On a recent trip to Queenstown NZ, I gave fear the hairy eyeball believing I would spontaneously overcome it. The insight and lesson it presented me with was groundbreaking, yet not at all what I expected… I wanted to challenge myself in Queenstown. I mean, it is the adventure capital of the world. It would be rude not to. With a constitution not fit for bungy jumping or jet boating, I chose the more subdued Ziptrek zipline because careering down a mountain at 55km per hour attached only to a cable seemed like a walk in the park…
It only occurred to me when we reached the top of the mountain via the Skyline Gondola, that our zipline was this steep and this far down! Any remaining blissful ignorance was gone. Once we were harnessed up and out on the first platform, I was the only person to raise my hand when the guide asked our group of 10 who was frightened. And this is precisely where the lesson began. Tending more towards introversion, I quietly retreat in trying times and usually would have kept my fears quiet. But I was in another country, a breathtakingly beautiful one too, and it seemed my habitual behaviour was left in Sydney. I chatted with the group, hearing of their daredevil ways while sharing my fears. Their encouragement provided some brief relief.
What happened next completely surprised me.
As I tentatively walked out onto the steps, slowly lifting my legs to let go and zip down the first line, every fear that had been hiding in crevices deep within my body bellowed out of my mouth through the forest. As I reached the other side, the group applauded me, cheering on my bravery. With 5 more lines to go, all increasing in length, height and speed, my fear only increased. I was asking myself, isn’t this where the fear vanishes? Shouldn’t it simply dissolve and the epiphany changes my life forever?
On I went, braving each new level, making conscious attempts to let go. First one arm off the rope, and then by the fourth I had both arms free; it was just the harness, the open air and me. The group was cheering and applauding. I felt encouraged, boosted and a strong sense of belonging and connection as we all found ways to push our own personal limits. And there it was. This was the learning, my epiphany. I was looking so hard for the spontaneous freedom from fear that I nearly missed the most important lesson on offer. The shared experience. How warm and open and free this felt to have stripped all my barriers to expose the most vulnerable part of myself and find the greatest connection in that. Brene Brown writes, “…because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self acceptance”. Here, here.