What does it mean to be happy: My skydiving adventure

March 18, 2016

 

The first signs of spring have begun to emerge. Many believe that the arrival of the new season symbolises growth and new beginnings. It may just be pure and utter coincidence, but this period has been quite a transition for me, on a personal level. Over the past few weeks, I have experienced difficulties, uncertainty, breakthroughs, and then more uncertainties and more breakthroughs.

 

I don't believe I am alone when I say that sometimes I feel lost. I find myself asking questions like: What is the point? What is it all about? What does happiness truly mean? Yes... ridiculously heavy stuff, I know. If you are an over thinker and an over analyser like I am, perhaps you can relate. I'm not sure why just yet, but these questions seemed to come up quite a bit over the past few weeks. During this time, my yoga practice gave me access to new insights and personal growth, all of which culminated and seemed to fall into place during my Forrest Yoga Training this past weekend.

 

I will come back to this later, but for now I am sure you are wondering what skydiving has got to do with all of this, so I will get right to it.

 

From a young age, I have always been determined to do things that challenged and terrified me. Being able to do something that seemed almost impossible at first, gives me a sense of pride and accomplishment. I am left with the joyous feeling that I can do anything if I really set my mind to it.  

 

 In my early 20s, I had set myself the goal to one day (1) Complete a marathon (without walking) and (2) Skydive. To address my first goal, a marathon: it is important to note that I was never a runner! I remember that I would even struggle through just 15-20mins at a rather slow pace. I had always said that I was a sprinter, and definitely not a long distance runner. Funny how we like to label ourselves, huh? Well, I was wrong. Although I haven't yet done a marathon, I did complete the Staten Island Half in October 2015, with a time of 1h53, which I was incredibly proud of.

 

Skydiving: I am not afraid of heights, but who can honestly say that they are not absolutely terrified of jumping out of a plane? 99.9999% of us I'm sure. So when my husband and I travelled to New Zealand in December 2012, I had given up on these silly goals and skydiving was definitely not on my list of to-do’s. It was only when we drove up to Lake Wanaka that my husband suddenly sprung this on me. After much hesitation, we both decided to take the leap, pun intended, and signed up for the next morning. We get a call the next day; the jumps were cancelled due to heavy winds. Lovely, another day of waiting, just me and my bundle of nerves... Finally the skies had cleared the next morning (kind of) and we got geared up. As we started to walk over to the plane, reality had set, I was about to jump out of a plane at 12,000 feet. If there is anything that will bring you faster into the present moment, that is it! We were ready for take-off. After what felt like 10-15mins, I gazed out the window and remember thinking to myself, this must be high enough, only to find out soon after that we were not even a third of the way up yet. This is when I realised just how high 12,000 feet was! Thankfully I was the first to jump. I crawled my way to the edge, hung my feet out of the plane, curled my head back and there we went... The first couple seconds of the freefall were terrifying (understatement!) and then came the part I had been waiting for. I remember screaming and smiling from ear to ear all at the same time. I stretched out my arms, feeling the sky run through my fingers. I was floating on air. It was truly breathtaking; a fabulous feeling of freedom and pure bliss.

 

So when I started to reflect over the past few weeks on what being happy really means, I realised that I would never find my answer by being in my head, thinking, analysing (thank you Sandra). It is tiring even just saying the words! Happiness is found when we are fully present. So, do we all have to skydive to feel what it means to be fully present and happy? Hell no, of course not! Now I turn the question over to you: What grounds YOU, and puts YOU deeply into your body? Perhaps it might be a walk in nature, deeply connecting with a loved one, or perhaps even sitting down to a delicious meal. My answer is yoga. Every time I step onto my mat, the practice allows me to connect to my body. One of the ways that I define being present is the ability to become more and more sensitive to very subtle sensations in the body. I have learnt to use my breath and movements to truly be present and feel.

 

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart" Helen Adams Keller

 

One of the areas where I began to experience this breakthrough has been with hip openers (such as half or double pigeon). Although I am so much more open than I was seven years ago, I still have a long way to go and hip openers remain very intense for me. Actually, perhaps "intense" was the word I would have used before, but now I get an incredible amount of release from hip openers and words such as "juicy" or "magical" are more appropriate.

 

So what changed? I no longer push and struggle. I am content with where my body is right now. I find a place in the pose where I feel the stretch, with the right amount of intensity and then I find my breath and stay right there, feeling and softening into my body. I don't fidget anymore like I used to, always trying to go deeper and deeper and applying every single one of the teacher's cues because my mind and ego tells me to. I now stay, breathe and feel into my body and everything else seems to melt away. Pure bliss.

 

"The ultimate key to happiness lies not in external things, but within you" Melody Beattie

 

Much love,

 

Nicole

 

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