Watching Felix Baumgartner’s jump from 24 miles up at the edge of space I’m reminded of how basic is that fear of falling. As I watched the video I had two, opposite reactions. What must it be like to leap from such magisterial heights? (What is it that makes us back away from precarious heights for fear that in an unguarded moment we may simply tumble willingly over the edge?) And, I would rather die first.
Those two competing impulses are what fuel our fascination with epic efforts like this leap from the edge of space. But the heroic can help us to focus on the humble: where do I need to just go ahead and jump right now? Like Felix Baumgartner, you have probably done all the planning and advance preparation to insure your success; you’ve thought it over a hundred times. But in the end, you have to step into the unknown. Make the call you dread. Leave a dying job. Confront a spouse or partner with the truth. Let an adult child go. Face your addiction cold.
Anytime we step out like this we cannot control the outcome, and that is like a fall. Instinctively we shrink from it.
Recognizing this instinctive fear is the first step to freedom and love. It’s natural. Everyone feels it. It protects you from harm, yes, and it also protects you from transcendence. It’s the ego, the master controller at the core of your being, that seeks security and protection and stasis above all else. Once you recognize the powerful dominance of the ego, you have unmasked it, robbed it of its covert and hidden power, made it stand in the open, in the sunlight. Then its power ebbs. You don’t have to consent to its anxious demands. You can step out and do something that will make your ego go nuts, start screaming, hyperventilating, threatening. And when you have jumped—made that call, confronted that frightening person, let that child go—and you have been bruised but not broken, there’s a rush! It’s more powerful than adrenaline or dopamine. It’s what it feels like to be suffused with love, the polar opposite of fear.
Let Baumgartner’s heroic leap remind you of the freedom and joy to be found in making your little leap. Today.