December 4, 2014
STEPPING OFF THE EDGE
Her heart beat like a panicked bird caught behind glass. She pocketed the promise and stretched out her arms–the full beautiful length of them. She uncurled her fingers to receive whatever help might come and stepped off the edge. She didn’t leap, or jump. She was crying a little. No tears of joy; hopefully that would come later. No, she just stepped. Courageously she picked up her foot and moved it forward and set it down beyond solid ground smelling of earthy, familiar things. Her body followed, flying and falling through the sky with a promise in her pocket.
It’s called The Leap of Faith, something each one of us faces periodically. Whether we arrive anxious or excited, we have all come to moments when we are challenged to step off the edge of what has been familiar and fall through the sky into the unknown with only a promise in our pocket. Or, maybe for some it is sailing across unchartered waters away from familiar shores. We are called forward, upward. We are called to shed the old skin of who we’ve been and how we’ve lived. All we hold is a promise: everything always works out; life is good.
It sounds like suicide. If feels like suicide. When we step off the edge, we have to leave behind our old habits of mind and being lest they snap us back again like a bungee cord that won’t let us go. The naysayers caution us against our foolhardy notion to venture forth into new ideas, new places, new spaces in the world within ourselves–such things might lead to new worlds outside of ourselves. They want to keep us safe, they say, as they clip the bungee cord to our belt.
There is a universal law: “intention precedes manifestation”. It means that what we focus our thinking upon will begin to gather energy and mass and eventually solidity and physicality and thus it is that we create our lives. We create the stories we live. Sometimes the only way out of one story is to take that leap of faith into a new one. Faith has been defined as the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”. This is the promise we hold in our pocket as we take that leap without the bungee cord–sailing through air, through water, through testing and trials, all for the sake of realizing our dream: to find the Holy Grail of our lives, whatever that may be for each searching Soul. Stepping off the edge is to live fully with every cell into every moment of our lives.
That cliche, live life to the fullest used to bug me. What the hell did it mean? Once I dissected it with a dictionary in order to understand its meaning–fully. I believe it means to be aware and awake in the present moment I am living; aware of my surroundings, aware of what my senses are experiencing, aware of the choice I have in each moment. Sometimes these are small things in small moments, like appreciating the feel of warm water streaming over my body in the shower. As I stand there I become aware of the fact that I am privileged to have warm water that is safe for me to shower in right here in my home at just a turn of a knob.
Sometimes these are big things in big moments, like the moment when I receive a job offer, or sign the deed to my new house, or board the plane that will carry me to a new adventure.
Then there are the really big moments when I come to a crossroads in my life. These really big ones usually precede the plain old big ones because they involve making decisions that require I choose one path at the exclusion of another, altering my life forever. Usually one of those paths is familiar, a continuation of what I have been living while the other leads to unfamiliar, unexplored territory. Sometimes neither is familiar and to move forward requires a decision between two entirely different lives from my current one, both full of the Unknown, with my only alternative being to camp out at the crossroads which is sort of a metaphor for stagnation. But to move forward requires one of those suicidal leaps of faith.
For those of us who choose to camp out for awhile, sometimes the authorities come and evict us and we have no choice but to head down one road or the other. Or die. And sometimes none of the choices are pleasant. Sometimes the material we have with which to create our life isn’t very beautiful and the roads we have to choose from are difficult; even dangerous. But, we still have choices. We get to choose whether to live fully conscious or numb ourselves into oblivion. We still have an internal garden we can cultivate, or allow it to be overrun with thorns and stinkweed. We can choose to make our life a work of art, a powerful poem, or abandon ourselves in the misery around us.
Living life fully: opening ourselves to full awareness of what we are experiencing in the present moments of our lives. Living life to the fullest: being intentional to fill the moments of our lives with as much life as we can possibly cram into them. Creating a life that is thriving and beautiful like a fertile garden or an amazing work of art, at least internally if not also in our external experiences, requires intentionality, presence, and quite possibly having to periodically step off the edge and free-fall into the unknown with only a promise in our pocket.