Friday, 31 August 2012

What Is There To Fear?

Fear.  It paralyses us.  It prevents us from moving forward.  It undermines confidence and it sows the seeds of doubt that fester and grow until it seizes control.  I've been scared before.  In fact, I've been so scared that the entire left side of my body was shaking uncontrollably.  I was completely and utterly gripped by fear.  And I can still remember the day, as clearly as though it was only yesterday.

I was standing on the Kawarau Bridge in Queenstown, New Zealand, and I was facing a bungy jump.  It was mid-winter in the southern hemisphere and for a while I considered that I was shaking from the cold, but the reality was that I was scared.  Plain, simple, scared.  So why was I there?  Because I had started to believe in omens and in fate.  I was on vacation in New Zealand, it was August 2004, and I had been spending six days in Queenstown, so that I could do some snowboarding.  On my second evening there, I came across an A.J. Hackett Bungy office.  Stupidly, I went inside and signed up for a jump.  It was a few days later that I realised that actually, I did not want to jump.  I had paid no money or deposit, so it wouldn't matter if I missed it.  The appointed day of the jump was the same day I needed to drive from Queenstown to Kaikoura, a drive of 408 miles around the winding roads of the South Island.  I told myself that actually, there would be no time to make the bungy jump, which was planned for 10:30am.  I had to make it to Kaikoura, because the day after, I was booked to go whale watching and that was something that was a one off opportunity.  And, I figured that the route I needed to take to Kaikoura was in a different direction to my bungy site. So, on the day of my jump, I packed up and checked out of my hotel and hit the road, bound for Kaikoura.  I felt no twinge of regret about missing the bungy jump, none at all.  Then, at around 10:10am, as I was driving happily along, listening to the rock radio stations of New Zealand, I drove passed the Kawarau Bridge, the place of my bungy jump.  I drove passed at exactly the time I would have, if I had planned to come and make the jump.  I was shocked at seeing the sign.  I took my foot off the gas and let the car cruise.  What should I do?  My heart told me that there was really only one thing I could do.  I heeded the signs and turned the car around and drove back to the bridge.  And so it was that I stood on the bridge with the other jumpers and with my leg and buttock vibrating uncontrollably.  When my turn arrived, I reluctantly stood on the very edge of the jump platform, I looked down to the river in the canyon 140 feet below me, I was crippled with fear.  And then the words I had dreaded to hear.  "Three... two... one... bungy!"

What is fear?  Fear is a primordial emotion triggered as a response to a perceived threat or danger.  It prepares us to fight or to flee by stimulating the body to pump adrenaline into our blood stream.  Just like feeling happy, sad, excited, or anxious, fear is a trait of what it means to be human. 

When you decide to walk your path in life, once you recognise and give legitimacy to the voice of your heart, when you decide to throw off the shackles that have bound you and to seek the peace and happiness that lay in your heart, that is when it is necessary to consider the unknown, to think about taking a different path in life, this is a time when fear and doubt will find you.  Your resolve will be severely tested.  You will ask yourself many questions:-

What am I doing?
What if it doesn't work out?
Why am I giving up my comfortable life?
Why am I giving up the security of everything that I know?
What will I do after?
What are people going to think of me?
How is it going to work out?

And there will be no answers to these questions because in life, you can never know the answers until you have taken that first step, until you have decided to have trust and faith in your heart.  So, the fear and doubt will surround you, they will invade your waking thoughts, they will stop you from sleeping at night, and they will try their hardest to silence the voice of your heart.  This is the time when you have steel yourself, to have the courage and the strength to push forward, despite the fear, despite the doubt.

What is it that makes us fear and doubt?  It is the unknown.  It is the deep, dark, black abyss into which we look, knowing that the only way to find the answers is to go there, to venture into the darkness, to walk the path of our own making, in the search for the truth of ourselves.  And child and adult alike, we always fear that which we cannot see.

Now ask yourself this, what is in this darkness that you cannot see?  We always imagine the bad, the evil, the wicked.  But the darkness cloaks and hides everything.  Does a rose stop being beautiful just because you can no longer see it?  Does a snow capped mountain cease to be an awe-inspiring magnificence just because you can no longer perceive it through the darkness of night?  No.  These things do not change, they are what they are, regardless of dark and light.  So, in this darkness into which you stare full of fear and doubt, there is goodness awaiting you - there will be beauty, passion, love, peace, contentment, happiness and laughter.

Do you journey alone into this darkness?  No.  Even though you cannot see where the path is going to take you, even though you can never be sure of where you are going, you will never walk the path alone.  Your heart will be your companion on the road, sharing your journey, from the very first step, until the very last.  You will always walk together with your heart for company.  It will talk to you when you are lonely, it will urge you onwards when you are tired and weary, it will show you the way when you are lost.

Do you fear failure?  Then ask yourself whether it is better to fail after trying to achieve all that you want in life, rather than to have never tried at all?  Seizing an idea and trying it is part of what it is to be human.  This is how we evolve as people, this is how we evolve as a race.  Trying the unknown is something that you did almost every day as an infant and as a child.  You never had fear then.  When you tried to walk for the first time and you wobbled on your legs and fell, you did not give up.  You stood up and you tried again, and again, and again.  In the darkness into which you look lies not failure but glory.  Even if you never reach your ultimate goal, everything that you meet along the way - the places, the people, the experiences - they will enrich your life forever more in ways that you could never have predicted.  Failure simply ceases to exist.

There is beauty in the darkness.  You do not journey alone.  Failure does not exist.  So, what is there to fear?  Nothing.

And remember this: The darkest part of the night is in the minutes just before the sun rises.  Take the first step on your path and the sun will rise up inside of you and the light will come to illuminate your path, the light will come from within.

"Even though I cannot see the end, even though I am full of fear and doubt, even though my eyes cannot penetrate the darkness that lies ahead, I am going to walk into the abyss nonetheless.  Because I want to go in search of my dreams, I want to follow the urging of my heart, and I will have the life of my own making." - Andy. M. Smith

So what happened that day on the bridge in New Zealand?  I took a leap of faith and I made the jump.

No comments:

Post a Comment