“I bet you wouldn’t…” Some of my experiences that could be deemed risky stem from that single line. Does cliff jumping into freezing, winter water sound appealing? Definitely not (unless you’re the RawBrahs). But someone insinuated that I wouldn’t be brave enough to do it. In that instance, the appeal became centered on the accomplishment and not the activity. There are other experiences, though, that I am solely intrinsically motivated to engage in. One of my favorites, up to this point, was the exhilarating activity of bridge swinging. Of course, I’d heard of bridge jumping, but I tended to keep my jumps off of natural surfaces. The practice of bridge swinging was quite foreign to me and when a friend mentioned it, I became very intrigued.
My bridge swinging experience began at an undisclosed location (potentially outside of the US). The two men calmly directed our little foursome, while the other girl and I giggled nervously as we followed along. She skittishly remarked that this was the type of thing she would do in her early twenties. I laughed in understanding, but didn’t agree with her, as I couldn’t really identify. When we reached the base of the bridge, the guys began to plan out our ascent. I concentrated on controlling my breathing, to quell my nerves. Inwardly, I contrasted my current feelings to the ones I’d experienced before skydiving. When skydiving, my fellow jumper (who I had coerced into going) was incredibly nervous. I was able to stifle my own nerves, in order to calm him. But in that moment under the bridge, I had no distractions. Instead of allowing myself to become agitated by my nervousness, I appreciated the full spectrum of emotions and bodily arousal that I was experiencing. I took in to account my quickened heart rate, sweaty palms, racing mind. I recognized how beautiful it was that I could feel so alive. I genuinely appreciated how easy it was to be fully Present in that moment.
After a few minutes of set up, it was time to begin the daunting, eighty foot climb up the unprotected ladder. Midway up, I quietly laughed aloud when I realized that I had probably never climbed a ladder more carefully in my life.
As I intentionally set my hands and feet on each bar, my memory was jogged. I was taken back to being five years old and climbing onto the roof with my father. Under his instruction, I remember my climbing being just as deliberate and slow. My mother despised me climbing onto that roof, but in my young mind, the thrill was second only to scaling the tree in our yard. With the chilly wind ruffling my hair and my fingers tightly grasping the rungs, I made my careful ascent and eventually stepped onto the platform.
Walking along the catwalk of the bridge was slightly unnerving, depending on where I let my focal point settle. If I looked through the holes, to the ground below, it was almost as if I was walking on air! I tried to focus on walking and not letting my mind ruminate on the knowledge that, within just a few minutes, I would be plummeting toward the dark waters below. The bridge blocked the noisy wind, giving us a relief from the cold and allowing for easy communication.
Since the guys were handling all of the setup, we females did our best to make small talk. It was obvious, though, that we weren’t fully engaged in the conversation.
I knew that I was going to jump first. When my friend suggested bridge swinging, he also strongly recommended that I was the first to go. He maintained that I’d be far better off not having seen someone jump before me. Without giving myself a chance to say no,I agreed and set my intention.
Before I knew it, the safety knots were all tied, my harness was on, and it was time for me to climb over the railing. I made a futile attempt to yank my harness even tighter and swung one leg over the bar. I stood there on my perch, which was only big enough for one foot to stand on. Reticent to let go, my white-knuckled hands clutched the railing. I knew that it was time to jump, but for a moment, I was paralyzed. My heart was pounding, my natural instincts kicked in, and the last thing I wanted to do was hurl myself into the darkness below. After what seemed like eternity, I managed to push past my instinctual need for self-preservation and stepped off the tiny platform. For just a moment, before the rope caught, there was nothing holding me. I was completely a victim of gravity, hurtling toward the dark waters. I felt weightless and free. Just like the free fall while skydiving, the moment seemed to be simultaneously infinite and instantaneous. When the rope finally caught, it gently pulled me to into an arc. Finally, I could breath…and scream! My scream was more a cry of abandon and quickly turned into gleeful laughter. I swung back and forth many more times,thoroughly enjoying the feel of brisk wind rushing around me. Once I abandoned my initial fears and let go, the experience was immensely pleasurable.
Of course, I couldn’t end this post without connecting my experience to life in general. People, don’t be afraid to jump! Take that risk. The universe will send you to you what you need the most, so don’t ignore it. Take advantage of the moments that take your breath away.
Stay positive. Be Present. Set your intentions.