I was standing on a cliff in New Mexico, panic-stricken, afraid of falling into the canyon below. I could have stepped away, but I was with my shamanic study group and we were exploring what it feels like to be on the edge–a place in nature that represents great diversity, sometimes chaotic, but also a place where transformation is possible.
I was feeling my intense fear of heights, noticing my heart pounding in my throat. I took a deep breath and changed my focus to the distant mountains. The view was spectacular, awe-inspiring. Slowly, I became aware of my feet in contact with the ground, my hips becoming balanced and strong. I felt anchored to the Earth.
Bit by bit, the panic softened and was gradually replaced by a feeling of confidence. With a new sense of assurance, I looked down into the canyon. My fear in that moment was gone. Not only that, my lifelong fear of heights never returned.
Many people experience a similar fear when faced with change. It’s right up there with public speaking and death. Why? How might we shift our perspective rather than fight it?
Davidji, former dean of the Chopra Center, says that change is what we do when we flip from one channel to the next, or when we choose a different hair color. It may bring something different, but you can always go back.
Transformation, on the other hand, is evolution. It’s like baking cookies. Once you’ve mixed up the ingredients and put the dough in the oven, you can’t go back.
The “baking cookies” part sounds wonderful! I can smell and taste the melted chocolate chips just thinking about them. It’s the part about “you can’t go back” that triggers a pang of anxiety in my stomach. What will others think? What if I make a mistake? What if it doesn’t turn out the way I planned? What if I regret it later? What if I disappoint myself, or others?
When thoughts go on like this, the anxiety grows and it feels as if I might actually fall off that cliff.
Change, compared to transformation, is easy when we go at it with the notion that we can always go back. But where is the adventure in that? Where is the growth and healing? Why would I ever want to go back?
For me, small changes in perspective, when used with courage and intention, can become the stepping stones that lead the way to lasting transformation.
What small changes might lead to your own growth, healing, and transformation? I’d love to hear about how you face your fears. And while you’re at it, treat yourself to a chocolate chip cookie!