Yes, that is me on a wild whitewater rafting trip on the Snake River in Wyoming!
I absolutely love travel. It’s a deep dive into adventure, discovery, wonder… and sometimes, discomfort, disappointment, frustration, and fear. In spite of occasional uncomfortable experiences, it is the call to adventure and discovery that ignites my passion time and again.
As I reflect on my spiritual journey, I realize it’s much the same. While more of an internal rather than external journey, it is still an experience of stepping into the unknown with the intent to grow from each new experience, especially the ones I can’t anticipate.
So I have been thinking lately about safety. We talk a lot about safety in personal and spiritual growth circles. Creating a safe space, hanging out with safe people, and engaging in safe practices.
All that is true and necessary in creating a solid foundation from which to explore areas of the psyche that can feel vulnerable and frightening.
But safety isn’t the whole story, and if we are not careful, it can be a trap.
If we become overly focused on maintaining our safety, we lose sight of the fact that our safety does not lie somewhere outside ourselves, but inside. When we know ourselves intimately we can trust ourselves to handle whatever and whoever comes our way, and so we feel safe from within. We will set appropriate boundaries, pace ourselves appropriately, and not give our power away to someone else who is telling us what we should think/do/feel.
We can’t control every outcome, but we can choose how we respond to Life as it unfolds.
It’s important to learn and understand what triggers our belief that Life is unsafe, and identify where we are blind to red flags that are warning us to steer our boat in another direction. It’s important to give ourselves the proper attention to our fears, calming and reassuring ourselves, as well as challenging these ideas to see if they are really true, or an illusion that prevents us from venturing beyond the walls of our self-created prison.
But it’s also important to remember that safety isn’t our ultimate destination. At certain points along the journey, we are called to jump into the abyss. To surrender to the unknown. To risk pain and failure in service of discovering the larger truth of who we are.
Because ultimately, if our spiritual journey is only about learning how to stay safe, we will never grow. Risk is inherent on a spiritual path. Surrender, not safety, is the ultimate goal. If we are waiting for a guarantee of ultimate safety before we let go, that is not surrender. That is just a demand that I will give of myself only when certain condition are met.
When we dig our heels in with this demand, we don’t challenge our Images about God, Life, and others. Instead, we submit to these Images and justify our defenses. We are attempting to make our lives more comfortable without questioning our belief in separation.
This is the most unsafe thing we can do, because it attracts the pain we are attempting to defend against. It keeps us dependent on how others behave, which will inevitably bring disappointment.
So instead of looking for safety outside of ourselves, I like to shift the focus to reaching out to others for support.
This does not mean I accept unacceptable behavior, or that I demand others to take care of me. It means I acknowledge two truths: that I am responsible for my own safety, and that I am not an island.
I need others to support and challenge me, to encourage me to risk showing up in my vulnerability, to bolster my courage to surrender to what I do not yet know, and to reassure me that I can tolerate the pain of my childhood and my current imperfections as well as the bliss and liberation that comes from new insight.
This subtle shift in focus allows my spiritual journey to be one of adventure, discovery and insight. Following my call is exciting and enlivening, even if not always comfortable.
As Garth Brooks says in his song, “The River,”
Too many times we stand aside
And let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
It has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance that tide.
I invite you to put on your life-jacket and read the river accurately, but for heaven’s sake, choose to chance the rapids, and dare to dance that tide! Be willing to take that ride in the company of others, who will support you in discovering just how safe and exciting the spiritual journey can be!
I’d love to hear from you in the comments below about your experience with safety versus support, and what new adventure is calling you these days.
And, if you are ready for adventure and discovery, I’m forming a new Pathwork group this fall entitled, “Cultivating the Courage to Love.” Find the details here.
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TREASURE IN THE DEPTHS: Identifying Hidden Obstacles to Fulfillment.