By Nobleman Nash Hollowhill - November 1, 2010
After a very brief explanation from a guest in the Neurosoup Chatroom, I decided to give Fire Dancing a try. The guest’s description was as follows: “Just dance to the sound of fire for a long time...then when you do enough of this moving meditation you can look into your future...you see into the future...by playing the game of trying to reflex fast enough to the sound of a bonfire...through creative dance mimicking the fire...don't use music for you just want the sound of the fire and no drums either.” I had been planning on having a campfire at my house the same day for no particular reason, so I decided to try it.
This was not my most serious and dedicated attempt, it was only my first. I had 3 beers in the past few hours and smoked a tiny bit of hash right before my friend left the fire and I was alone. There was an air conditioner on the side of my house that would turn on and off every few minutes, which at the very end of my dancing became the major distraction that caused me to stop. I did not expect much from this experiment, but I received everything I could hope for and more. Within ten minutes of trying to imitate the fire’s sounds with my movement, I became locked into a trance and I felt as one with the fire, at peace with all of nature, and fully immersed in the ever-shrinking moment called Now. There were some pops and crackles of the fire that I felt in my center before I heard them reach my ears, and this changed the patterns of movement I decided to choose. I improvised everything on the spot, and eventually every muscle in my body was both relaxed and ready to do anything. I imagined that I must have looked like a possessed zombie trying to do Shakespeare. I started to feel the vibration of the fire moment to moment; right now it's got a steady quiet roar with some soft but rapid crackles, so I keep my spine steady and my arms and legs are fidgeting like wild. Then a few loud pops and the pattern changes; I release some tension that has built up in my back and send these small waves of energy out to my finger and toe tips. I’ve never felt so much like a tree blowing in the wind. It was the same sensation I get for split seconds when I’m doing Tai Chi, the feeling of a huge amount of universal energy flowing uninhibited through my body. In the simplest terms possible, my body was in every sense nothing more than a physical extension of the fire.
After several more experiments, most of which involved mushrooms, I have realized several things about my firedancing practice. One is that I am more successful when I approach the fire several times over the course of a few hours. Each attempt starts the same way, with disorganized and fidgety movements approximating the energy of the fire in some way. Eventually I realize that I’m paying more attention to my body and am not even listening to the fire. I bring my attention to the fire repetitively and try to keep my attention focused for longer and longer periods each time, allowing my body’s movements to become completely unconscious and spontaneous. After less than 10 minutes, I take a break and let my mind wander before trying again. For one mushroom session I periodically ventured outside to dance with the fire, made 3 or 4 brief attempts, and then went back inside to stretch and work on my balance before going back out. This was the most efficient way for me to make progress because the short duration of each try allowed me to maintain focus on the sound of the fire for the maximum percentage of my practice time.
When I was most successful, I very frequently oscillated between portraying actions that represented a confident, secure sense of self, and actions that represented a fearful hesitation and uncertainty about myself. I realized that the former species of action involves an embracing attitude toward my own behavior and may in fact serve a more functional purpose with respect to time’s advancement. The latter only serves to delay the inevitable. I concede that, having originally intuited this dichotomy to mean that meditation is an action which moves forward in time and hesitation is an action that move backward in time, I am now less hasty to make such assumptions than I once was. I have, however, worked Tai Chi into my movements to incorporate more intention into my actions.
When I don’t use Tai Chi in my firedancing, I employ the widest variety of means possible in order to embed my attention into the ever-shortening moment of the present. These actions mimic those I fell victim to during an LSD-induced breakdown. They are nested hesitations and serve me no purpose other than breaking time down incrementally without getting distracted by the act of doing something. Despite the fact that when I endured this experience with LSD, it was the most stressful and unsatisfying feeling in the world, when I initiate this course of events it can be extremely therapeutic. If I feel any tension about performing a certain action sometime in the future, all I have to do is visualize myself doing it while I’m letting whatever wants to happen happen. The tension will find its way out of my body and mind through a complex and largely unconscious series of actions and I will find a sense of confidence and ability to do anything I want when the firedancing session is over. This same type of bodily expression through constant awareness on auditory sensation can be performed, not only with fire, but with the sound of rain, a flowing river, the wind, and any such natural sound with no repetitive rhythm.