Coals, Carpets and Confidence

We were given a piece of wood. The type of wood that you would use for a staircase as it happens. And then we were asked to write on it. On one side we wrote what we were trying to leave behind. On the other side we wrote what we wanted for the future.

And then our wood was carefully placed so that it was balanced between two trestle tables. And we were invited to karate chop it.

No way, I thought, I can’t do that. But I would love to be able to do it. A man went up first and did it. But he’s a man, I thought, he’s stronger than me. A few more men did it whilst I looked on enviously. And then a woman got up and did it. She’s done it before, I thought, she knows what she’s doing, she’s been trained. And so I sat back and watched more men do it. And then a second woman got up. She said “I’ve never done this before but I’ll have a go.” And she did it! She did it! And then I knew that I could do it too.

The first time I nearly broke my hand. I didn’t follow through, I was too timid and my hand bounced off the wood. Ouch, that hurt. But I was determined that piece of wood was going to break. So I took a deep breath, aimed for 6 inches below the target, and told that piece of wood that it was going to break even if it took my hand out in the process. I gave out an almighty yell, put all the fear, tension and heartache of a lifetime into the chop – and it went! It broke! I karate chopped that piece of wood!

And I thought to myself, well little lady, your hand is stronger than you realised.

Next we were given a length of steel. The steel that they use in building construction to strengthen concrete pillars as it happens. We were asked to find a partner. I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know anyone there and my trust in other people had been so shattered there was no way I could do it. I decided to give myself a break and just watch.

I watched people place the steel on their throats and work together as a pair to bend it. No, surely not! Yes, that’s what happened. And I thought, I want to do that. A lady asked me if I would do it with her. We had a go, but each time we got to the crucial point we backed out. My throat was starting to feel quite sore and so was hers. So we stopped. It wasn’t a failure. At least we’d had a go.

Then another lady asked me to have a go with her. She told me that we could do it. And we did it. We put that steel to our throats and we bent it. We bent that steel as easily as putting a hot knife through butter.

And I thought to myself, well little lady, your voice is stronger than you realised.

Next we built a fire pit. And in that pit we put the wood that we had karate chopped, along with the past we wanted to leave behind, along with our hopes and dreams for the future. And we put on plenty of other wood besides. We lit that wood and we sang and we chanted and we watched the sun go down.

And finally, when the wood had become hot coals and they were glowing brightly, we raked them into a “carpet”. A magic carpet of hot coals. And on that cold, dark, magical night, surrounded by the strength of strangers wishing me well and warmed by the heat of the fire, I walked that magic carpet of hot coals. And I walked it 3 times. I walked it once for the past, once for the present and once for the future.

And I thought to myself, well little lady, if you can do that then you can do anything.

And that is how I kick-started my recovery.

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