Into the Fire

bonfire - 22Nov13- sized and processed

Years ago, when I was going through a rough time in my life, a friend of mine said: “Come with me to firewalk. It can help you.”

Firewalk. That’s the thing where otherwise sane people willingly walk across hot coals, right?

“It works,” John said. “I’ve done it five times myself.”

Still nervous, but in the mood to try a new experience, I agreed to go. Another friend of his, Nicky, I think her name was, went with us. It seems to me there was someone else as well, but it was years ago and that part of the memory has faded.

As that time there were several groups doing firewalk in southern California, but the one we went to was mostly a seminar in overcoming your fears. Nobody was required to do the walk.

It was dark when we arrived at the house high on the Malibu bluffs. The actual firewalk would be done in the back yard, where a fire pit at least ten feet in diameter had been constructed, but that would occur later. I don’t remember if the fire was started before or after we arrived. I do recall that it had to burn for a long time before anyone tried to walk across it, to give time for the fire to burn down so we would walk on hot coals rather than open flames.

We all moved inside for the lecture part of the evening. They told us about firewalk – including the potential for danger in it. “Burnt stumps” were mentioned. They taught that the way to combat fear was to first imagine the worst possible outcome, then imagine yourself accepting it. Once you have done that, imagine the best possible result and, with that firmly in mind, do the thing you fear.

It was over an hour later when someone came in to announce that the fire was ready.

We all went outside. The fire pit glowed red with the heat. Flames still danced around the edges of the fire. It was mesmerizing.

We were told that there was no pressure for anyone to walk across the fire but that we would only have a chance for a limited time, I think it was half an hour. If you had not walked across when they called “time”, you would not walk that night. The only rule was that if you started across, you had to finish.

They started a soft chant, intended to relax us and put us in a mood receptive to completing the walk. I felt calmer. Nicky didn’t believe the fire was real and wanted to walk across without removing her nylon stockings, though we had been told to remove anything of that sort. Fortunately, John convinced her to take them off. She crossed without incident.

Half the allotted time was past. I felt I was as ready as I would ever be and approached the edge of the fire. There were people behind me. It was time to start. I put one foot in, then the other. There were flames to either side of me. The only possible path was forward. At the center of the fire, I had a sudden thought of: “Oh, crap. What am I doing here?” I felt my right foot burn. I pushed down the feeling and continued, reaching the other side a few steps later.

After the end time arrived, they called us back inside, some completely unharmed and some, like me, with blisters. I had a huge blister on the bottom center of my right foot. That blister occurred at the moment of the “Oh, crap.” They taught us a way to “heal” the blisters that they called “leveling the waters”. I have no idea why it worked, but it did, at least for me. I went hiking in Big Bear, a previously scheduled activity, the next day, without having to drain the blister or use any extra padding to protect it.

To this day I don’t know why firewalk works – why you can walk across hot coals (and they were very hot – I could feel the heat as I approached the fire). The best explanation I have heard is that when you are calm and ready your body produces some chemical that protects you. I have no idea if that is true or not.

What I do know is that I accomplished my goal that night. As I said at the beginning of this article, I was at a rough patch in my life at that time. My marriage was failing and I was sitting on the fence – unhappy where I was in life but afraid to move forward because the result might be worse. I realized that night that I could not stay sitting on the fence. My life was exactly like the firewalk. I had two choices – to keep my life as it was and learn to be happy with that, or to move forward into the unknown and never look back.

Firewalk is not for everyone. I am glad I did it but it is not something I ever need to do again. At that moment in time, though, it was exactly the lesson I needed to help me move forward in my life.


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Brain Healing – Meditation or Normal process?

I promise you the following story is true. I changed the names because all too many people (not to mention companies) still react badly to any sort of seizure disorder.

I would like to say at the start that I do not recommend “Anne’s” rationale regarding not taking her medication – that’s a dangerous course of action at best and the fact that it didn’t have a bad result in her case is mostly luck.

Anne is eighteen and planning to start college in the fall. She is nervous and excited, both for the same reason – this is the first time she will be away for home for an extended time. She planned it that way by only applying to out-of-town colleges. It’s not that she doesn’t love her family. It’s just that the time to leave has come.

In addition to all of the usual stresses of starting college, she has an extra one. She has a secret – something she rarely talks about. As an infant, she was diagnosed with petit mal epilepsy and she must take drugs daily because of it. Since barbiturates and alcohol don’t mix well, she isn’t supposed to drink. Inside, she’s not sure that’s really necessary. After all, she hasn’t had a seizure in years – not since grade school – and even then it wasn’t anything the average person would notice. Unlike grand mal seizures, the kind where people fall down and go into convulsions, her seizures are just a sort of quiet blanking out in which she just stares into space.

