Why does it always feel like jumping off a cliff, every time I step back into the current of my life?
Cali, Valle de Cauca, Colombia.
Tomorrow I will take my first bus in a—I assume—long line of buses. I want to travel from Colombia to Argentina by bus. I am going through all the motions that I know so well. I feel fear of the unknown, I feel fear of failure, I fear the language barrier, I fear being late, I fear having my luggage stolen (part of failure), I fear being bored, and I fear missing out on stuff because I didn’t plan anything. Also I am just afraid of leaving my Colombian apartment where life is safe, predictable, and entertaining enough. I have grown attached to the guys that live here and the couch where I sleep.
I really wonder why it still feels like jumping off a cliff. I have done so many scary and radical things in my life that one would assume that my system would be accustomed to it by now. Travel for a year and take a break for a couple of weeks, and stepping on a bus feels just as scary as it always does. Don’t give a workshop for a while and think you lost your skills. I was even genuinely surprised that my meditation felt strong when I sat down on my cushion after neglecting my practice for the entire time between Christmas and the first week of January. How come these thoughts and convictions are so persistent?
A little trick I do is that I will close my eyes and ask myself the questions that just came up and listen to the answer. When I ask myself why does it feel like jumping off a cliff I feel calmness, surprisingly enough. It is not the heart that is afraid but it is the ego that wants to cling. I see an image of a Gollum-like creature (seriously, I am not making this up) with long arms that wants to cling to what is solid. He is afraid to jump in the stream and go with the flow. I always find it both clarifying and confusing that I seem to exist out of two entities. At least that is my experience.
Why are these thoughts and convictions so persistent? My inner answer is attachment. Something in me is really attached to repeating the same patterns over and over again. Something in me is attached to the idea of identity. By reproducing the same thoughts I can keep myself small. If I would stop doing that I would have to face my greatness and that seems still a bit challenging. “Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us,” as Marianne Williamson famously said.
The voice in our head, the thinking mind, is the source of all evil. I have enough meditation experience to observe the voice continuously. I experience quiet moments regularly, too. When I went for a walk today I noticed the voice saying all sort of things: shopping lists, concerns, calculations, self-criticism and what not. And I realized that if only this inner commenter would shut up the world would be perfectly at peace. I would be just moving along gently in the river of life, surrounded by liveliness. And for a moment I could feel it.
Image credit: Ron Cogswell/Flickr