The Upside of Cliff Jumping
I only pretend to like roller coasters and I’ve always abhorred the idea of cliff jumping, so I had to laugh at myself when I realized that, metaphysically, I’ve done it over and over again in my 40 plus years on the planet. Birthing my first child comes to mind and the subsequent plunge into the messiness of motherhood. Or the day when cancer showed up, three years ago this week, and the ground fell out from under me. And then there’s the handful of times I’ve deliberately chosen to step off the edge - living in Jerusalem, going for a Masters degree, becoming a full-time missionary, learning energy healing and my wedding day come to mind. Why do I jump? Despite the tornado of fear in my gut, I secretly love the upside of doing things I’m afraid of. It's a guaranteed doorway into the piece of me who isn’t actually scared, is hungry for full-on living, and is capable of things way beyond the bounds my crazy psyche tries to box me into.
I must admit, I often feel delusional before I jump, like I did heading into a year-long apprenticeship with Michael Neill this week. The adventure seemed to choose me rather than me choosing it, but the fear-in-my-gut free fall wasn't any less intense.
I felt crazy, the whole idea felt crazy, and I worried way too much about what everyone else in my world would think. Why’d I do it? It was those few moments in the eye of the storm where my vision cleared, everything went still, and it became the 100%-obvious thing to do. And despite the hurricane of reasons why I shouldn’t, my its-ok-to-do-what-you-really-want gene that came to life during cancer kept me from backing out.
After two days of heart-felt exploring with Michael through three pages of “things I wanna talk about," I noticed my defenses had dissolved into a sense of safety, peace and willingness. Wow it felt good. Don’t get me wrong, I was still hyperventilating about whether it was really okay for me to be on this adventure and if I would survive it, but the only way for my mushy brain and full heart to keep going, at that point, was to let the experience take me for a ride. Reminds me of paragliding, when you walk right off the side of a mountain into the pure amazement of being held by the atmosphere of life. There’s no relief like the moment you realize you don’t have to work at holding yourself up anymore.
As I sat the next day with the special effects team from Netflix and listened to Michael expound on why, given the infinite nature of us and the universe, we can never accurately make up the future, I almost burst out laughing. Talk about being a poster child. His words landed yet again the next day as he and Anita Moorjani pointed out during their “Experiencing God” workshop that vision boards are, in fact, limiting. I’m only beginning to taste the freedom of not being in charge of where I’ll land and not having to flap my own wings to get there, but it’s remarkably obvious to me that our little conditioned brains simply don’t have the ability, in any moment, to make up the full breadth of how amazing life can be.
Having my mind blown is another favorite side effect of jumping off into the unknown, and the inevitability of walking in a different world once the pieces rearrange themselves into a clearer reflection of truth. The listening, the observations and the conversations of this week have already widened a few cracks in my made-up reality. I know there will be lots to say down the road about what I’m only glimpsing now, but here’s a taste.
I see that a monumental effort to get every moment and piece of my life “right” has not only sucked but has sucked the life out of me. My awareness has shifted from the endless measuring of myself and others against a set of rules I innocently made up toward, instead, the space of knowing within me - the one that feels like a wise grandmother, the one I can navigate from with infinitely more grace and ease.
Three years out from a stage four cancer diagnosis, I see that I actually don’t have to think of myself as being three years out from a stage four cancer diagnosis. Those moments of feeling like a ticking time bomb have far less weight, and I see I don’t have to reconstruct my reality each morning around this or any other past experience. The fact that we are meaning-making machines doesn’t mean we have to endlessly carry all of them in our backpack. It’s true, I don’t know what’s coming, but my heart can see that true safety and possibility lie in defenselessness, in showing up as me without the backpack of meanings and rules, and in navigating from the place in me that’s never been sick and never will be.
I am struck by the utter safety of stepping over the edge into the unknown. Despite the freaky sideshow our minds make up, there is actually nothing to fear, nothing to lose, and nowhere to fall. As my son Cole said in his graduation speech, “Try something new. Take a risk. Shoot your shot. Because the truth is, it pays off 100% of the time.” My favorite pay off this week? The gorgeous experience I fell into on the plane ride home exploring life, death, kids, illness, and the magnificence of who we really are with a complete stranger. As I left him at baggage claim with a big hug I knew, deep down, I was all in. All in on jumping off cliffs into the unknown. All in on letting the love and intelligence of life have its way with me. And all in on fully showing up wherever I happen to land.