Six hundred feet
straight down! Nothing to break the fall. I’ve got to switch channels. I
don’t like my chances on this station.
Infused with youthful caprice, I mused to
myself about my predicament. Enjoying the intense body rush of imminent
danger, I was torn between prolonging the joy-terror and searching for
an escape from my imminent demise.
I’d been in similar dire situations before and I’d always
evaded the worst. How did I get out of danger before? Quick, you
idiot, think! You don’t have all day!
The impending disaster
pumped my adrenaline—and my memory. I let go, I reminded myself.
That’s what I did in past situations. I just let go of having to
control the whole thing. I released my need to be right about how life
operates. I allowed the picture to
change. That’s when circumstances shifted and something
unexpected, seemingly impossible,
occurred. Let the channel switch, Keith! I coached myself
into letting go into safety once again. Averting the most probable
outcome, I robbed death of its prey yet another time.
unceremoniously, I was reminded of the natural malleability of the
physical universe by a six-hundred-foot free fall straight down a sheer
cliff. The threat of a perilous plunge into empty space re-impressed on
my young mind the lessons I learned in similar predicaments: go with the
slide on the ice rink, relax into the tackle in football and turn toward
the skid in the car. Now I call it
“the decision to surrender.” Back then, I called it “just letting
I was fourteen. My
girlfriend Cheryl and I decided to go for a hike down a precipitous
gorge in upstate New York. We had most of the crisp spring day to play
before reporting to work as dinnertime servers at a local restaurant.
The trail was winding and steep. Three hours later, we arrived at the
bottom of the granite and shale canyon.
After spending an afternoon swimming
in the rippling stream, it dawned on
us we didn’t have enough time to hike back up the
to the top and get to work on time.
We concluded we could still make it back to
our job deadline if we climbed
straight up the vertical cliff.
Ascending the steep cliff turned out to be quite easy.
Protruding from the sheer granite wall were small rock ledges as easy to
climb up as rungs on a ladder. Within thirty minutes we were twenty feet
from the top. We would have been home free, except that the previous
night’s rain had soaked the soil near the crest, loosening the shale
ledges. As we neared the top, each time we placed a foot or hand on the
next rock outcropping, the shale
broke away from the cliff. Very quickly, we found ourselves
frantically moving our hands and feet from one shelf to another,
searching for something solid to support us in order to clamber up the
last few feet to safety.
With total panic on her
face, Cheryl looked over at me—a silent plea for guidance screaming over
the space between us. I didn’t know what to do next. I had no answers.
Like her, I’d also run out of ledges within reach to grasp. I felt
myself beginning to slide down the cliff.
Suddenly, my whole life
flashed in front of my eyes! It was like watching a movie being
projected a few feet in front of me.
During the first second of my descent into the abyss, I re-experienced
every major positive event of my life in full, living
color, including all the emotional
and physical sensations of each incident. I re-lived every
significant birthday party, picnic,
vacation, romantic date, school honor, sports achievement and
family celebration of my short life. This vivid, comprehensive review
was very rich and satisfying. Considering
my precarious situation, an
incongruous aura of calm and fulfillment swept over me.
The flashback ended as
abruptly as it began. Suddenly, I was acutely aware of being suspended
in time and space between the life review and the next moment of present
time—me in the midst of my slide down the cliff. During that seemingly
eternal moment, the realization hit me like a ten-ton boulder: I
don’t want to die! A wave of acute appreciation flooded over me.
I love life. I want to continue exploring what life has to offer. I
remember whispering to myself, I want to live, as if one part of
me were informing another part of me.
Then, swoosh! I
plummeted into the vast emptiness beneath me. Some alert, unknown aspect
of my being spontaneously yelled to Cheryl, “Lie flat! Relax! Let go!”
Hearing the words that came unbidden from within me, I, too, obeyed, and
consciously chose to surrender to the inevitable.
I don’t remember
anything after that decision, including what logically should have been
a very abrupt and painful landing. All I know is, Cheryl and I were
suddenly sitting in the stream at the bottom of the gorge where the
current formed a small pool. Although the water in the pool had turned
crimson with our blood, neither of us was experiencing any aches or
discomfort. The bleeding came from small, razor-thin cuts all over the
fronts of our bodies. But we had no broken
bones, bruises or other injuries.
It was as if the only purpose
of the scratches was to remind us that, yes, indeed, we had just
gone free falling down a six-hundred-foot cliff.
After a short period of
wonderment, we practically danced up
the long, circuitous trail to the top of the gorge. We were so
thankful—and simply happy to be alive, in one piece and being given a
second chance. The climb was effortless.
These threats to my
well-being were my early teachers. From these seeming enemies, I learned
that when faced with an expected outcome I don’t like, I have an option.
I can open to an alternative scenario, another framework, a different
set of rules. I jokingly call my ploy “switching channels.” It’s an apt
metaphor. I simply let go of my old
way of viewing the world and allow a fresh perspective to
emerge—or not! After all, when we truly let go, anything can happen!
More often than not, however, I find myself shifted to a new reality—a
different station with a new story line
that has a much better ending! This
is the stuff of miracles and alchemy.
(c) 2004, Keith Varnum.
All rights in all media reserved.
Drawing from the wisdom
of native cultures and ancient spiritual traditions, Keith Varnum shares
his practical approach to healing and transformation as an author, life
strategy coach, acupuncturist, filmmaker, radio host, vision quest guide
and international seminar leader with his empowering “Dream Workshops”
and free, fun “Prosperity Ezine” at www.TheDream.com.