3-2-1 Jump – Taking that leap of faith

Have you ever taken a leap of faith?

Have you ever bungee jumped?

If you’re going to bungee jump for the first time in your life, and you’re likely to only ever bungee jump once, which bungee would you choose?

The one that’s 47m high and sits on a bridge, above a flowing, wide and deep river, or the one that sits some 134m high in the middle of a gorge with a rocky, rapidly flowing creek at the bottom?

In fact, would you bungee at all?

It had been on my list of things to do for a long time – the only reason it hadn’t happened sooner was opportunity.  I can’t tell you why I wanted to do it – I just did.  I wanted to take a leap of faith.  I wanted adventure.  I always want adventure.

Here I was, earlier this year, in New Zealand, the home of adventure and bungee jumping, lined up with a few friends after a week of hiking, to take on the highest bungee jump in New Zealand.

This jump at Nevis is a title contender for the world’s most terrifying bungee jump. The build up alone is interesting – you start in a four-wheel drive bus and head up, up and up the bumpy mountain road until you arrive at the stark and stony Nevis gorge, in the middle of which, 134m up, hangs a cabin, blowing in the wind, which you reach courtesy of an open-air cable car.

 

Adventure has a way with me – leaping with faith

There’s that wrestling inside me, fear fighting with bravery, while adventure watches on – wondering what to do.  Take the leap of faith – or not.

 

To get to the crunch – here I am, standing on the edge of the platform that swings off cables 150m or so above the gorge. It’s swaying in the wind as I’m trying to keep my balance standing with my feet tied together.  It’s a novel experience.

I’m listening carefully to my instructions.

My instructor takes me through what I need to do:

Look at the camera.

Shuffle to the edge

Put your toes over the edge

Look outwards not down

Count to three and then dive.

Don’t jump.

Me – Why is it called bungee jumping then?

Not the time he says.

Ready?

Me – ummmm

 

Now or never – 3-2-1

3, 2, 1 Dive.

Done. I’m over the edge.

I dived off that platform, straight out like I was told and I’m falling. I can’t hear anything the wind is rushing past my ears so fast.

Or is it me rushing so fast past the wind?

I’m diving for a long time and there’s no tension on the ropes. In fact it’s a full 8 seconds of freefall that feels like much longer.

I am as close to flying as I have ever been. The screams I expect to come from my core don’t come. There’s no need. I’m flying and I’m as free as I’ve ever felt.

 

I forget to be scared of crashing to my death in the gorge. I forget to be scared of the ropes breaking. I forget to be scared of slipping out of my harness.

In fact, if I describe the free fall feeling, the word I find best to do that, is peace. I was at peace and I didn’t want it to end.

 

And I’m off…the leap has been taken

Gradually I feel the tension come in to the ropes until I slow to the lowest point, before being sprung back up in to the air from which I had come. Three times up and down before the winch is lowered and connects with my rope and starts to pull me back up to the cabin suspended over the gorge from where I’d come.

A slow and smooth ascent, upright thanks to my ability to follow the instructions for turning myself up the right way, and enjoying, in a very serene and peaceful way, the cold wind, the gorge, the views, the helplessness.

I was surprised by this adventure. I was expecting an exhilarating, hair raising, scream worthy activity where the adrenalin would be pumping through my body. Instead, I experienced a leap of faith, a sense of peace and freedom like never before.

 

They call it an adrenaline sport and I understand that – in the lead up there was definitely adrenaline pumping through my body.

But the dive, the fall – I’d call that a meditation.

Sometimes you don’t always get what you expect.

Sometimes you get what you need.

Adventure looked and felt different today.

What does adventure look like to you?  

 

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi

It’s all in your head! Behind closed doors – my secret journey to myself

Sometimes I want to crawl into his soul and stay there.  Surrounded by strong, comforting energy that accepts me as I am, stands with me.  Allows and respects the feminine in me.  Yes, sometimes I want to crawl into him because I know it’s safe in there.  He’s teaching me it is safe in me too.  That I am my safe place.

I remember the first time.  I was looking over my shoulder as I entered the building.  All day I’d had to work hard not to be sick.  I was nervous to say the least.  I sat down and waited.  My eyes toward the floor – in case anyone I knew was nearby.  Oh hell, in case anyone at all saw me.  My heart was racing.  This was my first time and I was frightened.  Already with my commitment to be here today, it was one of the bravest things I’d ever done.  I’d climbed the highest freestanding mountain in the world, I’d trekked to Everest Base Camp and I’d completed the Kokoda Trail in Papua New Guinea not once, but five times.  I spent my life challenging myself.  But nothing scared me like this did.

I was about to take responsibility for my life.  I was about to own my own shit.

Yep, this was my first appointment with a psychologist.

My referral, and appointment, were ostensibly to help me deal with some residual trauma from my survival of the 2015 Nepal earthquake but I knew deep inside that it was more than that.

I knew from the moment he introduced himself and I took my seat, that now, there was no turning back.  No more ignoring.  No more keeping so busy I didn’t have time for myself.  Here I was, embarking on the most frightening journey of my life – and unlike other adventures, I had no itinerary, no insurance and no back up plan.  To top it all off, I felt like it was just the beginning.

And it was just the beginning – following that very first session, I not only survived, but I started to look forward to our sessions.  In a weird, fearful way.

Shannon Adler said that “Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” I tend to agree.  I was questioned and challenged to look differently at things – my old belief patterns; relationships; life.  It wasn’t a walk in the park, quite the opposite, but each session helped me see more clearly.

My view prior to my own experience, was that you only saw a psychologist if you couldn’t deal with your own life, if you didn’t have your shit together.  Imagine admitting that you didn’t have your shit together – imagine!

So to set the record straight I want to tell you something.  Despite my initial misgivings I am a convert.  None of us has our shit together all the time, and all of us could do with someone to help us in this regard.  You can do all the brave and courageous things that you are drawn to in your life, you can achieve great things, and in doing so, be empowered and feel brave and alive.  But I have to say, therapy also makes you feel brave and alive and for me it took as much courage to get there as some of my most challenging adventures.

The truth of the matter is, seeking help when you need it is likely to be not only one of the most courageous moves you can make, but it will be one of the most beneficial.

For years now I’ve taken care of my physical health but now I also take care of my mental health.  Most of us, including me, have a support team or a tribe – your partner, family, friends, health professionals, personal trainers, life coaches, mentors and the like.  Well I can now add my psychologist to my support team.  He plays a role in my wellbeing just like the rest of my team.

I recognise I have a role to play in my own growth and my own mental well-being, but I wouldn’t have been able to go there alone.  If you’re heading off on a long and difficult but rewarding journey, you don’t want to go alone do you?  You’d take along a support person, someone to guide you when you need it, challenge you when you back away from what’s in front of you, someone to witness your experiences.

A therapist is this support person and if you haven’t already, and you’ve been thinking about it, I invite you to enter into this journey.  It will be long, and exhausting at times, it might be difficult and confronting, and you’ll question yourself, your views and beliefs.  But you will learn and grow and face things you never thought possible.  If your experience is anything like mine, you will be encouraged and supported to dig up those feelings that you’ve buried so deep so they couldn’t hurt you.  I know that’s a scary thought – but the great thing is that when you dig them up, air them out, and look closely at them, they lose their power.

Author Augusten Burroughs says that you should “Think of your head as an unsafe neighbourhood:  don’t go there alone”.  That’s really good advice! You don’t need to go it alone.

“Let your life be your message” Mahatma Gandhi