You can step on fear, and therefore you can attain what is known as fearlessness. But that requires that, when you see fear, you smile. ~ Chögyam Trungpa, Great Eastern Sun
Many years ago, I spent two wild months roaming the beautiful country of New Zealand.
It’s home to the outdoor life, extreme sports, good wine, and I loved all of it.
New Zealand is a playground for adrenaline junkies. It’s not for the fainthearted: bungee jumps, sky diving, zorbing, and zip lining to name a few. There’s no shortage of ways to get your heart pumping, scare yourself silly, and create crazy memories.
So, on a fine and sunny Sunday morning, I arrived at the Auckland Skydive Centre with jelly legs, my heart in my mouth, butterflies in my stomach, and a, “No, don’t be silly I can’t do this” on my lips. It’s fair to say I was regretting my decision to complete a tandem skydive.
I prayed for rain, clouds, anything to put a stop to it. As I paid for my place, I told myself, “You can pull out, Sam, it doesn’t matter what people think.” As I waited for my skydive master, my knees shaking, “I don’t have to do this, I just have to say no. I have nothing to prove.”
And then I heard my name. A soft, Italian voice said, “Samantha?” I turned around to see the most beautiful man, not just in his looks but also in his light. He positively glowed. He was grace in a body and a touch of divinity at the moment I needed it the most.
I don’t mean this in a lusty way, of course, but I was gobsmacked and squeaked a, “Yes, that’s me.” My travel buddy was laughing and uttered a quiet “I guess you are jumping now, eh, Sam?” in my ear.
He took me through my training and before I knew it, we were climbing into a tiny plane. It was just me and my friend jumping that ride, and a few of the staff, taking advantage of the empty plane to jump themselves.
For anyone that has jumped, you will know the plane ride up is nothing but extreme. No seats, just bums on the floor. Once up off the ground, the climb may as well be vertical until we hit 5,000 feet. The door opened, one of the staff walked to the edge and jumped.
I can’t put into words how mind-blowing it is to watch someone be on the edge one second and then literally disappear the next. I felt green. I must be crazy. I can’t do this; yet my friend for the day took my hands and said in his beautiful accent with a smile, “Samantha, you will be okay. You will enjoy.” Gulp. I gave a small nod, with my eyes on stalks, as I watched the next one jump out the door.
As we climbed higher and higher with the door open, ice-cold air battering us inside, we finally leveled out. I looked out the window, and I swear I couldn’t see the ground.
It was my turn to go toward the edge and jump.
When you jump with a tandem diver, they are literally attached to your back. You both slide on your bums toward the door, legs out, arms crossed with the dive master. Then, you sit on the edge and dangle your limbs in the abyss while trying to remember everything you learned in the training.
As you are sliding toward the door, every cell in your body screams, “No!” Jumping goes against all logic, all basic survival instincts. As you sit on the edge, quite literally dangling from another human being, whose hands you are in completely, it’s like meeting every fear, doubt, anxiety, and worry you have ever had.
But then something beautiful happened. As I sat dangling out of the plane, I surrendered—not with a slump of my shoulders, but with a howl I didn’t know I was capable of. I howled and howled and them some more, in one great big roar of emotion with grace on my back, laughing.
With a final “Samantha, are you ready?” in my ear, I finished my howl and nodded. With my eyes closed, I felt myself rock back, pull forward, and we were out.
I loved to say that I soared in a state of joy and peace, touching the fluffy clouds.
Like most leaps of faith, it’s terrifying until you are firmly back on the ground. I managed to hold onto the contents of my stomach, as we somersaulted out of the plane. I stretched out my arms and legs, and then, I swore 67 times in 55 seconds (my friend counted) as we hit terminal velocity and plunged to mother earth.
If you want to experience an extreme way of being in the now, then free-falling is where it’s at. You fall at 120 miles per hour, as you drop one thousand feet every five seconds. Your brain can’t keep up, and my only memory is watching the clouds hurtling up toward us and praying that they really weren’t solid.
The cord was pulled, the chute opened, and I continued to cuss and squeal all the way down. It was only back on the ground (once I’d stopped jumping up and down, seal clapping and squealing, begging to go up again) that my Italian friend told me, “Samantha, you have a potty mouth and one hell of a set of lungs on you.”
With a hug, a shake of his head, and a chuckle, my Italian friend bid me farewell. Twenty-four hours later, on my flight to Hong Kong, I was still buzzing and a passion was born. While I’ve not been able to recreate the intensity of the experience on the jumps that followed since, I still crave the feeling of surrender, sitting on the edge of that plane.
In the years that have passed, like many of my life experiences, it taught me an important lesson. We are not here to live a safe life or be small in any way, shape, or form. We are here to live life and live it on the edge. I’m not talking about skydiving, but any wall, block, or barricade we have inside of us that stops us from expanding and growing.
We will know if we have a wall inside of us if we feel anxious or fearful. The thing is, it’s not there to stop us. It’s there for us to knock down, if we are brave enough—to feel the fear and do it anyway. This is what living life on the edge is all about. If we are anxious, fearful, worried, or doubtful, find the wall inside of us, sit on the edge of it, surrender, and let go. Only by letting go can we expand out beyond our comfort zone.