And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
I am hearing great stories of risk singing in the wind everywhere I turn, and with it the notes of opportunity to grow. The voices of challenge among voices of doubt and fear in the choir. What is this soundtrack we are all tuning into?
The risk to try something different rather than doing the same old, same old. The risk of a new job or to choose to let go to a role you always play. The risk to start looking at yourself with new eyes and asking for help in this process, when once you chose to hide away from any such task. The risk to start doing art or move your body in ways you never have before. The risk to be imperfect again and again. The risk to feel. The risk to interact with people you know may lead to hurt. The risk to love. The risk to let go of relationships and make more space for yourself. The risk to write, or dance, or start actually manifesting your life long dream. The risk to travel to unknown places, to meet unknown people. The risk to change the way you view something. The risk to trust. The risk to let go of security for something more inspiring and scary. The risk to show up, be seen and heard and exposed to potential ridicule and criticism, and even be exposed to potential praise. The risk to step into who you are becoming.
In my work with teens and young adults, I have listened to endless stories of risk. Amazed at the lack-luster courage of these young hearts willing to risk their lives for social acceptance or a thrilling exposure to near death. What is the message here? And what is the greater learning?
I think about risk in terms of the hero’s journey. At least once in our life, we are called to adventure, if we are really lucky we are called to it on a daily basis! And how many of us hear the call and continue on in our daily routine? With all the good reasons not to move into the adventure, we hold ourselves in our life with safety being primary.
But if we choose, we can truly embrace the call, and it is at the threshold crossing that we come to see what we are made of, when all the people and thoughts are screaming, “stay here” or “turn back, don’t go too far” and we can’t help but keep stepping forward. We move into unknown territories, perhaps scarier for those around us than it is for us, we are driven to take these steps by a force more powerful than our will. We keep going, determined to meet our challenges with all we have in us. It is here that transformation begins.
The journey is important and it is one that introduces us to ourselves.
On one level we do this on our own, we know this as we meet our task and have to make the choice to jump off the cliff. Yet, on another level, we are also in good company, our greatest allies arise in this place.
I have witnessed myself and my clients take on this task, and it is no graceful process. But the story of risking is important.
Joseph Campbell’s model of the The Hero’s Journey
It begs the questions of, why? What calls us to do this? What calls us to put ourselves in seemingly crazy situations?
As I hear the story of young people, I find I am asking myself these questions often. And what comes to me is that it is the risks that teach us the BIG lessons. The risks bring us to the edge of something, and on that edge we discover the vastness of the world and the magnitude of who we are arises! The risks transform us in all the kicking and screaming anger, the crying and resistant closing in, the prayers for something different, and hopefully in the short lasted “Weeeeeee!” as we jump into the unknown. And if nothing else, we meet the people who are truly in our corner as we walk this life path.
It’s about purpose.
Teens and young adults come to the edge consistently, and in it they reveal to us that something is and needs to shift, this is their purpose as the generation that comes next. And as they risk, they reveal to themselves and their community, who they are and what they are capable of. Like a butterfly in a cocoon, they are in the struggle of emerging, each movement in confinement, an inquiry of if the timing is right to breathe breathe differently, to embody a new form. It is the process of individuation. No longer a child of their family, no longer a caterpillar of land only, but a creature of earth and air, of more than one realm: realms of family and community and a more whole Self, with an opportunity to reveal their own unique brilliance. And if anyone is able to witness them and support them in it, they become a being to be seen frequently and by the larger collective.
As adults, we often loose sight of the meaning of these dangerous leaps, we may even judge them. Adults tend to grow into believing there is so much at stake, so much we can loose, all that we have acquired could be gone, then what would we have to show for ourselves? As teens, we hold life differently and with so much emotion, our psyche craves to feel something big, an ordeal that helps us embrace our aliveness, it’s a deep-seated need. As adults, we forget that this need still lives in us, and often we silence it. Then we sit wondering how we can feel so stagnant.
In the past few years, what has been a large part of my practice is to ask myself, “what scares me most?” and then to choose to meet that fear again and again. We look at teenagers and think they are crazy for their behaviors and wild actions, but actually they are the most courageous of beings! We need to stop turning our heads to this. Let us praise their brave, wild, and daring approach. Let us mark, acknowledge and celebrate that they live through each seemingly crazy action!
