Firewalking has been around for thousands of years and has been undertaken for mostly religious and medicinal reasons. In the modern era it has also been used for motivation and in the arena of personal development.

The centrepiece of Lifepath Unlimited’s three day personal development conference Breakthrough is the uninspiringly named ‘FireWalk’. In Firewalk attendees of Breakthrough are invited to walk across a bed of heated coals.

Personal development or flashy gimmick?

The science behind firewalking is much less impressive then the mental imagery the name conjures up. Wikipedia explains that

When two bodies of different temperatures meet, the hotter body will cool off, and the cooler body will heat up, until they are separated or until they meet at a temperature in between.

The rate at which this happens for either body depends on what the body is made out of and how thermally conductive it is.

Humans are made up of 70% water and water have an inherently much higher heat capacity and thermal capacity then that of coal.  The combination of these two ratings mean that when walking over coal our feet are likely to change less then that of the coal.

In addition to this when walking over coals we are moving quickly and dispersing the heat transferred, that and our blood circulation also helps to carry heat away.

Finally as the coals temperature drops as we walk over them they eventually reach a ‘flashpoint‘ which means that no new heat is being generated. As firewalking events tend to be done in large groups you can imagine that it doesn’t take very long for the coal in use to reach flashpoint and become relatively cool.

Aside from the imagery conjured up and feeling like we’re literally walking on fire there isn’t really all that much personal development to fire walking. Anyone can do it and absolutely nothing in your mindset is going to change the scientific principles that come into play as you participate.

By all means enjoy firewalking as something fun but lets not pretend it’s some gigantic personal development milestone shall we?