There was a book written by Shirley MacLaine by that title, back in the 80’s – you may remember it if you’re old enough. One of the first new age/spiritual books that I read, and it deeply touched me.
As the name implies, she was writing about going in a direction most people don’t go – in her case, into spiritual and psychic phenomena. I am relating to the title in a different way, though, right now. Perhaps a bit more literally.
Over the long holiday weekend, my family and I went to Point Reyes National Seashore, a diverse and beautiful piece of coastal wildlands preserved for those lucky people who take the time to drive out there. The three of us were that blessed to explore the secluded beaches, hiking myriad trails through brush and forest, and enjoying the quiet and pastoral countryside.
My daughter was finding every climbable tree in sight and embarking on a gingerly ascent. You can see her and my husband here on one that didn’t require climbing, just carefully walking across the fallen trunk above a stream.
She brought out the explorer in me. Although I was mainly the person holding the camera while she climbed each trunk, I also scaled some small ones with her. We found a bay laurel with a couple cozy niches in the center of its trunk, which she mused would be perfect for crawling into with a good book.
She also relished stepping off-trail to a small waterfall to wash her feet, or to scaling the reddish-brown sand of a crumbling cliff, determined to seat herself in a depression high on its wall. Don’t worry, it wasn’t that risky – the crumbling created a soft, red, sandy slope that lead gently down to the beach. Still, it was edgy for me to climb up there nearby and take her photo, beaming delight to be in her throne carved into the cliff’s face.
You may know, from my last newsletter, that I’m been exploring the edges a lot lately. It’s still uncomfortable. But when I hold back from fear and don’t at least try, I feel a gripping in my body. A tension, as if I’m simultaneously holding something in and pushing something out. When we give in to fear we often freeze, and in that freezing lose something precious. We lose aliveness.
I could feel myself at times squeezing that life out of myself, because I wasn’t willing to venture out on a limb. And at other times, when I went past the fear and “just did it” (thinking restrained, rather than my body), something opened up and flowed, and aliveness was there. Openness in my chest, movement of energy, and the mind falling silent.
Have you noticed that tension when you hold back, when you run away from the edge and shut down? What does your body long to do? Can you feel what shifts when you step into something new, something daring – not by force, but by joyful choice? What is it like when your body is open, free, and alive?
Maybe you’d rather not actually climb a tree. But you can imagine what it’s like to sit out on a limb, just high enough to see the blackberries growing on the other side of the fence, and the ocean in the distance. Lean back against the support of the trunk, feel the breeze in your hair, and let your body feel alive. Close your eyes and try to feel the freedom in your chest, your back, your belly. Take that feeling with you into your journey. How do you want to go out on a limb in your life?