If people understood fire more, they wouldn’t be so afraid of it.
It always gives you safe passage. If you’re moving or the fire’s moving, it won’t burn you. It’s the heat that rises from it that burns you. If you hold a lighter, you can run your finger through the flame, whereas with water you have to kick your way through it. You really have to struggle to move around. With fire, you just pass through. But it looks loud. It looks in your face. It’s really quite polite.
Almost twenty years ago now, I felt like my life was in a stagnant place and I mentioned to a friend that I felt like the fire in my heart is going out. I needed to find my fire again. He said, “It’s funny that you say that: I have a friend who teaches fire breathing, and he’s doing a workshop. You should check it out.” Eventually, I joined a fire troupe and starting spitting fire. I was walking on it, breathing it, eating it. Painting my body with it. It’s like purifying the soul with flame. It became this long love affair that I have with fire.
I was always drawn to it. I’m a fire sign. A Leo. I’ve never set anything on fire, but I liked it. When you light a candle, the flame just dances. I loved looking at how it moved, but I never really understood it. When I started working with it, I began to understand how it talks to you, if you listen. It’s definitely dangerous, and I don’t think fire is something to be taken lightly. You can’t control it. But if you really respect it, it will respect you back, and you can work with it.
It’s something that’s alive and wants to stay alive.
A fire master named Berdetta was teaching me how to eat fire, and that was the hardest thing for me to learn. Fire breathing is the most dangerous, but I’ve only gotten hurt fire eating. She told me, “You’re going to look at it, and see this flame, and you just have to get past that. Tell yourself you want to do this and you’re going to put it in your mouth and put it out.” That’s it. Once you get past that mental block, you’re fine. It’s your mind that’s blocking you. Your own fear of it. You’re stopping yourself. If you got out of your way, if you just did it, you’d see you’re fine. I took it that idea with me to Bulgaria, to Iceland, and wherever I travel. You’re just afraid to talk to other people. You’re afraid of what you don’t know. You’re afraid to go out there. It’s a concept that’s stayed with me for everything I do now.
When I learned to walk on fire, the coals are white. Everything in my mind tells me that this is a bad idea, and this is going to burn, and then you walk across it and the sand is hotter at the beach. It reminds me that you’re stronger than you think. When you actually do it, you’re like, “That was awesome. That didn’t even burn my feet. How did that happen?”
It’s kind of the only thing I can ever really trust 100%. The only constant in my life. It’s the only thing that will always act in the exact same way. You know that the flame will always go from blue to yellow. You can never hold a lighter upside down, and even if you hold it upside down, it will flip, and the flame will always go from blue to yellow. It will always act in a certain way. If the wind is blowing at you, you need to know where the wind is to know what to do. It’s quite beautiful when you think about how everything works together. The wind will affect it this way, the heat will affect it that way. You start to understand that everything’s connected.
As told to Jason Schwartzman, True Senior Editor