Petit mal epilepsy diagnosed in infants often disappears naturally as the child grows older, disappearing during the teenage years. That didn’t happen in Anne’s case. In fact, she was changed to a stronger medication a few years ago. The doctors say that the chances of it healing itself now are slim. She only has electroencephalograms (EEGs) every few years now. This part pleases her because the test takes hours, mostly because it requires attaching a large number of electrodes to her head.

As a result of this secret, Anne does not have a driver’s license. She went through all the training but it’s difficult to get a license if you’re epileptic – it requires periodic certifications from a doctor that it is under control – so she didn’t bother. She also hasn’t had many boyfriends, but that’s mostly because her mother insists on telling any dates about her condition and what to do for a grand mal seizure – it’s so embarrassing, especially since she’s never had a grand mal seizure.

College. She’s finally here. She wants to fit in. That means, among other things, going to parties. She knows she’s not supposed to drink but reasons that if she only drinks occasionally and doesn’t take her medication when she does things should be OK. As far as she knows, there is no ill effect to this practice. Then again, given the nature of petit mal seizures, would she really know if one happened and nobody noticed it or told her? She’s not sure but decides not to worry about it.

This is the 1970s and the Transcendental Meditation followers are all around campus. She is interested and decides to try it. The cost is small and the idea is intriguing so she goes through their initiation. Anne considers the people running the program a bit weird but nice enough and the meditation feels good – relaxing – so she goes to some of their meetings and to the periodic “checking” sessions. She meditates twice a day – most of the time, anyway – but otherwise her life doesn’t change. She still socializes with friends and goes to parties every now and again. The meditation is relaxing, a way to reduce the stress of her college program.

Summer comes. It’s time for another EEG. Groan. Anne decides to try something a bit different. She’s bored with the whole process so she decides to “play with it” a bit by meditating while they do the test. When it is finally over, the technician tells her she fell asleep during the procedure. She tries to tell him she didn’t sleep but he shows the graph to her, pointing out the part that he says indicates sleep. She knows better but doesn’t argue further.

The test results arrive – there is no sign of epilepsy. Anne’s brain looks perfectly normal.

Anne believes that the meditation resulted in the healing of her brain – the ending of her epilepsy. On the other hand, it may just have been the end of the natural progression of the ailment. As I mentioned earlier, children often outgrow petit mal epilepsy. That could have simply happened later than expected.

Was it mystical healing or just the normal process of the human brain. What do you think?


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry. If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Shy Samaritan or genuine miracle?- Updated

Earlier this week, I wrote about the man, apparently a priest, who prayed with the workers trying to free Katie Lentz from a crashed car in Missouri and asked the question about whether the priest was an angel, as some suggested, or just a good person not interested in the publicity.

That question was answered earlier this week when the good Samaritan, Father Patrick Dowling of the Jefferson City Diocese came forward (reported by Fox News).  Father Dowling was in the area to celebrate a Mass in Ewing, MO, where the regular priest was ill.  He came upon the site of the crash and drove closer when it was safe to do so, according to a posting he made on the National Catholic Register last Friday night.  He only approached the car after obtaining permission from the Sheriff in charge of the scene.

In his words:

“I absolved and anointed Katie, and, at her request, prayed that her leg would not hurt. Then I stepped aside to where some rescue personnel and the (rescue helicopter) pilot were waiting, and prayed the rosary silently.

I left when the helicopter was about to take off …”

Clearly the identity of the ‘mystery man’ is resolved but the other question I previously asked still remains.

The fact is that Father Dowling prayed with Katie and the rescue crew.  Shortly after that, new equipment arrived and, unlike the earlier equipment, it was sufficient to complete the rescue successfully.  Was that just a coincidence or was it an answer to the prayers?

What do you think?


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry.  The themes I blog about run through my work.  If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at


Shy Samaritan or genuine miracle?

By now, many people have heard about the car accident in Missouri and the priest that appeared to pray with the victim, then disappeared.  Was this the appearance of an angel, as some have suggested, or just a good Samaritan who does not want publicity?

