Who Will Catch Me?

Funny how sometimes the biggest learnings come from unforeseen places.  I have decided, finally, to hang up my tights and bring an end to my Flying Trapeze career, much to the relief of my heart and sore shoulders.   You see, throughout the seven months of Trapeze classes, a tiny soft voice kept nudging me in various moments…. “uh, excuse me…. are you sure this activity will be good for you?  You, um, have heart disease, remember?”   As is often the case in life, I tend to push that voice to the side until it screams more loudly for recognition…“OK, bud….  how about if I rip some of the tendons in your shoulders…. will that get your attention?”    On a deeper level, the process had me grapple more directly with my tendency toward reckless stimulation at the expense of taking better care of myself.  It raised the question — on the Trapeze and in Life — Who Will Catch Me?   I will come back to this theme, but first want to share what I have learned about the RELEASE part of the Flying Trapeze.

One way or another when doing the Flying Trapeze, there comes a moment when you must release the bar…. either to fly into the air, to reach for the catcher, or simply to let go and drop into the net.   Hmmm…. sounds a bit like life.  One way or another when living a life there comes a moment when each one of us dies… a moment when our physical life ends and somehow we let go and release.

In my brief career as a Flyer, I have experienced many swings where I have mostly just clung to the bar, chalky palms gripping as tightly as they can all the while saying to myself “just hang on, it will be over soon…”  During these swings,   my main focus is to hang on tightly to the one thing that I think is secure – namely, the bar.   And then…. yes, every single time…. comes a moment when I have arrived at the end of the swing and there I am still clinging to the bar… either to linger a bit longer or not…. but ultimately with just one option and direction to go.   On some other swings, I allowed myself to actually BE in the swing – to immerse in it, to feel it, to experience it. These swings, some with tricks and some just for practice, were exhilarating and alive and truly wondrous with a savoring of each brief moment in the air.  But…  I notice that either way I have chosen to do it, the swing still ends up in the same place — with the need to let go.

I relish the experience of freedom.   I feel grateful to experience a sense of freedom often in my life — they are the moments when I am connected to everything and to nothing all at the same time.   It happens in the quiet moments in the early morning when I sit outside in my garden and something catches my eye.   It happens when I connect deeply with another and feel the intimate human thread that connects us all… every single one of us.   It happens in transcendent moments when I gaze out to the sea… when I gain the biggest picture possible.   I notice that “free” does not mean the same thing as “happy” — it comes in moments of grief as well, particularly when people who I love have died and I feel their spirit around and within me.

I am aware, too, of the vast amount of time I spend in a state that is far from the experience of freedom — when I feel trapped in some sort of spiral that is hard to escape.  As I think of those times, it seems that fear is most common element — fear of losing something…. my family, my financial security, my health, my reputation, my status or power.   As I reflect on myself in that state, I see that out of that fear I cling tightly to the identities that I have created to define me to the world around me — like ivory castle towers that now must be maintained and defended against some unknown threat.   If I just cling tightly enough I will somehow survive until the end…

I have been lucky to have found several soulmates in this life.  One of them and the first, Cydney, taught me very valuable lessons about living and dying before she lost her battle with breast cancer twelve years ago.   Death was an ally that woke her up in the final years of her life, that prompted her to knock down the ivory towers of her identity to live her life fully before leaving.   I read this poem at her funeral, and it is always close to my heart:

I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.

I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
more accessible;
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.

I choose to risk my significance,
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom,
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.

In the “here and now” objective world we live in, I am many things and wear many hats, each bringing  aspects that construct my identity.  Some aspects have well honed skills and others – by design – do not… some hats I relish wearing and others frustrate me.   In some moments these parts of me are happy, satisfied or proud — and in others are terrified or sad or lonely.    I am a husband, a brother, a man, a neighbor, a consultant, a coach, an uncle, a friend, a competitor, a student, a teacher, a citizen… lots of identities that overlap in various ways… each with its own set of expectations and hopes and fears.  These “real” aspects of me are sometimes content and sometimes not – but rarely experience what I would call freedom.  When it seems to me that “I am” these things – that they represent who I am – a potential suddenly also exists that I might somehow lose them… that they could be lost or stolen or discarded.  And then, of course, if that were to happen, who would I then be?   This illusion creates a frightened clamoring and clinging and striving to hang on… to build the ivory tower walls higher or make them more impenetrable.  For this reason the shaman Don Juan counsels his student Castaneda that he must “lose his personal history.”   This clinging to identity feels much like clinging to the Trapeze bar high above the net.

