So often we focus on what we DON’T want and we end up aiming right for it. Why? Well, our attention is the channel that directs our intent and so wherever we focus, there we are.
I have said before that life is a series of awakenings, and that each of those awakenings is a stepping stone forming our path to self-realization. Sometimes the stones are set further apart and require a leap of faith to propel us across. Our fear tends to focus on the fall, looking down to assess its danger and the best course of aversion. Whereas our faith looks to the next stone and lands before it has even leapt. For it acts with the assurance that its will is already done. Any other possibility simply doesn’t exist… until it does.
I recall one of my ascents up Mt. Rainier in Washington. A glacier covered volcano, Rainier is a gauntlet of crevasses that must be navigated with proper skill, equipment, and fearless intent. On this day, we were climbing in honor of one who had fallen to his death in the prior summer. We were three — my friend and lead climbing ranger for the park ‘Gator’, the girlfriend of our fallen comrade, and myself taking up the rear of the rope.
We came across a crevasse that stretched wide across the moonlit mountain face and which left us with no other option than to cross its gaping blackness. After securing an anchor for himself, Gator crossed its five-foot span with a practiced and graceful leap. Next in line was the mourning girlfriend, an inexperienced climber and understandably trembling in the fearful memory of her boyfriend's fate.
Gator reassuringly coaxed her doubt into action, “Just look in my eyes and leap”, but at the last minute, she looked down and down she went. Dangling from the rope tethered to Gator’s anchor on one side and to my harness on the other, our fates were literally intertwined. Paralyzed by fear, she was deaf to Gator’s instructions and he had to pull her body up the ten feet to the crevasse edge. He was exhausted and yet there was one more body to get across - mine.
“Okay Rebecca,” Gator cautioned, “you have to make it. I don’t have the strength to catch you.”
Talk about do or die. I was afraid, but determined. There was no other choice but to make this leap of faith and, unlike a metaphorical leap of faith, this one held true and definite consequences.
I gripped my ice axe tightly in my right hand and assessed the security of the crampons gripping my boots. I envisioned how their talons could save me if I fell, seeing myself in a Spiderman pose, clinging to the wall of the crevasse. ’Don’t look down, Rebecca’, I reminded myself, redirecting my attention to the far edge of the crevasse.
I could feel the fear pulsing through my now racing heart and wanting to constrict my airway. I breathed through it, exhaling doubt and inhaling courage. Fear transformed into force — strength permeated my muscles, poised for action, and my vision narrowed into a clear channel of intent. With a final breath, I leapt with all of my force, propelling myself through the air with my ice-axe extended and my sight fixed.
I landed hard and with anything but grace. Gator was laughing as I lifted my face from the snow to see that my boots had cleared the edge by a solid two feet and my ice axe, sunken to its handle, was nearly skewering Gator’s toes in front of me.
“Crouching Tiger, hidden Dragon!”, he exclaimed.
“That’s how it’s done.” I retorted with a laugh.
And that is how it’s done. No matter the leap of faith — a new job, a budding relationship, a shift in awareness, focus on what you don’t want and fall, focus on what you do want and soar.
This is not to say that it is unwise to be aware of what you don’t want. Be aware, but use it as a force of motivation to propel you across the darkness. Let go of the expectation of falling and redirect your attention into where you want to land. Transform your fear into force and then leap with all of the courage you can muster. Your landing may not be graceful, but you will land.