Finding Faith at 14,000 ft

A long-held wish is about to turn into reality.  As I arrive at Commando Skydivers Drop Zone in Tooradin my nerves are decidedly on edge.  I am nervous, excited and very dry in my throat.  I walk through the doors to face the ultimate challenge of my life thus far.

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9.30am Sunday Nov 9th 2014:  Commando Skydivers Drop Zone, Tooradin.

So this is it. The moment that my dream will be realised.  I cast my wish a few years ago, and my good friend Peter has granted it for my birthday.  I am just about to Sky Dive!

Within moments I am greeted warmly by Phil, my tandem skydiving instructor, and I begin to relax a little as I take in his cheery face and twinkling eyes.  His enthusiastic manner is contagious.  I will put my life in this man’s hands in less than half an hour, but somehow I don’t even register this.  The room is a buzz with energy and excitement.  My nerves settle and I find I am now eager to get things under-way.

First up, I have to take care of the paper work and sign my life away.  Then it’s time to suit up in the smashing red jumpsuit, and get fitted with my harness.  After that I am taken through the basic moves needed for dropping out of the plane, free-falling and landing.

It seems like a lot to take in even though there are really only 3 moves I have to remember.  Somehow the fact that my life may depend on how well I process this information makes me overthink the technical aspects of what would otherwise be a few fairly simple yoga moves.

We move outside to join the others who are ready and waiting.  But first, a little practice to enable me to feel the sensation of how I will feel dangling in the air under the canopy of a parachute.

I feel surprisingly calm at this stage, but what’s scary about dangling from a thick chain secured to verandah post?

Within no time it’s time to leave the safety of the drop zone and exit through the gate and on to the tarmac.  This is the easy bit, I can assure you.

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Seven of us manage to cram ourselves onto the tiny padded floor-space inside our tiny aircraft.  There is no room to maintain a sense of personal space, just as there is no room for seats. The two instructors sit on the floor with legs apart, and I sit in the leg-space of my instructor, while my fellow diver sits in her instructors’ leg-space.  There is a stranger sitting between my legs and another skydiver and photographer secure the remaining floor space.  I cant remember the last time I sat so close to anyone I didn’t know.

Within minutes we have settled and the door is pulled shut.

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The aircraft propeller blades begin to rotate, and we accelerate our way down the tarmac to begin our upward journey into the sky.  With such a tiny aircraft there is no shortage of windows to take in the amazing views of Westernport Bay, the Dandenongs, and Phillip Island that roll by beneath us.  I calm myself at this stage by imagining that this is just an ordinary scenic flight.

At less than half way in altitude we fly into a band of white fluffy clouds and visibility evaporates with a suddenness that is a little un-nerving.  The occasional banter between us transcends into a meditative quietness, and we all spend a few moments contemplating our own private  thoughts.

It is now that I remember part of the reason why I am here.  To release old negative thoughts and beliefs that have stood in my way, and to dive into a brand new world with no boundaries, and no limits.  I make my declaration in the stillness that engulfs us.

When we pop out through the clouds we are flying above a fairy land of white cottony waves.  At this moment I can picture how it would look to be standing on the top of Mt. Everest, even though we are only at half of Everest’s altitude.

All of a sudden, there is the distinct feeling that the time has come.  Guages are being checked, buckles fastened, and straps tightened. Words are being exchanged with the pilots. Goggles are adjusted.  It is about to happen. I feel myself tensing and focus on my breathing to bring my heart-rate down.  My hands clench tightly on my harness straps.  They are all I have help me feel secure.

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There are handshakes passing around the aircraft.  Time slows down.  The door opens and the cold air rushes in to taunt us. We see the ground 14,000ft below. My fellow diver and I instinctively swear. Two guys jump out through the open door into oblivion.  We swear again. The photographer dangles outside the plane and waits for the other girl to dive. Before me.  Thank God.  At least I can watch her first. My stomach tightens into a ball.  My chest is tight.  I try just to breathe……..

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They crab forward towards the door.  My heat is beating so fast I’m sure I can hear it above the deafening noise of the plane.

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They are resting on the edge of the doorway.  Within seconds they are gone.

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How could they just do that?  How could I do that? My stomach is tight even as I write this in the comfort of my home.  I think I might even be sweating slightly.

It’s my turn.  I know that because my instructor has given me the tap on the shoulder.  I know that because we are the only ones left in the tiny sanctuary of safety.  We inch forward toward the freezing air streaming in through the open door.  I try to remember my launching moves.  What if I stuff it up?  Does it matter? What would happen? Thoughts like these race through my head at a million miles an hour. We’re getting closer to that door…………….

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Any second we have nowhere left to go except out.  Every cell in my body tightens.  I feel clammy despite the freezing air whipping around my face.  I feel slightly light-headed.  I don’t process any of these feelings til later.  Much later.  When I have had time to replay it all.

I lean my head back against my instructor’s shoulder.  I arch my legs back under the aircraft.  I hold on tight to my harness straps.  I’ve remembered what to do.  I think.

I’m tipping forward.  I can feel the floor of the aircraft slipping away under my legs.  I’m falling.  Oh my God! I am falling!  I am falling at over 200km/hour and heading for the ground 14,000ft below!  Is everything OK?  Should this be happening? I didn’t think I would feel so terrified!  I think something is wrong.  Very wrong……….

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The cold air forces itself against my face.  My goggles are pushed hard into my eye sockets. There is nothing below me except the ground.  I am overcome with fear. It engulfs my entire body and forces its way out of my throat as a wild, raw scream of TERROR.  I scream and scream until the cold air rips down my throat and sucks out all the moisture.  I stop screaming.  I know I cant keep doing that anymore.  I try to keep my mouth shut, but my throat is so dry that I cant swallow.  I know its time to shift my focus.  Self-preservation kicks in.  I lick my lips and roll my tongue around my mouth to make some saliva.  I need to get a grip.  Fast.  I remind myself that I’m the one who wanted to do this.

