Walking barefoot over hot coals, an ancient religious ritual that has become popular in recent years as a corporate team-building exercise, has reconnected a group of employees through the shared suffering of burnt feet.
In the latest instance of the stunt going wrong, 25 employees of a Swiss advertising agency were injured on Tuesday night while walking on hot coals in Zurich, officials said. Ten ambulances, two emergency medical teams and police officers from multiple agencies were deployed to assist, according to the Zurich police. Thirteen people had to be hospitalized for a short time.
“We deeply regret the incident and are doing everything we can to ensure that our employees get well soon,” said Michi Frank, the company’s general manager. Golbach, said in a press release. The company declined to provide more details about the event.
The sense that walking over burning coals requires a special inner state has motivated the transformation from a mystical spiritual tradition to a capitalist self-improvement project. The practice seems to have originated thousands of years ago separately as a religious tradition in various places around the word.
Travel journalists made it popular, sometimes in mystical terms. “The secret is concentration”, The New York Times reported in 1973 from a firewalk at a temple above Kyoto. “Either mind, body and environment are in perfect harmony and all sequences of cause and effect become simultaneous, or not, and nothing will go right.”
In the years since, it has become a trope in movies and on television, most notably as the signature group activity at seminars led by Tony Robbins, the life coach and motivational speaker.
“Now let me show you how to walk on fire,” Mr. Robbins likes to announce† He organizes long lines of people to walk across a short line of burning coals, leading the participants in a heart-pounding call and response of “Say yes!” and yes!”
“The purpose of the firewalk,” he said explained at an event in 2017, “is just a great metaphor for taking things you once thought were difficult or impossible and show how quickly you can change.”
“It’s always the goal not to have guests with any discomfort afterwards, but it’s not uncommon for less than 1 percent of participants to experience ‘hot spots,’ which are similar to sunburns that can be treated with aloe,” a spokeswoman said. from mr. Robbins told The Washington Post after the 2016 episode.
Pop culture has sometimes mocked the emancipatory potential of walking on fire. In a 2007 episode from the NBC sitcom “The Office”, Dwight Schrute attempts to blackmail his boss, Michael Scott, by not crossing hot coals during a corporate retreat, but instead tormentingly insist on them until he gets a promotion. In “Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls” (1995), Jim Carrey’s character is only about the throw away someone else on top of them and stepping on him.
But other images have touted the potential for spiritual transformation, including the 2000 season one finale of the CBS reality show “Survivor.” Meanwhile, there are reports of injuries. 2001, a dozen Burger King employees were injured on a corporate retreat in Key Largo, Florida, where you were walking on hot coals.
Was this a spiritual failure? Unlikely. With proper instruction and preparation, experts say, walking over hot coals isn’t as dangerous as it seems.
“For the vast majority of people, a blister the size of your little finger is perhaps the worst thing that can happen to you,” physicist David Willey said in a telephone interview on Thursday. mr. Willey, who taught for years at the University of Pittsburgh, once… shared the world record for longest distance run on hot coals.
The promises made by corporate retreat organizers are often unwarranted, Willey said.
“They tell you it’s all in your head, and this will give you powers that will last,” he said. “It’s not in your head. Anyone can do it. And I don’t think the confidence you get from it will necessarily last that long.”
Mr Willey said 1,000-degree coals are safe to walk up 20 feet or more, adding that he’s walked 120 feet on coals at that temperature without getting a blister.
on his website, he writes that on a brisk walk, your bare foot comes into contact with coal for about a second, which is not enough to painfully transfer heat from coal to human flesh. Both the coal and the skin have a much lower thermal conductivity than, say, metal, he said.
But mistakes can lead to injuries. These include curling your toes and trapping a cabbage between them; walking on coals that are too hot; choosing the wrong type of wood, as some get hotter than others; and doing a firewalk on a beach, where your feet could sink into the sand, said Mr. Willey.
The organizer of the Zurich event, Thomy Widmer, said: in an interview with the Swiss news channel Blick that he warned participants not to “walk, run or jump” over the fire, but walk over it in a steady, fast “military step”-esque clip. Mr Widmer said he felt sorry for anyone injured but denied he was responsible for the accident. “It could have been a great event,” he said.
Emma Bubola and Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting from London. Christopher F. Schuetze contributed reporting from Berlin.