Before studying shamanism with my teacher, Sarah Salter Kelly, I had to answer a few questions and one of them was, “What was your most heart opening experience?”. It still stands as my benchmark so I rewrote that story to share with you here.
Standing on a 20 ft. platform waiting to jump off into the mud pool below, I felt fear rising from the core of my being, I could hear it roaring in my ears. If I didn’t get a hold on it quickly I was going to panic and freeze at the top of the platform in front of a crowd of people.
I was 10k into the Tough Mudder Challenge and had been over walls, submerged my body into cramp inducing ice water and waded through pits of mud. I had trained for several months to get through the physical challenges of this grueling course. I would even run through the electric shock cables at the end of the course with barely a hesitation, but for months I wrestled with the fear of this particular challenge.
When I arrived at this obstacle I realized I would have to scale a wall to get to the top of the platform and I was beyond exhausted. I tried getting my foot up on the quarter inch ledge and boost myself up but it was beyond me at this point. Disappointed I walked around the obstacle, stopping at the side to watch my daughter drop into the pool. Two off duty lifeguards, a man and a woman, challenged me on skipping the event and I explained I couldn’t get up the wall with my tired short legs. We watched my daughter do her plummet and everyone went quiet when she didn’t come back up as fast as expected. She did bob back up after a couple of tense moments and I turned to go when the male lifeguard asked if I’d like help onto the wall. The woman chimed in that she would get on the wall and help me up if I really wanted to do it. I looked up at the platform, felt the fear rise but thought; ‘This is what you came for.’
With a quick little boost from my guardian lifeguards I was able to scramble up the rest of the wall to the top of the platform on my own. Since I was so tired that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to swim, they brought a lifeguard closer to where I would enter the water. The only excuse I was left with was fear.
Not being able to see into the muddy water, like you could in a pool, made it even more unnerving, especially since I had just watched my daughter disappear into it for a longer than normal time. Now here I was on top, waiting for the person in front of me to clear out of the way. I had read about a death that happened in previous years because someone had jumped too soon and landed on the person that went before them. This was heavy on my mind and what was rising inside of me on that platform was beyond fear, it was terror. I was confronting my mortality. Two years earlier I had been in an accident involving two semi-trailers in a snowstorm and it was the same emotion, but this time I had a choice to step away.
Drowning in fear the words ‘don’t think’ popped into my head. Looking up I was overwhelmed by a stunning vista of the red rocks of the Drumheller badlands extending out in front of me, I had never experienced such vastness. Suddenly I felt an energy rushing in toward me from the horizon, lifting me up. I felt buoyant, superhuman, like I could float right off that platform. The universe arrived in an incredible force, I had never felt anything like it before. Deep peace washed over me and as I was filled by the universe, I also expanded into it. I was as vast as the vista in front of me.
Out of the edge of my vision and consciousness I registered the person in front of me had climbed out of the far side of the pool. I turned my attention to my daughter and one of our other teammates standing on the other side watching me. Before fear could rush back in to squelch the euporia I screamed out our ridiculous battle cry, ‘Spoooon!’* and jumped. My daughter screamed it back while I descended through the air to the murky water and I heard the laughter of everyone watching.
The pool felt thick as I became submerged. I continued to go down, my fear of not knowing which way was up tried to kick in when a little voice said ‘Relax, you’ll naturally float back up.’ I relaxed, my decent stopped, and for a moment I was suspended in the viscous fluid, feeling like I was in a womb, then I slowly rose, until my extended hand broke the surface. The waiting lifeguard put a float under my arm as soon as I popped out but I was refreshed! I smiled at her, released the float and swam to the rope ladder where I crawled out of the pool.
After thanking the lifeguards that helped me up the wall I immediately burst into tears and I finished the remaining 6 kilometers, crying all the way.
I learned that when you face your fears and step into the void, the universe and unexpected people suddenly show up to support you.
*The Tick, a cartoon cult superhero, decides he and his side kick, Arthur, need a battle cry. Catching sight of his own reflection on the back of a spoon his battle cry is born. Tough Mudder advises having a battle cry to get you through the fear barrier so our team decided on Spooon!