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Lifestyle: Fire walking - face the fear and do it anyway

Updated on May 18, 2014
Firewalking ritual
Firewalking ritual | Source

While walking on air may not be something that can be seen every day, firewalking is an ancient tradition that has been gathering pace since the 1990s. The firewalking practice began as religious ritual for shamans, priests and rite celebrants many centuries ago and is also a healing ceremony.

Early history of firewalking

The earliest reference to firewalking dates back to 1200BC and occurred in India when two Brahmin priests competed to see who could walk the furthest. In Roman times, people were exempted from paying taxes if they could show that they could walk on fire without burning. While in Africa the Kung bushmen used fire dances as a tribal healing ritual, which included walking and rolling on the fire. A coming of age ritual for seven-year-old girls in Bali is a ritual fire dancing ceremony. From the ancient Greeks, to the Kahunas of Hawaii, and with rites in Argentina, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore,Trinidad and other far-flung corners of the globe, firewalking ceremonies have a long history.

Global firewalking movement

A global firewalking movement was started by Tolly Burkan in 1977 and began to grow in popularity, following a “how to” guide published in an edition of Scientific American. Burkan’s research into firewalking revealed that although there was no definitive theory on firewalking, there was also no scientific agreement as to why firewalkers received no burns from the red-hot embers. From 1979 onwards, Burkan began to offer firewalking classes in an attempt to study the experiences further and offering his students a personal growth opportunity. He managed to persuade his students that firewalking was safe and that walking on coals with temperatures in excess of 1200˚F would cause no harm. Many of Burkan’s students now state that their firewalking experiences gave them a “radical transformation in consciousness” that had changed “their lives forever.”

Face the fear....
Face the fear.... | Source

Firewalking after the 1980s

From 1982 onwards Burkan’s stated aim was to create a “global firewalking movement.” His protégé Tony Robbins became adept at generating publicity for the movement and by 1984 Robbins’ classes were connecting with hundreds of firewalking students.

By the end of 1984 Burkan had begun to train firewalk instructors, with a view to utilising the firewalk as a challenge to overcome limiting beliefs and fears in all areas of life. By the beginning of 1985, Burkan had streamlined the firewalk instructor course to a one-week session that involved carrying out firewalks at least once a day. By the early 1990s Burkan’s dream had become reality as corporate bodies began to perceive that firewalking would inspire their employees’ creativity and open higher horizons. Throughout the decade Burkan and his wife trained more than 1,000 firewalking instructors, via the Sundoor Foundation and the Firewalking Institute of Research and Education (FIRE). By 2006 firewalking had become so ensconced into mainstream culture that the US military contacted Burkan to discuss adding firewalking into the Basic Training regime.

Firewalking for self realisation

For Burkan the dream has now become a reality, firewalking is a recognised tool to use towards self-realisation and empowerment and his vision of a global firewalking movement is becoming more and more prevalent.


© 2014 Dawn Denmar


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    • Karen Hellier profile image

      Karen Hellier 3 years ago from Georgia

      I had a firewalk experience at a Tony Robbins seminar once and it was truly amazing. And I did NOT get burned.