Take a good look at the picture that accompanies this week’s column. Not only is that woman walking bare-foot across a bed of red-hot embers, but she appears to be extremely happy doing so. What is going on here?
Over the past 20 years I’ve spent a fair bit of time reading up on different faiths and mulling over their ideas about how the world works and their recommendations for living a good and productive life. I’m fairly comfortable with most of the Buddhist teachings that I’ve come across and almost all of the Taoist ideas… and I’ve found it fascinating how many of them tie in closely with Australian Aboriginal and Native American views of life.
My big problem, however, has been that since most of these different faiths appear to offer a great deal I’ve found it almost impossible to choose just one and reject the others and really go for it to see what total commitment would bring.
I mean, hey, what if I chose the wrong one?
That’s why the woman pictured above really blows my mind; she must have been totally committed and believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that she wasn’t going to burn the crap out of her feet. Okay, I can sort of imagine myself trying the fire walking thing but the picture that comes to mind is a lot more like Usain Bolt in full stride than some smiling broad taking a walk in the park.
Why am I telling you about my flaming feet fantasies? Well, let’s go back to my reading… I came across a passage in The Pilgrimage by Paulo Coelho recently that might help us all deal with that tricky faith question. Coelho is the Brazilian author best known for The Alchemist who builds his stories from a foundation of faith in a very mystical brand of Christianity that includes a fair dose of the occult.
Fortunately, I was paying attention during the first person account in question; it dealt with an encounter between the author and an evil dog, and that is something I can really relate to. The physical and mental battle swung back and forth a few times and things were looking pretty bad for Coelho when out of the forest appeared a young woman.
At that point our hero assumed she was an angel who had come to help him defeat his enemy and he was filled with an intense belief that he would be victorious…which of course he was.
When he related that story to his spiritual guide the man pointed out that the woman wasn’t an angel, just a nun who lived at a nearby convent, and then he said something very important. He said it doesn’t matter if what one believes in is true, all that matters is believing with all your heart.
Maybe that’s why traditional medicine, faith healing and placebo drugs all can be effective; and maybe that’s why the most important element we bring to any business – or any other – enterprise is our faith in ourselves.
Of course that doesn’t mean we can do anything we want to do without any help from others, so if this piece has sparked a desire to walk on fire it might be a good idea to get a bit of guidance first.