Come to the Edge…

“Come to the edge,” he said.

They said, “We are afraid.”

Come to the edge,” he said.

They came.

He pushed them…and they flew.”

Guillaume Apollinaire

This quote sums up such a great truth. So often our fear keeps us from approaching the cliffs that are a part of living. We will walk miles out of our way to avoid even seeing these cliffs, never mind approaching them directly. Yet deep within us we know, at some point a cliff will loom before us, and there will be nowhere to go but forward.

So many times in my twenty years of working with those at the end of life, I have had the privilege of being a companion to one who has reached their ‘cliff’… and not only have they reached it, but they are peering over that edge in amazement. More than once I have been invited to peer over it with them. Is there a consensus on what the view is like? Truly, I would have to say there is. So many have expressed to me, that the fight to stay AWAY from the cliff was far more treacherous than the chasm they look upon when life has left them nothing but the edge to stand on.

Death is the ultimate cliff. Despite common perception, death is not an isolated event that we will someday ‘do’… it is as intrinsic to the living process as is the next breath you take into your lungs. The way we live our lives tends to predict the way we will die our death. If we have spent our lives running from the cliffs- there is a very good chance that our last days on this earth will be spent running as well.

Like anyone else, I have fears- my own personal cliffs that I would really like to spend my life walking a large circle around. And although I do not intentionally seek out the cliffs, if one presents before me, I do my best not to run away from it. One of my personal cliffs has been air travel. When I was a teen, a commercial airliner crashed about 200 yards from our home. There were over 70 fatalities. I can still remember standing at my bedroom window in the middle of the night watching the burning fuselage, breathing in the acrid air,and hearing the wail of sirens all around. It understandably left me with a deep fear of flying.

As I began writing books and expressing myself in the world, the offer of speaking engagements was a natural result. Suddenly I was being offered wonderful career opportunities dependent upon my ‘cliff’- air travel. I felt exasperated that I had created this professional dynamic for myself. I did not want to fly around the world- yet teaching and sharing my message was one of the greatest joys of my life. As I considered putting the brakes on a career I had spent my entire life creating, I had to ask myself some hard questions. The turning point for me was when I realized that my trust in the universe was conditional. I entrusted the universe to keep me safe in all manner of things in my daily life. I was great at following faith where it led me- as long as the forces of gravity were keeping my size six feet on the ground. I realized in an instant how hypocritical this was. I had to own the fact that I was willing to trust- but only on my own terms. This new perspective motivated me to make some changes.

I was determined not to steer my life path away from this cliff. I knew on a very deep level, if I could not trust the universe to hold me safe in an airplane, that someday when my turn to bow out of this life came, I would not be able to trust the universe then either. If I cannot have grace, and trust, and PEACE on an airplane- I am fooling myself to think I will manage it on that last day-

For the last five years, I have made it a daily practice to not run from the cliffs. As my work and my message have grown, dozens of airplanes and hundreds of flight hours have taken me across three continents. I still do not like to travel- but my fear has grown smaller as my ability to surrender has grown larger. The cliff is still there- but I find that the closer I get to it- the smaller it is, and the bigger I am. Life keeps presenting the cliff, and I continue to step to the edge.

Next time life pushes you to a cliff, instead of steeling yourself against movement, allow the wind to blow you forward. Step to the edge- you will see that fear is not waiting down below to receive you- but instead is standing behind you in that place you were fighting to stay. When you can finally see this, the view is amazing.