As the Winter Olympics begin, I think about the athletes and their great feats of physical strength and commitment to daily preparation to achieve their goals. For my 50th birthday, I overcame 50 challenges that were new or adventurous and I was scared the whole time. The most amazing thing to me is that I kept saying yes. I never gave up. If I could call myself one year ago and explain everything that was going to happen, I would never have believed it. I was much more courageous than I imagined was possible.
The day before my jump, I read Rabbi Naomi Levy’s book, “Einstein and the Rabbi,” while sitting on the balcony of my perfect room at The Pantai Inn in La Jolla. I strolled on the beach, watched the seals and sea lions playing in the water and then would return and read more.
Once in Oceanside at GoJump, it was necessary to patiently wait for two hours until the clouds cleared. I nearly had too much time to contemplate Levy’s book, my life and if I really wanted to take part in this birthday gift to myself.
When Levy wrote, “Your soul wants to teach you about your strength. It wants you to believe in your abilities and your gifts. It wants you to lift up your head with pride and claim your birthright: the life that is yours to experience. Your soul wants you to follow it through times of darkness, through the fog and confusion.”
I was not sure she meant jumping out of a plane but that was where my path had brought me and it was what was going to happen next.
In the plane, I sang to myself: Kol Haolam Kulo
The song means: “All the world is a very narrow bridge, and the thing is not to be afraid.” I knew in my heart that this is the life I want to live. I do not want to be fearful of so many things. I want to risk and make my dreams come true.
“Your soul will lead you to heights and to loves and to kindness.”
and “Everything has led you to where you are right at this very moment.”
I chose to believe I would live through this scary experience and I imagined I might even love it. If I let fear win and I never try, my life will be smaller. I want to grow and learn to approach new experiences with excitement instead of terror.
Levy says that “The soul wants you to be uncomfortable enough to strive for more, to grow and to learn and to see what needs fixing in this beautiful and broken world. Living with soul can keep you up at night. You suddenly start seeing the humanity in the eyes of strangers you were ignoring.”
I wonder where my journey will lead. Sometimes I am not sure that it is the right path but I feel better after reading about following the path of my soul.
“The soul’s journey is never linear. It requires patience and perseverance. Just when you’re ready to give up, a door opens and you are granted the opportunity to step inside if you wish. You are invited to explore new realms that were previously locked to you. Were those turns you took back there wrong turns? Were those dead ends you reached worthless? Or were they all part of the “whole”?”
I said the Shehecheyanu in the plane. It is a Jewish blessing for the first time we encounter something new or arrive in a new place or for me a new state of being. I was strapped to another human being with five points of connection and I am trusting him to guide us with his parachute safely back to earth.
Levy says we must learn to take soulfie’s instead of selfies!
“If we can learn to take a soulfie, it may very well transform our lives. By making a decision to access and follow our souls, we begin a journey. It is a winding journey full of bumps and pits, stops and starts. Sometimes the road becomes flat and we can cover great distances. Sometimes we will get stuck in one place for what may seem like an eternity before we are ready to continue forward. Yes, there are times when we will get lost, when we won’t know what to do or which way to turn and it’s frightening and frustrating and we wish it could all just be easier. With soul it can get easier.”
For a year, I have been following this path of fear and with each challenge I accomplish, my ability to handle fear is better. The hardest thing I did was take a mountain biking lesson at Northstar California Resort. I went down the mountain on a blue intermediate run on my first day and while at one point, I did cry, I never gave up and it was a great feeling of accomplishment. I thought about mountain biking a lot while waiting for my turn in the plane. I kept telling myself I can do it. I did that and I can do this. I want to do it.
Levy continues: “Life’s paths are anything but straight. And yet those winding paths, as frustrating as they may be, can lead us to a life of meaning and blessings. I pray you will choose to follow your soul on its journey.”
I am following this path and I wonder what will happen next. I worry about parachutes not opening, bad landings and other horror stories but mainly I sing to myself and say the Sh’ma. “Hear O’Israel the Lord is our God, Our God is One.”
As Levy says: “It isn’t easy to make the journey from narrowness to a vast expanse. But we all want to wake up from our sleepwalking. We all want to topple the barriers that are standing in the way of a full life.” I do know I want a full life and by testing my limits and not letting fear win that is what I am getting. I am sure there will be more tests, challenges and scary ideas to conquer. I did jump out of a plane and fly like a bird and I will be able to overcome what comes next.
“Within you are powers that you haven’t even begun to tap into. There’s a purpose to your life. A high purpose…You can lift yourself up. And as you lift yourself up, you will lift others up too. May you live to turn your curses into blessings, your fear into strength, your greatest block into your greatest opening. Amen”
Lisa Niver thanks GoJump Oceanside and the Pantai Inn for hosting her for her 50th birthday.
What will you do to celebrate for your next birthday?