New Year. New Experiences. New Challenges. New Possibilities. New Fears.
The links in this article will take you to the sites of the places I went in Brazil.
In December 2015 I couldn’t get the definition of insanity by Albert Einstein out of my mind: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. For the previous three years, I had chosen to spend New Year’s Eve by myself, meditating, writing, reflecting on the previous year, and creating a vision for the new year. Since some of the key aspects of my life I wanted to change, didn’t, I decided it was time to stop the insanity, and spend the eve of December 31st in a new way. I still see the value of what I used to do, I certainly experienced much growth and opportunities I hadn’t considered, but it felt like I needed a drastic change, to create deeper change.
I said yes to spending the evening at a friend’s home, who was hosting over 20 people I never met, and it was wonderful. Then, on January 1st, I drove her, one of my sisters and another friend for a couple of hours to a beautiful waterfall. My sister and I swam close to the waterfall, but I felt shortness of breath and swam back. We decided to try again, and we met a lifeguard in the water. He showed my sister where to hold and where to stand right underneath the waterfall, and she did it. Then, I did it. It turned out to be a wonderful experience, and I took it as a sign that there were great things ahead in 2016.
On Sunday the 3rd, my sister and I drove to another city nearby to practice canopy tours, enjoy zip-lines and other activities in nature. Neither of us had done any of it before. The day of our trip, the weather channel showed that there was 100% chance of rain all day, starting at 10am. Since when we decided to leave home it wasn’t raining, we took a leap and went anyway. It only rained on our drive back after 3pm.
The first thing the guide told us when we got there was to take off earrings, rings, watches, and cell phones. We both wanted to take pictures, but were advised not to take the camera, as it could fall. It was a good thing because I got scared (old familiar fear of heights), and didn’t want to lose concentration of where to step and to hold. The minimum allowed height for the medium difficulty way we chose is 5’, and we are both just a bit higher. Being in nature, and staying focused not to miss a step, was an incredible experience. I didn’t think of anything else while doing it, and got a high from it! I had been so present in the moment that I forgot the plans I had made for afterward. Thank goodness my sister reminded me of them.
The next day, a friend of my sister’s invited us to the scuba diving school where he teaches and gave us a brief lesson. Learning to dive is something I’ve been wanting to do for some time. One of the reasons I hadn’t gotten around to it was the fear of not being able to breathe through the breathing tube. Thanks to our instructor’s patience and guidance, we practiced breathing before going in the water and it helped. Then, when we got by the edge of the pool, other fears I didn’t remember I had, came up. One of them is my inability to jump in the water, I can swim, but I usually take the steps, or sit on the edge and get myself in the water. I almost gave up at this point. But apparently there is no going back, when you are all set to go. Once they told me I didn’t have to jump but simply take a big step looking straight ahead, I went for it. Wow, it was quite an experience! It was a 19’ deep pool, and diving for just a little bit helped me to overcome key fears.
I have a new fear though, based on reality. I can’t possibly get up without help after I put on the tank, or get out of the water with the tank in my back as it is too heavy. Does it mean my dream of diving in the ocean is over? I hope not.
What else is possible? When I got back to New York, I made plans with a friend to go skiing for the first time. My fear of heights kicking in as the day approached, but we ended up canceling it due to weather conditions. Will I ever get the courage to go skiing? Maybe, maybe not.
Overcoming fears for unforgettable experiences are worthwhile. We all have different phobias and fears, and even with their sources sometimes known, sometimes not, sometimes illogical others not so much, they can all be paralyzing. Here are some lessons worth keeping in mind to not remain paralyzed:
Ask for help, or stay open to receiving help. If it wasn’t for the lifeguard willingness to teach us how to stand underneath the waterfall, we likely wouldn’t have experienced its magnificence. Sometimes we don’t know what we don’t know, and staying open or asking can make a huge difference.
Don’t pay too much attention to weather predictions or to what could go wrong. My sister and I were aware that we might not be able to enjoy the canopy tour, but we both agreed that at least we would enjoy the drive, and time in nature, in case it rained. (I know, I let the weather condition stop me from going skiing, perhaps it was a more difficult fear to overcome at this time.)
Practice affirmations and remember to breathe. During the canopy tour we were wearing a harness, and they told us we couldn’t fall. Still, I felt petrified at times, after watching demonstrations of how to go through each passage, and doubting I could do it. Over time my confidence grew, and it became easier. I can assure you that I was constantly focusing on breathing deeply; I was saying affirmations, such as I’m calm, I can do this, I’m safe, I trust this harness, I trust myself…; while at the same time, making an effort to admire and appreciate the trees, hearing the birds, and being in nature.
Use the information to build strength for future experiences. At some point during my hesitation to go in the diving pool, I reminded myself that I had done the canopy tour and zip-lines with success. If I could do that, I could scuba dive as well.
Face the fears and do it anyway. The fear can be an ally, a reminder of danger, a reminder to stay focused. I got clarity on some of the questions I had in advance, and it helped me to go for it. After the diving experience I felt a tremendous gratitude. I learned to breathe through my mouth in the breathing tube calmly; I learned how to get the pressure off my ears as we got deeper in the water; and I learned or remembered the fear of jumping in the water.
Investigate the new fears that may come up. For most of my adult life, I simply avoided jumping in the water, never taking the time to remember the source of the fear. After the scuba diving experience, I made an effort to remember. It had something to do with never being able to do it in a pool with head first, and being bullied as a child due to my fail attempts at doing so, and hitting my belly in the water instead. Even if you don’t figure out the source of it, naming it and finding ways to overcome it can be transformational.
Find someone you trust to go on adventures with. I probably wouldn’t have had any of these experiences if my sister hadn’t said yes to try them with me. It also helped that at the diving school, we were learning from an instructor we could trust.
Don’t give up, and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Just breathe, trust and do it. I made a complete fool of myself at the edge of the pool, wanting to give up entering the water, but our friend didn’t let me have it. I took my time, and I’m glad I found the courage to go for it.
What is it that you’ve always wanted to try and haven’t made the effort to do it? What is it that you keep doing, that you would like to gain a different result from, but are unwilling to change? Change. Ask for help. Get support. Learn about it. Breathe. Trust Yourself. Jump. And do it.
Cheers to a 2016 of joy, laughter, adventures, heart connections, success, new business ventures, and love.