How are often are we told that we have to take a leap of faith? And how good are we at doing it?
Perhaps more to the point: what do we do when we've taken the leap and find ourselves falling?
There are some wonderful quotes about taking the leap. Among my favourites are Margaret Shepard who said that sometimes it is "the only available transportation" and Ray Bradbury who told us that we just have to jump "you will find out how to unfold your wings as you fall".
Two of my current teachers reinforce this idea. Both Gabrielle Bernstein and Rebecca Campbell tell me that if I take that leap, the universe will catch me…or spirit…or the divine or whatever you choose to call the wholeness that is bigger than we are: the fates, the gods, fortune.
Fortune favours the brave.
I believe that last bit at least. She will favour the brave because the weak and fearful ask no favours other than not to be noticed by the gods or the fates or fortune. So if we want to achieve anything, at some point we will have to dance with 'the Lady' – or her handmaidens – but that doesn't mean she has the last say. It just means that we're counting her out if we don't take a chance.
If we don't take a leap, then we stay where we are. If we like where we are, well, there's a lot to be said for contentment. I salute everyone who has found it.
Most of us, it would seem are not so brilliant at contentment. It is what we seek, but we're born to be curious, there's always another path to walk down, another box to open, another curtain to peek behind: we want to learn, we want to discover we want to grow. Also: we want to give, we want to share, we want to become part of something bigger and more meaningful. The problem with contentment is that it can be a great disguise for stagnation.
So most of us choose to move forward.
And as we do so, and as life intervenes, as it has a nasty habit of doing, then sooner or later, Shepard is right, sooner rather than later, there will not be a clear and certain way forward. There will only be the stark choice between staying put or stepping out.
Some find it easier than others. Some are reckless in their leaping and either get lucky or pay the price for it. Most of us however, do not fly without a safety net. What so often feels like a leap of faith, what so often is a leap – a trust – a hope – a wing and a prayer – is simply a flight on the trapeze, with the net to catch us, even if it is so far below in the dark that we cannot see it. Perhaps that's the faith we need, that if all else fails, the net will hold.
But I think also that what we often forget is that if we are flying from the trapeze the role of the catcher is not to catch us and hold us safe. His role is to capture us mid-flight, keep us swinging through the air, increasing our momentum, and then to throw us back out into our aerial dance of spinning and soaring and falling…to be caught by the another and spun back out again….and again…each spin and twist more exhilarating than the last, each catch a momentary relief only.
Ultimately, it is for us to catch ourselves to give pause to the process: to dismount if it becomes a giddy merry-go-round that we no longer desire, or to simply catch our breath for a time, before climbing the ladder and launching ourselves into the air again.
Or not. We have a choice, after all.
We have many choices. One of them will always be to step out of the spotlight of our own life, to retreat into the crowd and become a bystander.
At the beginning of this year I made what many considered a massive leap: to leave a secure employment for the uncertain world of the much maligned gig economy. I'm still soaring and dancing and don't regret the decision for a second. It was not, however, such a massive leap, because I had rigged my own safety net. I knew what the worst case scenario looked like and I was protected against it. The landing would be hard if this did not work – but it would not be fatal.
Then came a bigger test, a bigger leap, not of my choosing. In fact: you could say I didn't jump. I was pushed. The solid foundation of my life was ripped from under me. I would not have made that choice, but how I reacted to it, how I responded to what came next…that was a choice. I did then leap. I could have stayed in the shadows and licked my wounds. I chose not to, I chose to step back into the spotlight of my own life, I took another leap of faith…and I WAS caught.
And sent spinning out into the air again.
And that's alright. The catcher held me long enough and sure enough and – even if I didn't understand it right then – gave me the extra momentum I need for the next flight…which is where I am now… mid-leap, uncertain, feeling the spotlight and the rush of the air, sure only that I will be caught, or I will catch myself, or I will land with a thud in the net. I don't know how this particular episode of my life will play out.
That's the point about taking a leap of faith. We don't know. We can't know. But however it plays out, I won't regret it. It's got to be better than being a bystander.
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