Recently, I undertook a great personal risk facing one of my deepest fears; to attain my scuba diving certificate. It’s never been on my bucket list – far from it. I’ve been perfectly happy to stay above water with the rest of the oxygen loving creatures, being much more likely to rock climb or jump from an airplane as possible adrenaline pinching activities. Yet last year, for my husband’s 50th birthday, I pushed myself to calm my anxiety about going into an environment devoid of oxygen – our life force – and consent to his years of gentle urging to don an unattractive rubber suit with a large heavy tank, plaster a mask on my face stretching my lips wide and grotesque around some air regulator and jump into unforeseen territory.
There’s some natural tendency in all of us that wants to stick to what we know, what’s comfortable, the easy. I know for me, in this instance, it’s breathing without having to think about it. But even when we want more, a better marriage, deeper personal learning, we resist the changes. Maybe it’s out of fear of the unknown, fear of becoming panicked and not having immediate assistance. Maybe it’s that what we know – even if undesired – is comfort-packed because we’re so used to its housing. Surely air breathing has been a comfortable way of life this far in my life! And yet, risking this fear to submerge myself below 60 feet of tropical ocean, my eyes are opened in a way that I’ve not ever considered possible. Of course, with each and every dive, I have to reassure myself: I have a full tank of oxygen, my ears are equalized, my mask is clear and not filling up with salt water. But there’s a moment of panic that says, “You are not supposed to be here. This is not right. You are in great danger,” that causes a slight fight or flight reaction, necessitating some deep breathing in order for me to move forward. I consciously have to make a choice of turning away from the comfort of an oxygen filled environment, my natural habitat, to choose that change. A goal’s been set in my mind, and doggone it, being the determined person I am, I will meet it! There’s a lot of talking myself into breathing normally, relaxing, and staying in this consciously calmed moment. No possibilities packed with panic entering my head! And lo and behold, the world below the ocean’s ceiling opens up to me in technicolor. Literally the tiniest fish which were blind to me just moments before are swimming inches from my mask. The bluest of blue in the angel fish below me meandering amidst a kaleidoscope of color in their reef home. Wide-eyed grey mongrel fish, moseying over to stare into my mask, checking me out as if THEY are more okay with me being in their environment than I.
I’d have never seen the wonders of this world below us had I not wrestled those fears. I’ve now descended 91 feet, swam through deep sand tunnels, and thru a navy wreck traversing through their mysterious cavernous rooms. It’s beyond my understanding how I could have managed that without sheer determination, then *resting* into it, allowing myself to just LET GO into the adventure, trusting in the knowledge that I knew enough to be safe. I’d survive. And wow – what a new world; one that’s always ever-present but blinded to because of fear.
I took on another giant risk in my life recently -leaving the religion that I grew up in so that I could fully embrace the seeker inside to grow. Though Christianity has served me in many ways all my life, been my oxygen so to speak, I know I’ve resisted it’s regulator. It was fitting as a child to help me formulate a moral compass for the world and envision a Powerful Presence beyond what I could see. A possible answer to the puzzle of a chaotic and sometimes confusing world. It helped me to raise a young family and meet other liked minded individuals on a deeper level. It even helped me overcome my fear of singing, pushing me beyond my wildest dreams to be able to hold a microphone and sing for an audience! I believe all people and things, though, come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime -and this chapter, “traditional Christianity”, has also proved to be a season. Its walls were closing in around me as I delved into deeper meanings and truths, so much so that I risked the reactions of friends and family to leave my church home. Breaking free from those once comforting binds have brought me to Divine place that is devoid of labels. It recognizes the divinity within all of us and beyond, our all encompassing inter-connectedness, understanding that Truth is never limited to one container, that the Divine is bigger than our answers. The Divine welcomes our questions; in fact, encourages them so that our seeking brings us closer to our fullest, intended self. This walk into awakening is what opens our passion to purpose in this interconnected world we live in. Though the jump itself from traditional religion was a long drawn out inner discussion of fear vs pain, my submerging was an immediate sense of belonging. No inner talk needed to stay within the new surroundings- perhaps because it’s been whispering to me from long ago. It feels comfortable and right, and has opened a door to such an expansive room I’d never have before imagined.
Presently, I’m being continually called to push myself further outside the box. Be uncomfortable. Just what are you resisting? I was listening to Oprah’s Soul Series on satellite radio while driving home from dropping my son off at college yesterday. One of the women calling in was describing an ah-ha moment she had in Eckhart Tolle’s suggestion to drop the oars in our struggle to paddle upstream. No turning around necessary – just drop the oars. I was instantly reminded of my recent retreat into the wilderness with Annie Bloom, as I determinedly paddled my kayak upstream. I was strong in the feat; passing others, I wanted them to see that tenacity, that I was accomplished in my task. When I tired of the journey, feeling satisfied with my efforts, I let go and just drifted back. Sometimes backwards, sometimes slowly spinning, I watched the shoreline and marveled over the diamonds across the surface of the water. The undulations of the floor of the river in the ripples of the water. Small schools of fish darting below me. The warmth of the sun on my back. Just feeling cradled by Nature and her waterway, who was only too happy to escort me on this ride.
What is it that I’m paddling against while missing the view? Missing the joy of the moment? If I had to grasp one thing, it’d be my People Management Position. My desire for others to see my worth. My competitiveness to prove my abilities, skill and beauty – both in and out. Though I can honestly say I like the me I present to the world today, I recognize that I’m still trying to translate for others so they’ll be sure to acknowledge my worthiness. And I know as I write that, having just a wee bit of psychology under my belt I know that I must be, in truth, trying to prove it to myself. Is it good enough JUST to be good enough? I struggle against that in my paddling with fierce determination upstream. Dropping the oars is scary – what if I don’t translate? What if people don’t understand this wonderful creation I call me? What if I’m criticized? Scoffed at? What if my kayak flips? What exactly would it look like to drop those oars? And what would it mean to enter into a whirlpool and would I survive it?
Scary stuff. I’m not sure I’m ready. I’m not sure I can trust I’ll survive in the face of adversity, misunderstanding, or abandonment. All I know from experience is to breathe into it. Relax. And take this moment one at a time. And that EACH and every time I’ve dove into that panic, I’ve been amazed with the view.