Adrenaline pumps through my veins as I peer over the edge. It’s a long fucking drop. At least twice the distance from the last one. I exchange a hesitant glance with my new friends.
Are we really this hardcore?
I thought I ditched my cliff jumping days somewhere between an unpleasant landing in Lake Tahoe and an ill-positioned wedgie situation at the Hoover Dam. But here I stand knowing that jumping off this cliff means so much more than jumping off a cliff.
. . . little things like: releasing control, letting go outcomes, and above all else… trusting myself
“Let’s make a pact to all do it.” I declare bravely, instinctively knowing we’re stronger if we band together. Nobody says anything, but we lock eyes for a moment in agreement, before Heather turns on her heel and casually steps off the ledge.
By the way we are positioned, I’m next in line. I inch closer to edge thinking I’m going to go, but my heart catches in my chest and some invisible force yanks me back to the landing. I sip a shallow breath. A handful of teenagers with a collection of acoustic guitars and conga drums begin to play the melody to Vance Joy’s Riptide, which I’m currently obsessed with.
I quickly wrap myself in golden light, whisper “I’m safe and protected”, and leap into the salty air. For a moment I’m suspended in time, like a cartoon character that’s just realized he’s accidentally run off the side of a cliff and he’s about to drop to his death. And suddenly, I’m plunging into the sea. Because the water is warm, my point of entry is smooth, and I sink a good ten feet deeper below the surface. I kick my way in a furry to to the top, sure my lungs are about to explode. Gulping for oxygen, I fumble clumsily with the strings of my bikini that’s not only left me completely exposed but also strangling me.
Well… that’s done.
Just as I cock my head up, Julie and Carmen are sailing gracefully over the side in succession.
Once we’ve all caught out breath, Rick motions for us to follow him with a mischievous smile spread across his face.
“This way,” he instructs motioning toward the mouth of a cave.
By the matching looks of fear glazed over everyone’s eyes, you’d think he just asked us to tape raw hamburger patties to our rib cages and go spear fishing.
“I don’t know about this,” Carmen hedges uncertainly.
“You’ve got to time it right. The key it to go between the sets, otherwise the waves will slam you in to the rocks. But if you time it right all is well.” He says with a twinkle in his eye. Another wave slams through the cave, high-fiving the walls on it’s way through.
Right . . . and that’s a big IF.
“Yeah just gotta time it right,” Julie jokes nervously behind me.
“I know you can do it!” Rick encourages us, but I kinda feel like he’s reassuring himself it’s a good idea to take a bunch of women through the cave on the first day of the retreat.
We tred water in a cluster, watching wave after wave roll through.
“Now!” Rick shouts.
Immediately my adrenaline kicks in pulling me back on the present. I start swimming as fast as my tired body can mange, as thoughts of getting through the cave before the next set rolls in loop relentlessly through my mind. My adrenals are pumping on all cylinders and every muscle in my body is burning as I use all of my strength to stay in line with the current while not getting pulled me in to the rocks. I focus to the bright light at the end the cave like it’s… well, the light at the end of the cave.
About halfway through, Rick’s voice echoes through the cavernous stone.
DON’T FORGET TO ENJOY THE RIDE!
OOOOOOOOOOh yeah… those seemingly innocuous 6 words jerk me into the present moment.
I lean back, inhale deeply and realize something a little embarrassing… I forgot to be the beginner. I forgot to approach the present moment without my baggage from the past. I was operating from fear, based an unfortunate encounter with urchin-covered rocks that landed me in Mexican hospital a good ten years back.
Of course, the urchin incident was totally different- if you take out the whole salt water crashing in to rocks thing. For one it was nighttime. Two, I was drunk, and three, I was naked…. but that’s not really important. What’s important is understanding how often we “know” how things will be based on previous experiences, when often times it’s a totally illusion.
I made the mistake of getting caught up the fear and panic of just trying to get through with out being airlifted out for emergency plastic surgery, I almost missed how FREAKING AMAZING what I am doing in the present actually is! With that simple shift in perspective, everything seems to slow down and for the first time, I allow myself the chance to really look around and take it all in.
I’m floating in deliciously warm turquoise waters through a hunk of hollowed rock, on an island off and island off of Bali…on a Goonie’s style adventure no less.
I relax even further into it, trusting that I’m not going to smash my face against the rocks. I don’t need to fight. I’m in the flow. Like leaf gliding with the current, I gently drift toward the light.
As the cave spits me back out in the Bali Sea, one predominant feeling is exploding from every single cell in my body.
I feel ALIVE.
Joyously, drunkenly, deliriously alive.
All of my cells feel like they’re doing a choreographed, ecstatic dance with high-kicks and sultry burlesque moves. I’m suddenly reminded what we really crave…. life’s gifts, the nourishing stuff, THE MAGIC… it all shares a very thin wall with fear.
Fear stagnates, fear cripples, fear diminishes, and 99% of the time it’s an illusion—a delusion that either paralyzes us from peeking around the other side of the wall, or obstructs our view of the Ordinary Magic of the moment. Only when we dare to confront that fear, and venture beyond our comfort zones—stretching past what we thought we were capable of, do we grow.
And the growth, my friend, is what feels so damn good.
We’ve been taught to believe specialist, idolize the master, admire the celebrity—and of course, that we should all be experts!
But sometimes it takes literally leaping into the unknown somewhere in the middle of the Indonesian ocean to remember it’s The Beginner who gets to enjoy the ride…
*special thanks to Rick Crowley’s SURF LIFE RETREAT for reminding me to enjoy the ride of life…