Lean Out into Nothing

There seems to be a lot of struggle going on right now.  Almost everyone I know is having a hard time on many levels.  My astrologer friend Kevin says there is something up with the planets.  He knows his stuff so I tend to believe him anyway, but especially now because there seems to be so much evidence.  I am trying to relax and see what the struggle has to teach me.  I am trying to lean in, but maybe what I should do instead is lean out.

Parker Palmer tells a story about enrolling in an Outward Bound course and learning to scale down the side of a mountain.  Here is an excerpt:

“Just go! the instructor explained, in typical Outward Bound fashion.

So I went—and immediately slammed into a ledge, some four feet down from the edge of the cliff, with bone-jarring, brain-jarring force.

The instructor looked down at me: “I don’t think you’ve quite got it.”

“Right,” said I, being in no position to disagree. “So what am I supposed to do?

“The only way to do this,” he said, “is to lean back as far as you can. You have to get your body at right angles to the cliff so that your weight will be on your feet. It’s counter-intuitive, but it’s the only way that works.”

I knew that he was wrong, of course. I knew that the trick was to hug the mountain, to stay as close to the rock face as I could. So I tried it again, my way—and slammed into the next ledge, another four feet down.

“You still don’t have it,” the instructor said helpfully.

“OK,” I said, “tell me again what I am supposed to do.”

“Lean way back,” said he, “and take the next step.”

The next step was a very big one, but I took it—and, wonder of wonders, it worked. I leaned back into empty space; eyes fixed on the heavens in prayer, made tiny, tiny moves with my feet, and started descending down the rock face, gaining confidence with every step.

This story has so much richness in it for me right now.  It feels like I am leaning out into nothing, only I am at the stage Palmer was when he was quite convinced the instructor had it all wrong.  It feels scary and uncomfortable and I don’t want to do it.  I find myself resisting and resentful of the very life I have created.  I don’t like these unknown factors and here, a thousand miles from everything I’ve ever known, it’s all unknown.

When Palmer leaned out into nothing, fixed his eyes to the heavens in prayer, and took tiny steps, and started moving confidently toward his desire – the ground.

I feel I’ve lost the ground.  I am still working to find my footing, my stability.  The hitch is, the stability I once had before my move was a mirage.  None of it was real.  I was walking through my life without any pursuit of my desires.  I was neglecting the care of my body.  I spent my time in active addiction and largely ignoring my calling to do more with my life.  Now I’ve answered the call, but I keep wondering if it was a wrong number?

Everything just feels so… strange.  At moments I am filled with ecstatic joy, then in another moment, I am filled with pain and panic.  I wonder just what the hell I am doing here and whether I’ve made a terrible mistake to uproot my child and move her far away for…. what?

I keep losing sight of what I moved here to do because I am too busy trying to hang on to the damn mountain.  I’m not quite certain what the mountain really is; Identity? Security? Comfort?   I just can’t quite put my finger on it.  I am stuck between the unknown path before me and unknown nagging of something from my past.

I know what I came here to do; heal.  There’s no clear path for it and the healing needs to occur at every level.  I need to lean out and look toward the heavens with my prayer if I am ever going to find my footing and be able to climb down off the mountain face and let go of whatever it is I keep reaching back to cling to so desperately.


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