Since I have been asking myself this question of what scares me most and moving toward the fear, I realized my life has become vastly different. I had a 9-5 and with it the security of a paycheck and health insurance, I didn’t ventured out much in fear of vulnerable exposure, embarrassing myself or being in the deep unknown and the costs of this I made up in my mind. I had relationships that I felt I could fall back on if anything went awry, I was on track in what I thought would be my life-long career, I thought I knew about how to love and who I was meant to be with, I was confident in what I wanted in my life and exactly how it looked and assured that it would make me happy. It didn’t. I began to wonder what I had to loose in doing what I feared. Today, I realize, sometimes consciously and other times, not so consciously, I chose to risk it all!
Now, with ever 9-5 job offer, I think, “wouldn’t that be comfortable and nice.” Only to quickly realize that it would mean letting go of what I learned to be my life purpose, so I turn these job offers down and I am terrified in every moment of this action. In relationships that were no longer serving me, I grew confident in myself to create boundaries and acknowledge myself over the other, even at the risk of loosing these relationships, which I have. Though I am gaining myself more each day. I risked in loving and getting hurt and I risked in hurting others and being hated. I risked in challenging attitudes about societal values and personal exposure. And when things were not working out for me, rather than moving away, I gambled on staying and facing the discomfort. I chance the possibility of failing daily. I risked in taking wild adventures of trust into worlds I have never entered into and never thought I would enter into. I risked being in love, I risked letting go of love. I continually risked being on my own in the abyss of the unknown, in the scary places of not seeing what is next. I even jumped out of plane with my fear of heights and falling! And each action has revealed a new element of who I am, what I have to offer, who my people are, where I belong, and what I am capable of.
With every movement toward what I feared most, I let go and found what it means to trust myself and the world I am so naturally part of, and that is so naturally part of me. The headwaters of a river may not see it’s final destination, it may not even see just around the bend, though it knows it will hit some unfamiliar terrain. Still it continues to take it’s course never wondering what if it stopped before meeting every rock and eddy.
Just a week ago, I began a new path for me, as the past year has been one of releasing the career identity I carried through much of my adult life, I began a new path in teaching at the community college level. I knew in my entire being that I am meant to do this and did everything in my power to attain the position. Obstacles arouse, threshold guardians suggesting my return to the norm, and I found myself meeting them with great resolve and tenacity to move forward. And this week, when I found myself in the classroom for the first time, teaching, I fell deeply into overwhelm and the dark places of doubt. Who am I to do this? I have not a clue what I am doing. I am way out of my league. The desire was to return to what is known, though it was too late. I had reached the point of no return. And thus arouse the ally and helper in my story. I called my friend the night I felt overwhelmed, knowing she cannot save me from this journey, but she can support me in it. She witnessed me in this time, mirroring to me what she saw in my abilities and gifts, and encouraged me to continue on and meet my challenges, slay the dragons, sit in the discomforts and not give up.
Just as our psych needs us to risks in order for us to see ourselves, it equally needs community to witness and hold us in the turbulence of this process.
I wanted to return and confirm old stories I have about myself: my worth and my capabilities. I watched myself grow more and more overwhelmed, whining, crying, praying for simplicity, and even hoping for someone to come a save me from this life! I watched myself longing for someone to tell me I’ll be okay because I didn’t believe it when I said to myself. The importance of the ally cannot be neglected. In our hyper independent culture, the risk of asking for help can be the biggest of all along our path. The journey is not easy and without these aids, it is nearly impossible. When we cannot see ourselves in the dark abyss, the voices of our allies guide us on. And in time, our ally’s voice becomes our own and we can take our whining self by the hand toward great transformation: the discovery of what it is that we can rely on in ourselves that we have not yet known.
This is the beauty of Wilderness Quests. The Quest not only asks that we risk our creature comforts for shelter, company and food but we also risk the ways in which we believe we know ourselves. We face a great ordeal and return to our community renewed, reborn: breathing new breath into life, choosing to embrace our gifts and the challenge of incorporating, as the world around us offers tests and trails in the questions our commitment to purpose.
There is something about risking that wakes us up! And the world needs awake people.
“If life is a test, the only way to pass is to follow your soul purpose.” A dear friend of mine once said that to me.
You may be asking who in their right mind would do this? Who would ever risk comforts? Why would one choose to give up all that is known and good for something so uncertain and trying? The answer is: because this is what life is about! We feel most alive when we meet and celebrate ourselves in moments of great heroism! In the moments after we have faced the great ordeal with all of ourselves, we come alive to our lives! So I say: Take a chance. See what happens. Meet your life. Meet your purpose. Risk it all! The tight bud cannot hold you forever. So, as the risky winds howl to you, I implore you, Blossom.