I just spent the weekend at Lindesfarne festival as part of the Logi Fire-walking crew. The leading man on this epic journey is John, has become a fire-walking instructor and gave up sheep farming after a mental break down, and now facilitates fire-walks for a living. He says that fire-walking found him when he was really suffering with depression and anxiety. I remember him during this time and seeing him now is nothing short of a rebirth, like a phoenix rising from the fire. His son, William, is now the youngest qualified fire walking instructor in the world: the certificate for which he received on John’s 50th birthday. Both are certified and trained by Peggy Dylan, currently the only comprehensive firewalk leader training there is. If there is a more touching timeline for such events to unfold, I can’t quality figure out what’s it would be right now.
He partook in a fire-walk whilst at an event in the Czech Republic in 2017. The practice spoke to him on a deeper level and he fondly recounts how the fire spoke to him; feeling that his next chapter and progression in life needed to be close to the fire his spiritual journey began. A big part of this journey for John are reconnecting with his ancestral routes of the Vikings in Northumberland, where he lives and facilitates fire-walks. Being based in Northumbria, there is a lot of Viking history to be delved into. There were the clashes with the Scotsmen, and the Englishmen. Whilst at Lindesfarne, arguably the most poignant of Viking historical sites, he facilitated fire-walks to share the experience with more people, including sharing some of the emotional and spiritual potential to be found within fire-walking as a practice.
Last week was the first time I had ever fire-walked. We had a quiet and private ceremony at a farmhouse during which the full ritual, with drums, a calling of the spirits and the putting of our intentions into the fire took place. Twice now, I have walked the hot coals and although it wasn’t as much of a spiritual journey for myself as it has been for so many other people, I found something in it all to be quite empowering.
Being there at Lindesfarne, and being in a position to congratulate people for overcoming their fears and barriers in order to walk the fire, being able to watch people overcome their fear of pain and discomfort, and being with people as they embraced pain and discomfort in a meaningful way that may help empower peoples’ confidence in their wider lives – that was something a little bit special. We live our lives so comfortably that being able to embrace and inflict discomfort and as little bit of pain is an important barrier to overcome, and an important place to be comfortable with.
So it is, the silver lining of John’s mental breakdown is that with that experience he is talking about mental illness and mental health. He is very much making something of the difficulties he’s faced; maybe he was supposed to experience those dark days in order to shine some light into the lives of those currently facing their dark days. Maybe he was meant to suffer in order to bring more hope, happiness and empowerment to touch more lives than he could even imagine.