If you’re thinking about firewalking, you’re probably also thinking something along the lines of, “But won’t it hurt?” It’s a valid question, as it leads to considering how you would keep yourself out of danger if the fire was a real threat.

But it’s not a real threat. With the right approach and adequate preparation, taking your bare feet across a hot bed of coals is not only possible, but well within your reach. Here’s why:

First, there’s the matter of physics being on your side. Coals are considered to be what’s called poor thermal conductors. In other words, they’re terrible at transferring heat to other objects, like your feet. Their low thermal capacity means that it would take them a while to do any damage.

Think of it this way: if you stick your hand into a 400-degree oven, it’ll feel hot, but you’d have to hang out in there for a while before you actually burn yourself. The same principle applies to hot coals.

Secondly, your pace will protect you. Just as you don’t want to stand on the coals for a long period of time, you don’t want to run across them either. Running will cause your feet to sink further into the bed of coals and increase your chances of being burned. On the other hand, if you maintain a light, brisk pace across them, it’ll prevent cinders from wedging between your toes and scorching them. A good rule of thumb is a half second or less for each step.

Finally, you want to keep your mind in check. Your mind is a powerful tool that can work for or against you depending on how you use it. If you feed your fear with increased thoughts of bad outcomes and continually tell yourself it’s a bad idea, your fear will grow bigger and gain power over you. Not only can it ultimately paralyze you, but it will prevent you from focusing on the aforementioned methods you need to enlist to protect yourself.

However, if you practice envisioning yourself confidently stepping across the coals, this does more than make you feel better in the moment. It conditions your brain to send more messages to your consciousness, through a function called your reticular activating system, that signal confidence and empowerment.

Just as thinking about bad outcomes makes your fear grow, focusing on accomplishments makes your confidence grow. So, while it’s completely reasonable (and entirely human) to question whether walking across coals is within the realm of possibility, with adequate preparation and the right frame of mind, it’s entirely within your reach.

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