Trapeze Swings and This Thing Called Life

Yes, this is me getting ready to jump off a platform and swing on a trapeze during my very first Trapeze lesson.  But more on that later…

Anytime I get ready to make a big decision regarding my life, my work, or my happiness, I revisit an old personal mission statement that I wrote for myself back in the mid 90’s. This mission statement was inspired by a series of events in my life. One of the most significant of these experiences was my great fortune to be trained in Adventure Based Counseling by the incredible people at Project Adventure. During my week long training at Project Adventure, I learned the essential elements of conducting group therapy through experiential ropes courses. On my final day in Boston for this training, I scaled a tree and made it to the highest “initiative” only to come inches short of catching the trapeze bar as I lept through the air. A fraction of a second after I left the platform, I knew that I didn’t commit. I knew that only an ounce more of effort and commitment would have netted me the trapeze. Of course I was on “belay” and my partner held my rope and eased me down to a soft landing. My lesson from that day is to never hold back and to go for it with gusto.

One of my fellow classmates in that class sent me a writing that has shaped my life in so many ways. I do not remember his name and I barely remember what he looked like, but I am thankful for the message that he gave to me and continue to use all these years later.  Here is that writing:
Fear of Transformation
By Danaan Perry

Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging onto a trapeze bar swinging along, or for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my “trapeze-bar-of-the-moment”. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that “I am in control of my life”. I know most of the right questions and even swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar swinging toward me. It is empty, and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well known bar and move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place, I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the “faith experience”. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of the past is gone, and the future is not yet here. It is called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get punched.

I have noticed that in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as a “no-thing”, a “no-place” between places. Sure the old trapeze bar was real, and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too. But the void in between, that’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth-filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang-out” in the transition between trapeze bars.

Transforming our need to grab that new bar – any bar- is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we just may learn to fly.
From “The Essene Book of Days”

So while this video of trapeze school may seem shallow on the outside, know that there is something far deeper to this experience than appears on the surface.   And I WILL catch that trapeze bar!!!!!!

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