities for growth and exploration when things are going well! Doh!!!
So that old cold belief, that old cold unconscious programme, that old cold and frozen way of being has now left me. The flame of truth has melted my unconscious chains, warmed my heart, and set me free. Thank you Bea for being my witness.
So NOW my life has begun in earnest.... and here I come with arms wide open! Yeeeeeee haaaaaaaa!!!!!