Monday, January 30, 2012

Learning to Fly.

I learned how to fly.

I’m still not sure how I ended up in this situation, but at the end of last summer I found myself signed up for trapeze lessons at The Cincinnati Circus Company. Not too odd you say? I beg to differ.

While I don’t have a fear of heights I have an incredibly strong and irrational fear of ladders and anything involving getting from point A to B As I child I never made it up to the ropes courses or flew down a zip line. Even the idea of such an outing would make me worry incessantly and stay home from school or camp.

Nevertheless I have challenged this fear many times as an adult and been able to do things like climb up Half Dome at Yosemite or scale rock climbing walls. These somehow were lesser evils than ladders!

I knew all week that I was going to be making this outing to trapeze school, yet it wasn’t until I saw a ladder lying in the middle of this highway on Saturday, after it had fallen off a truck that I realized I wasn’t going to magically appear at the trapeze platform. There was going to be a ladder involved.

The whole way down to Cincinnati I felt the fear brewing in me. I was secretly hoping for an out. I didn’t want to face the evil metal rungs! We arrived a half-hour early to the rig. That was just enough time for me to stare at the ladder, two stories high and shaky and thin as can be. This was a disaster!

After hooking up our safety belts and a quick flying lesson we were ready to start our ascent to the platform. I was the fourth in our group to go. Kicking off my shoes I started upward. Sweat was pouring down my back, my arms and legs were wobbling. I couldn’t think of anything except reaching for the next rung and moving upwards. Short of falling, down wasn’t an option. I don’t know how long it took, but soon enough I was at the platform. The staff changed around my lines and it was time.

Ready….Hup (the signal to go)!

I jumped.

It was exhilarating, terrifying, surreal, and thrilling all at once. Alive. Nothing existed for those moments besides me and the air. Freedom. Beauty. Life.

This freedom and high is so foreign to the monotony and safety of everyday life. Time is spent looking to the past or to the future. Even the times when we think we are present we can often be found multitasking, either physically or mentally. Flying stops this. There is no opportunity to act in any capacity but in the now. There is a forced return to our instinct and our natural state of being free from that which keeps us tied to the ground.

Flying on a trapeze is an instantaneous explosion of this feeling of all encompassing joy, however similar highs can be found through yoga. It takes much longer and lots of practice, but at times I find myself in this same mindset. Nothing exists besides my breath and my body as I move through the postures. I become one and if I’m lucky this practice can last beyond the mat. Finding this experience can take time and patience, sometimes this patience can be as difficult as facing our fears, such as I did in climbing the ladder.

Life can be lived, day in and day out. The same routines, the same patterns. One can get by this way, however it is truly only getting by. Live your live. Step outside of your comfort zone. Take a risk.

“Try not to resist the changes that come your way. Instead let life live through you. And do not worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come?”

-Elif Shafek

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