Stories vary in their description of the details but here are the facts:

  • Katie Lentz was traveling along Highway 19 in northeastern Missouri when she was struck by an apparently drunk driver who crossed over the center line into her path
  • Emergency workers tried to free Katie from the car for a sizable length of time (reports vary between 45 minutes and 1.5 hours) without success, as her Mercedes resisted their efforts
  • After the crash, the highway was closed in both directions (distance of the closure varies from half a mile to 2 miles in reports)
  • Rescue workers decided to try the risky process of turning the car upright.  This is risky because as the position changes, items may shift and do additional damage.
  • Katie asked the workers if someone would pray with her.
  • A man wearing the black shirt and clerical collar of a priest approached and said he would pray with her.  He apparently was carrying anointing oil.  Several of the workers prayed with him.  Nobody noticed the man prior to his stepping forward.
  • The car was successfully turned upright, without further injury to Katie.
  • Rescue workers from a nearby town arrive with new equipment, described in one article as jaws of life.  With the new equipment, Katie was successfully freed and taken to a nearby hospital.
  • Workers looked for the stranger to thank him but were unable to find him.

Since that time, police have examined a large number (reports vary but apparently there were over 60) of photographs taken at the crash site.  The stranger is not in any of them.  This may be because photographers were concentrating on the victim and the crash or because the man was not there.

The man has not been identified.  He is not connected with any of the Catholic churches in the area.  Fox News posted an artists sketch of the man, as described by witnesses, in an attempt to find him.

Was this an angel or a helpful stranger?  Even if he was just a man, was this still a miracle?  Did the power of prayer result in the change in the fortunes of the rescue crews or just make everyone feel more positive?

What do you think?

For my part, if it was a man he clearly does not want to be identified nor given credit.  The police do not intend to try to find him.  I would encourage the news media to do the same.


Mail Online

USA Today

Huff Post

Fox News


I am a writer of fantasy, science fiction, and poetry.  The themes I blog about run through my work.  If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

Defining Magic

Ask twenty people what there definition of magic is and you are likely to get twenty different answers – from ‘it’s all trickery and illusion’ to ‘the mystic forces in the earth are the source of all magic’ to allegations that it comes from god or the devil.  Personally, I believe there are two sorts of true magic (as opposed to stage magic).

The first sort encompasses phenomena such as out-of-body experiences as well as the abilities that generally are lumped together as psychic.  For the purpose of this discussion, I will ignore that many of the people claiming these abilities are charlatans and con artists.  I have experiences that are sufficient to me to believe that in some cases such phenomena do exist.  Where I depart from a many people is in my interpretation of these. Simply put –  I don’t believe there is anything particularly mystical about these abilities when they are real.  I believe they are the result of science we don’t yet understand.

The third ‘law’ espoused by Arthur C Clarke states: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”  I agree with him on that point.  Consider this – If you could take one of the new Ubuntu, solar-powered computers back a thousand years, how would it be viewed by the average person?  My guess is that, as in Mark Twain’s “A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur’s Court”, it would be viewed as magic.

The other sort of ‘magic’ is more difficult to explain.  These are events that require some outside power, whether god or some other, for explanation unless you believe they are all just random chance (which I don’t).  It is the realm of miracles and of ‘callings’.  Miracles might sometimes be put in the first category – for instance in the case of people being healed of supposedly incurable diseases.

What about the case where someone feels a specific calling to do something, though?  I have specific insight into this because I believe I was ‘called’ in that way once, some years ago.  At that time, I found myself in a group of people that I had little in common with and would not normally have socialized with.  The end result of it is that I convinced a young girl not to take her own life.  I believe that was a calling from god.  Others might believe it came from some other great power or even that it was random chance.  I have no problem with people who believe it was a higher power by some other name but have difficulty believing that it was mere chance, largely because of the circumstances surrounding the whole event.

These are my personal views on magic.  I’d love to hear comments and alternative explanations from others.

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at

Mystic or High Technology?

Many people have a firm belief in things that are normally lumped under the title of “mystic” – mind reading, telekinesis, ghosts, out-of-body experiences…  The list seems endless.  Often the things people think they see are really the work of charlatans – sleight-of-hand and other trickery.

I have seen things, though, or heard of them from people I deeply trust, that are not so easily explained.  I believe that most people have experienced such things at least, though they may not admit it.  The question I raise is this:  When occurrences can’t be explained as trickery or random chance, what are we really experiencing?

Is it simply science that we don’t understand?  In many cases I think this may be the case.  For instance, the close connection that often occurs between twins might be explained this way.

Or is it something more?  What about miracles?

If you are interested in learning more about me or my work, check out my website at