What You Can Learn 23 Feet Up
It was one of those Bucket List things that brought me to Trapeze School in New York City. I figured it would be fun, not to mention a good cocktail party story (assuming that I didn’t end up in the orthopedic wing of the hospital). But I had no idea I’d experience so many “a ha!” moments while flying through the air.
After the instructor tells us how to safely ascend the ladder and what to do when finally flying, its my turn. You climb up a rickety ladder, and there’s no other way down but to jump. So there I am, standing with toes over the edge of the platform, hands on the bar as another instructor grips the back of my safety harness. First command from the ground: “Get ready!” Second command: ’Hep!” (trapeze-speak for “Jump already!”) A nervous gulp and then I’m sailing through open space. And trying not to scream.
It’s an adrenaline rush. It’s terrifying and exciting. After landing in the net and clambering back to the ground, my inner 6 year old wants to do it again; my inner tax-paying citizen needs a stiff drink. The strongest thing they serve is bottled water, so I rally and take several more passes. By the end of the afternoon, I’ve finally mastered the Knee Hang – and even been caught by another instructor, mid-air.
Aside from the incredible memory (and a desire to go out and buy a spangly unitard), I also took away some unexpected spiritual lessons from hanging your ass out in the air, 23 feet up.
LESSON 1: Don’t try to do it all yourself. When you’re hanging off the bar, you’re keenly aware of physics in a way you never experienced in school. Gravity, Force, Momentum [G,F and M] become viscerally real. You have a physical sensation of them as they swirl around your body.
Trapeze “tricks” are more about timing than anything else: the more I try to wrestle my legs over the bar ahead of the right time, the harder it becomes. But when I trust in my invisible friends, G,F and M, the process is almost magical. It’s a reminder that, like with spirit guides and angels, there are plenty of things we can’t see – but they’re there to help us if we just let go a little and allow them.
LESSON 2: Listen. Our instructor was insistent we listen for his cues. He was almost cranky about it (guess he’d seen his share of Cirque du Soleil wannabes). He watched our timing and would tell us what to do, and when. Of course, I jumped the gun more than once and wound up flailing around like a fish on a hook. Not pretty. But when I turned off my own ego and actively listened to the Voice, the one who could see the big picture, it all just kind of happened. Note to self: listen to own Inner Voice more often to prevent unnecessary flailing.
LESSON 3: There’s always a net. The staff of Trapeze School told me that a lot of folks try the trapeze to conquer fears or learn about surrender and trust. Before I successfully got “caught” by my partner, I missed plenty of cues or catches and fell into the net. And I realized that no matter what happens in life, there’s always a net. It might be in the form of friends, helpful strangers or Providence. Screwing up isn’t the end of the world, so you may as well go for it.
So next time you’re standing atop the metaphorical platform, staring out into space, remember that Life is like the trapeze: even if you miss, you’ll bounce back. Literally.
Next Bucket List item: the Hot Dog eating contest at Coney Island.