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I feel like I have been falling for a lifetime.  But less than 60 seconds has gone by.  I know this because we have slowed down at last.  The parachute has gone up.  Thank God.  Again.  I feel the protective arc of silk above me and I am so relieved to be anchored to something that will save me from falling.  My instructor gives me a high five.  WE ARE OK!.  At last the terror has leaves me.  This IS how its supposed to be.

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I breathe in huge lungfulls of air.  I slow my breathing.   At last I can enjoy it.  I feel an overwhelming sense of peace wash over me.  I have transcended through my sense of terror.  I have left my old self behind.  I have emerged transformed.

I am in a different realm up here in the sky.  I am weightless.  And free.  Free like a bird.  I have always wanted to be able to fly.  I often look up at large birds in the sky and imagine how it would feel to be picked up and carried away with them.  To soar where eagles dare.  To see the world from a different perspective.

My instructor lets me ‘steer’ the parachute.  I have become the bird.  I am living my dream.  I feel I am in charge of my destiny.

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I savour the sense of freedom.  The sense of elation.  And the silence that surrounds me.

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There is only the wind that I hear swooshing past my ears as I take in the magnificent view below me.  There is no better place to be.  This is power.  This is freedom.  This is majestic.  I feel I have conquered all.

All too soon we prepare for landing.  Hands behind the back of my knees.  Legs out and feet up.  We meet the ground which feels soft, but firm beneath me.  The parachute billows softly around us.  The dive has finished.  The transformation is complete.

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I emerge.  Victorious.

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3 Days Later:

I have had plenty of opportunity to replay my experience in my mind, and reflect on what I achieved by participating in such an extreme activity.  I have pondered on the Life Lessons I received at 14,000ft above sea level.  And I have pondered why I thought it was necessary to jump out of an aircraft to gain these valuable lessons.

What I learned about doing such a thing, and what I learned about myself could well take up the space of another blog post, so I will try my best to condense it for the benefit of the reader.

Sometimes I think that to live life to the fullest, first we must put ourselves in a position where we can see that eventually life will come to an end.  By doing that we can see what it is that we have left to achieve, and what it is that has so far stopped us from achieving it.  To engage in an extreme activity which has a high element of risk allows us the opportunity of seeing life from a different perspective. Its allows us to look at our beliefs and our attitudes in such a way that we clearly see which ones empower us, and which ones are preventing us from reaching our full potential.

The personal gains I received from skydiving have been transformational in the way that I see myself and my capabilities. I’ve learned that by combining your desire with imagination and belief is an important part of the process of manifesting that desire into reality.  But in addition to that you must have FAITH.  That knowing.  That absolute conviction that things will turn out the way you want them to.  I had that faith that one day I would sky dive.  That one day I would know how it felt to be a bird in the sky.  I had that faith that my skydiving instructor would get me from 14,000ft and back to the ground in absolute safety.  I now know that with Faith, anything is possible.

I’ve also learned that to take a risk can provide huge rewards that exceed your wildest dreams.  And in fact that by taking a risk you allow yourself the opportunity of continually transforming into  a better version of you that can achieve whatever you desire.

I’ve learned in an extreme way that fear will not stop me from achieving what I want.  Fear can be overcome by facing it head on.  Facing fear can bring an overwhelming sense of confidence that only comes from stepping outside your comfort zone.

I’ve learned that I do not need to be the best at what I want to do to be able to do it, and do it well.  I wanted to skydive, but did not know how to do it, but by surrounding myself with people who had the expertise I was able to do it.  I don’t have to know it all, I just have to have the desire to do it.

Most of all though, I now understand the process of making your dreams become a reality.  I know this above and beyond what I have read in books.  I know this with utter conviction.  Every aspect of this experience from start to finish was an example of the process of creation.   My skydiving experience was my ‘practical lesson’ for all the theory I have been reading over the last couple of years of how to create the life you want.

The process of:  Ask.  Believe.  Receive.

I now understand this process with far more clarity than before.  I now feel qualified to build the rest of my life according to how I want it to be.  I am the creator of my destiny.

 

Special thanks to:

Peter (my good friend).  For granting my wish.

Phil (Commando Skydiver).  For enabling me to have the experience of a lifetime.

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2 thoughts on “Finding Faith at 14,000 ft

  1. WOW!! Good on you! Fantastic post. What can I say. I’ve actually thought about doing this myself one day after having a flight in a tiny old vintage plane and enjoying the sensation of the air on my face. The air against my face would be substantially different while skydiving though! I think for me the thing that concerns me is the landing as my bones aren’t particularly strong. But it seems that if you have a good instructor to tandem with, you are pretty safe. Still, it takes a lot of faith and courage as you said to jump out of a plane! Bravo! Great write up and pics. Love your story and the inspiration. It’s amazing how taking a risk sometimes like this can really help us to see things more clearly. I know that my cycling ride made a difference to me! 🙂

  2. Thanks for your kind words Jane. I must say that the landing was by far and away the easiest thing to do, and there was not the slightest jarring at all. It was similar to sliding on your butt along a grassy bank – if you happen to remember the last time you did that :). lol. Probably the landing was my greatest concern prior to the dive, but jumping out of a plane sure has a way of putting things in perspective. I’d recommend skydiving to anyone who wants to have a life-changing experience. Having said that, I think it could get addictive given that my instructor has a normal mon-fri job, but every sat and sun he skydives. He’s been doing it for 8 years! I wonder if the thrill ever wears off?

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