Firewalking is a deep spiritual formation program for Unitarian Universalists called to missional life and ministry. The purpose of Firewalking is transformation. We define transformation as a substantial change in one’s being and way of moving through the world, especially in terms of being better able to live a life on fire for one’s core values and beliefs. Our goal is to build a critical mass of practitioners of Unitarian Universalist missional spirituality. Individuals can complete Firewalking in a ten session program in their congregation or through three-day intensive retreats.
Firewalking is a spiritual formation program for Unitarian Universalists who seek to live a life on fire for their faith. Firewalking seeks to provide individual Unitarian Universalists with a profound, transformative grounding and core practice from which people will be able to live and serve out of a deep spiritual center. Firewalking requires an extended commitment to a journey of spiritual formation and renewal, preparing individuals to lead focused, intentional, lives and to assist others in doing so. The experience incorporates study, reflection, spiritual practice and both individual and group spiritual direction.
Being a spiritual program, Firewalking is far more concerned with feeling than thinking. It requires a commitment up front, not after one “tries it out.” It is an action-reflection program. Firewalkers walk our talk. Firewalking is designed to make transformations in how people live life day to day. We seek to make missional spiritual leaders who are active-contemplatives. We assume that participants come to the program with some level of committed spiritual practice in their life. Yet, in order to live missionally, one must intensify one’s efforts at living intentionally as opposed to reactively. Part of the Firewalking experience is mapping out greater commitment to a spiritual practice, so that Firewalkers have a disciplined way in which to stay committed to the life they feel called to lead.
Our Method: Just Listening
There is no cross talk and no discussion. There is no teaching, no fixing, no saving, no advising and no setting each other straight. Witnessing groups are not a time for friendly argumentation or trying to make intellectual points on a topic, they are time of deepening, heart space, and soul work. The purpose of Firewalking is transformation and thus being open what changes might happen in our heart and in our soul and in our living due to our participation in the process. Firewalkers engage the process of transformation with the understanding that there is no “trying it out,” and a Firewalker must commit to the journey. Firewalking operates on the understanding that we are better off changing our behavior and letting that influence our thinking rather than trying to get ourselves philosophically or theologically secure and then trying to change our behavior to match our thinking. We call the sharing that happens in Firewalking “witnessing” because we are bearing witness to the transformation process at work in each of us.
Our Tactic: Witnessing
Witnessing is the core of the Firewalking group experience. Think of witnesses as a specific type of sharing. Witnessing is when you give an “eyewitness” report of your experience of various things such as your spiritual practice, study resources, reflection questions, and third things. Please use “I” language and speak only from your experience. Do not speak in the abstract raises questions about methodology or give a philosophical comment or argument about the content. Witness is an honest expression of your heart, your soul, your emotions, your insight (however that works for you, for some people it is god or god moments or spirit and for others it is not). Witnessing is about learning to communicate honestly and openly with others about your experience as both a human being having a spiritual experience and a spiritual being having a human experience. Witnessing requires trust in your own experience and trust in others with whom journey to hold that experience sacred. Witnessing requires you to stay in the present. Do not over analyze, philosophize or theologize or get on a soap box about an issue or a topic. Witnessing reports on your spiritual experience, in the present moment of encountering yourself, the universe, god, or reflection content. Questions to ask yourself that help you form a witnessing response:
- What happened during my spiritual practice?
- What happened as I pondered a reading or a video or other content?
- What were my bodily reactions? What were my emotional reactions?
- What was my state of relaxation or distraction and awareness?
- How did “it” (God, spirit, the content, your subconscious, yourself, the universe – however you frame it) get through to me?
- What meaning did I make of what I experienced?
- How do I or might I apply this insight to my present life?
Witnessing as a process trusts that each person is the world’s foremost expert on their own experience and that the process itself with help us gain more clarity of ourselves, our own heart, our own experience and our own spirituality and our own lives.
The facilitator is charged with maintaining witnessing guidelines and the covenant. If you disagree with how this was or is being done, take it up with the facilitator outside the session. Session time is not to be spent arguing with the facilitator over process.
Types of Witnessing: Check-Ins, Reflection Questions, Third Thing Reflections, Likes and Wishes.
Check-ins are a time to speak about what’s one your heart, whatever joys and sorrows and sadness and celebration you need to share. Perhaps something’s just on your mind and you need to talk about it and get out so that your mind and heart can be a bit more free and open to participate in the rest of the meeting. Check-ins are also the time to report on your spiritual practice. Participants are encouraged to witness to what their practice, how it’s going, any insights obtained during the practice, any difficulties or dryness, whatever the practice has shown you in the last month.
Reflection questions come from the required resources of the Firewalking curriculum. There are things to read, videos to watch, music and other things for listening. Each month participants are asked to review all the resources for that meeting before the meeting and to respond to all the related reflection questions in their journal. The facilitator will pick one (or two related questions) of the questions and ask people to share their thoughts and feelings.
Third things are objects for reflection that take us into our hearts. They may be a poem, a story, an image, a piece of music, or inspirational quote. Third things are provided by the facilitator and connect to the monthly topics of the Firewalking Curriculum.
Likes and Wishes are a time for people to share one thing about the session that was meaningful to them and one thing they hope might make the witnessing time more fruitful.
Likes and Wishes are a time to witness to one thing that worked for you during the session and one thing that didn’t.
Outline of Firewalking Witnessing gathering:
Recitation of Firewalking Covenant
Check-In/Report on Spiritual Practice
Presentation of Third Thing
Reflections on Third Thing
Wrap Up/Likes and Wishes