I have a confession to make to you all–
I am afraid of heights.
Yep, it’s true. And the word “afraid” is an understatement. I’m one of those hikers that slides down a slightly precarious down-slope on her bum while others casually step around me. I’m that hiker inching along on hands and knees across a narrow ridge, muttering prayers and doing my yoga pranayama in hopes it will get my body to stop shaking.
You may wonder why in the world I love hiking so much when I am (let’s be honest) downright terrified of heights. The answer is simple:
I believe in change.
I believe in neuroplasticity.
And I believe in the capacity of the human nervous system to heal, grow, and transform.
Not that I don’t have my moments of feeling skeptical about change. I do. I even have some moments when I feel like I’m losing hope for humanity altogether. But then I see a client or a friend or loved one emerge from some deep corner of pain, or terror, or deep suffering, and rise out of the ashes with a quiet glow of newfound confidence.
It teaches me to trust in change, and it inspires me to believe even more in the power of transformation.
Lately my favorite transformative practice is applying the tensegrity concept to everyday human qualities that tend to oppose each other—like two emotions that normally conflict—and finding a way to reorganize them into a working, complementary relationship.
(If you haven’t been following me long and you have no idea what I mean by “tensegrity,” click through some of the links in the comments to read up on it, I promise it’s the coolest thing ever!)
The latest tensegrity pairing I’ve been contemplating is the play between confidence and humility. This is an important balancing act while hiking, because too much of either one can be a dangerous thing on a mountain. But when they come together in perfect harmony, it helps me find the courage I need to move through fear and into a quiet confidence and appreciation for my inherent strength.
Many times, though, I learn this lesson through the imbalance. I gain at least as much through failing, and then reflecting, as I do from finding that sweet spot of balance in the moments of fear and being tested.
Those times when the grip of fear was too much for me to bear taught me where my yield point is, and how much I can handle before I collapse.
Those times when I managed to push through my fear and come out the other side taught me not to underestimate my strength and determination.
Those times when my surge of overconfidence harmed someone or something I cared about taught me when to pull back and trust something greater than myself.
But on one particular day, the stars were aligned just right: I was able to find that sweet spot of honoring fear, tapping into confidence, and balancing it with humility.
It wasn’t a particularly brag-worthy hike, but for me it will be a memorable one because it was the day my body shook, terror rose, and I moved toward my experience with love. With the addition of self-compassion and honoring my suffering, the tensegrity could finally balance enough for me to move forward.
I learned that true strength isn’t pushing past fear and suffering as though you’re shoving it to the side and out of the way.
It’s finding the humility to trust in a source of power greater than ourselves.
And it’s finding the right amount of self-love to move into the fear (of heights, or anything else)… then through it… and beyond.