• Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi


    by Joanne Sullivan (Divya)

    Rolf and Owsa Beckman live in southern Sweden on a farm near Malmoe. In April, 2016, they spoke at Swami Rama Sadhaka Grama (SRSG) about the work they do: Firewalking!  They learned about SRSG from one of their firewalking students who has been here several times. They found some intersections between what they do and what we do through hatha, breath awareness and meditation.

    They began firewalking in 1983. Before that they were both therapists, he a traditional psychologist and she a social worker trained in eclectic therapies. They said that after long university training, they felt that there was no interest in the concept of will-power or in spirituality. One was really not allowed to discuss spirituality.  The alternative approaches, they felt, often did not meet with their expectations.

    Rolf said that when he first came in contact with firewalking, he was impressed. He said “people either do it or they don’t. It is one of the oldest rituals on the planet. Mostly you burn wood and then walk on hot coals.” They went on to explain more about firewalking.

    First they discussed its history and its widespread practice. Rolf said that reports of firewalking occur very early.

    “Fire is such a life-giving element for light and heat and then for cooking for food”, he said. With early peoples, there was a strong connection to the fire. The Plains Indians of North America, like others, even travelled with the fire, never letting it go out.

    In Polynesia they walk on hot stones. The Greek fire dance involves dancing on the hot coals while holding icons of saints. In Hawaii, the Kahunas still walk on hot lava.

    In Costa Rica, Rolf and Owsa walked on an active volcano (no bubbling lava at the time) and the ground was warm. “It gave a very special feeling, walking on the warm grass. That volcano was simmering but was not erupting at the time.”

    He said that Greeks, Spaniards, Bulgarians, some Native Americans and many more have walked on hot coals since prerecorded history. “All in the context of demonstrating and experiencing that what we believe is impossible is not impossible at all. You connect to a sacred place within, each in the context of their own cultural traditions, and with a reverence for nature.  All cultures have a sense of the fire as the teacher.” This reminds me of the Hindu reverence for Agni, the god of the living fire where fire itself is deemed alive and holy.

    Rolf said that “with firewalking you overcome your limiting beliefs of what is impossible. The coal bed is about 400-500 C depending on the kind of wood when you walk on it. The basis of the preparation is that once you have raked it, there is silence in the group. “No one is encouraging anyone to walk, no talk among participants. Instead they are encouraged to make rapport with the coals of the fire, to feel the energy of the fire. You walk around the fire, opening up to connect with it. Then they await the moment when they feel drawn to walk. We say that the fire calls to the people, invites them.”

    The fire in you becomes compatible with the coal bed outside. If you don’t get that clear message, please don’t walk.” We say to listen to their inner voice….. We do not encourage them to walk on fire but to be true to who they are and make the decision from their place of truth. That’s what important. Not to walk on fire.”

    People often say that they are hearing many so-called “inner voices” and how to know which one to listen to? “Our answer is ‘you should listen to the voice that makes your body relax’….To make the decision to walk, you really have to make the decision from a relaxed place.”

    If you force yourself to walk, risk increases that you burn. When I talk to people who have burned themselves, they always say afterwards that they knew that they would get burned. They made themselves a victim of group pressure, they saw their friends walk on the coals or they had paid money that they did not want to lose. Or they were arrogant and feel “I can do this.”

    It is a big difference between forcing yourself and the sure feeling of wanting to walk.

    I mentioned the concept of sankalpa shakti, of a deep inner resolve and wondered if there was any connection. Rolf thought that this might link to the place from where the individual finds the call of the fire in their inner voice and where the decision to walk arises. Rolf emphasized listening to the inner voice that makes the body relax. Owsa added “the surrender and reverence”.

    There is a Japanese Buddhist practice called the 108 in which there are a total of 108 walks through the fire for every person in the group that make the choice.

    I asked how if they could describe how firewalking felt. Owsa said “you feel energized, filled with prana, like your cells are tickling.”

    “or simmering or bubbling,” Rolf added.

    “It can be very innocent, like children playing, very happy,” said Owsa.

    Owsa said that when they trained people in firewalking, there were some similarities to the meditation practice. “There are many similarities between firewalking and the hatha yoga, breathing process and the meditation, which are connected to what we do….”

    “For a newcomer, Rolf said, “something happens with your belief system. Some people are really transformed in just one night. Sometimes people ask themselves ‘What else do I think is impossible, in my family, in my work, in my everyday feeling mode….? The possibilities in life are endless.” He said that most of us superimpose a matrix on life and say ‘this is possible and this is impossible. This becomes like a prison of the mind.’”

    The most common thing people come away with is to question, to doubt their ideas of what is possible. “To be loving, to give, to be and to receive love is the most encompassing feeling –as opposed to fear. You take the same energy of fear and it transforms into power, love, bliss. It is the same energy but it becomes a positive energy….So many people have lost their connection to their source.”

    This reminds me of a Swami Rama quote that is posted in the stairwell opposite the bookstore here:
    “There is a way to tell how much love you have for others. Sit down quietly and calmly examine your fears.

    The more fear you have, the less love you have. If you have less fear, then you will have more love. Your fear will tell you how much love you are capable of. So learn to live in love and not in fear. Always be cheerful, compassionate, and giving. Let Providence work, and trust that you will receive what you need.”
    Rolf showed me a photo of some Estonians holding the logs that they will use to build the fire. They learn to make contact with the trees that gives fire but which also give the whole planet oxygen.”

    Owsa continued. “We are genetically very like trees. Our hemoglobin that transport the oxygen has the same molecular construction as chlorophyll except one atom. The difference is that in hemoglobin it is iron and in chlorophyll it is copper. The copper atom transports CO2. Trees’ breathing process is reversed to ours and they nourish us with their breath.”

    Owsa also spoke about mycorrhiza, the fungus that connects the trees at the roots of a community of trees and transports information as well as nourishment.

    Rolf said “when you walk into the meditation hall where 50 people are meditating you feel it… So it is with firewalking.”

    Owsa commented “during the yoga, breathing and prana practices here, we get to know the subtle body and also in firewalking when you are totally aligned your subtle body protects you.”
    Rolf and Owsa also train and certify Firewalking Instructors. 

    Editor’s Note:

    The website for Rolf and Owsa Beckman is: www.firewalking.eu

    Here is a link to the Wikipedia article about Firewalking: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firewalking

    The quote from Swami Rama in this article was taken from the book The Art of Joyful Living, by Swami Rama, page 137. This book is available at a number of bookstores.



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