On another level, a more dreamland and fantastic level — I am an adventurer, a romantic, a lover, a wizard, a dare-devil and risk-taker, a dog-whisperer, a dancer, an activist and an alchemist.  These are aspects of who I imagine and dream myself to be, and they bring a zest and meaning and color to life.  As I notice these dreamy parts, I notice too what seems to be missing from this list… where is the self-nurturer and caretaker and steward?  Somewhere along the way, that part got marginalized and cast aside.   These parts reach toward freedom… they stretch me and grow me… they bring a rich texture to life that transforms in from a series of events into an unfolding mythic story.  While I approach the doorway to freedom in these dreamlike states, these figures do not quite carry me the whole way through.

Then, there is another level even deeper than dreams of sentient essence and transcendent experience.  This is an ineffable state and the moment that I describe it with any words it becomes diminished from what it is… I can only point to it.   I know that it is state that I have always known.  My earliest memories of it come from when I would walk down to the beach as a young boy late at night and find an empty Lifeguard Chair.  I would climb up to the seat, way above the deserted beach, and gaze out over the sea to simply look at the moon and its reflection on the water.

Soon my fixed identities and even dreamlike figures would disappear and I someone knew that everything made sense and that I was a part of it all… as though part of me was the moon reflecting on itself in the water.   That was a space of freedom.

I have written before of my fascination with flying and love for figure skating on ice or springboard diving… early precursors to the Flying Trapeze.  Sometimes I dream of those moments and have the experience of disappearing into the movement and the music… of somehow becoming it.  In those moments too, I know freedom.

And so, this brings me back to the question:  Who Catches Me?

My ally Death helps me to answer this question, because he keeps me vigilant and conscious that this life is fleeting and precious.  Death will come as it does to all it its time, but it is not here quite yet.  He has introduced me to a new idea of The Catcher… the one who cares for me, nurtures me, sustains me.   In the “here and now” level of things, it is the part of me that is aware enough to recognize choices I make every day of how I  eat and move and sleep and work and relax.. who has attention on what actions serve me and the parts I want to grow, and what actions do not.  He is learning to pay closer attention to the subtle signals poking me for attention.   On another level, the more dreamlike one, there is a new archetype present that I do not know very well… the benevolent, compassionate, and nurturing one who values this life I have…. who knows that I deserve to be here and that life is worth living… who knows that regardless of what may go on around me, that I myself am trustworthy.  I plan to spend more time getting to know this one.

And, beneath all of that…. when I realize that ultimately there is not really anyone here to catch me (or any of us) in the end and I ask myself, well then Who Catches Me?   I think of what indigenous tribes refer to as the Sacred Hoop of Life  that contains us all — the place that I know well from my time atop the Life Guard Chair as a young boy.   In the Sacred Hoop of Life I am and we are all held.  I have always been shy about acknowledging the spiritual essence of who I am and how I experience life, and yet I know it to be the most rich source of freedom available.  And that is the essence of it, of freedom, and it is here around us and in us in every moment… It is freedom here and now in life, not an imagined freedom that may or may not come in death.   I plan to spend more time knowing this place, too.

~ by Art on September 12, 2012.

One Response to “Who Will Catch Me?”

  1. The concept of freedom has been constructed by the ego mind. True freedom happens the moment that I disappear as I watch the setting sun or the water roll onto the shore. The moment I no longer see myself watching something out there, I disappear and am truly free, whole, nothing and all. Spiritual warriors surrender and in that surrender is freedom. http://www.boldconversations.com/musings/the-truth-about-spiritual-warriors/
    Thank you for your post Art.

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