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Firewalking For Freedom 

Have A Hot Time Tonight

Gingerly, oh so gingerly, I placed my bare foot down onto the pile of broken glass Dr. Karen Frank had spread onto a blanket across her office floor. Focusing on staying balanced and, well, not getting pierced by shards of jagged glass, I lowered my body weight down onto my foot, then carefully lifted and set down my other foot. A few steps later I emerged unscathed from the 30 pounds of broken glass, and for someone with feet as flat as mine, it was quite an accomplishment. Of course walking on broken glass is mere child's play for Dr. Frank, who has broken boards and bricks with her hands, and even snapped an arrow by placing the point against her throat then thrusting her body against it while another person held it. She even has a framed picture of the stunt in her office - complete with the broken arrow - to prove it. So who is this Dr. Frank, and why is she breaking arrows with her throat and getting flat-footed reporters to walk on glass? She's a short, 50-year-old hypnotherapist and bundle of self-promoting energy who's hosting a firewalking seminar this weekend. The three-hour seminar is all about "mind over matter," she says, explaining that firewalking helps people conquer their fears and allows them to achieve goals they never thought possible. "Once you accomplish this, you can do anything," Frank says.

Hogwash, you say. Well, maybe so, but according to Frank, many ancient cultures used firewalking as a form of ritual purification, healing and worship. And, of course, certain sects of Christianity still do things like like firewalking, snake handling and drinking poison to show their faith. Everyone pretty much thinks they're nuts, but that's a whole other issue.

Frank was taught the art of firewalking by Tolly Burkan, who created the Firewalking Institute of Research and Education (FIRE) in 1977, and is generally considered the father of the firewalking movement. He claims that over two million people have walked on glowing coals without harm since his first firewalking class 28 years ago — all in the name of helping people push past their self-imposed limits and become more spiritually alive. Burkan also points out, however, that over the years many people who weren't properly trained were injured when they attempted to walk on fire, which resulted in a lot of bad publicity. "Never forget that there is definitely an inherent risk in firewalking," Burkan writes on his website.

A friend introduced Frank to firewalking in 1985, and she says it showed her the power of intent, and how your thoughts impact everything in your life and help you overcome hardships — and she's had plenty. Her father abandoned the family when she was just a child, and her mom died when she was 17. For many years she was a single parent and oftentimes had to resort to surviving off welfare and food stamps. In 1998 she and her daughter were living in Valley Forge, PA, and during a particularly severe winter storm that dumped over 30 inches of snow, she decided she'd had enough of the cold, and was ready for a change. She took a dart and threw at a map, and it landed on Charlotte, and off they went. "The first thing I saw when we got here was the giant pink Church on Hwy. 51, and I thought 'I'm in Oz. This is home.'"

Dr. Frank, who holds a doctorate in Metaphysics and Integrative Healing, uses guided self-hypnosis to help folks work on a number of issues including depression, relationship problems and money woes. Most of her therapy sessions end with her patients breaking a board or walking on glass in order to "do something they never thought they could," she says.

Folks interested in participating in the upcoming firewalking session can expect to walk over a coal bed between 8 and 12 feet long, and heated to about 1,200 degrees. Although you must be 18 to participate, Dr. Frank says she encourages the attendance of children, and that just witnessing others firewalk can be a life-changing experience.

The Mind over Matter/Firewalking Seminar is scheduled for May 21 from 7-10pm. No prior firewalking experience is required, as the seminar teaches an individual everything they need to know. For more information, call 704-540-9799 or visit: www.drkarenfrank.com or www.firewalker.info.

Did You Know?

The longest firewalking coal bed on record was 167 feet long. However, in one instance a number of people walked back and forth 13 times on a 40-foot coal bed, accomplishing a 520-foot firewalk.

If you have an idea for the Urban Explorer column, contact Sam Boykin at: sam.boykin@cln.com or 704-944-3623

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