Several weeks ago, I had the extreme good fortune of going with a group of ten wonderful and daring souls to Trapeze School New York in Manhattan. I had no idea I was about to experience one of the most exciting nights of my life. With the aid of the TSNY team of James, Annie, and Abby, and with the support of the amazing group I was there with, I learned to swing, hang upside down, drop to the net in a sit, do a dismounting backflip, and, what I completely did not expect, I learned a basic catch, letting go of my own bar and giving my trust fully to James.
Watch video here: Rick Does a Catch on the Trapeze
On my first climb to the platform, I was absolutely terrified. Climbing, hand over hand, I arrived level with what seemed to be a 2 1/2 x 5 feet plank suspended in the air. Abby smiled a warm, casual, and welcoming smile. With simple words and instructions, she guided me to move my feet from the ladder to the platform while steadying myself. Abby smiled and said, “I need you to do something for me.”
“What?” I asked.
“You’re not breathing, and you probably haven’t been breathing the whole way up the ladder.”
“It’s okay. Take three huge breaths in and blow them back out.” She demonstrated, and I did as she instructed. She guided me to “place ten toes at the edge of the platform . . . to reach behind me with my left hand . . .to reach forward with my right and grab the trapeze bar . . . to trust her holding me as I extended my pelvis off the platform, bringing my left hand so both hands were firmly on the bar.
Everything I read about flying suggests that the point of greatest terror is frequently the moment right before jumping. And that first flight I took seemed to confirm that. I listened and followed the commands from the ground below me: “Ready!” (knees bend) “Hep!” (jump!).
And then . . . the most extraordinary thing. I was flying! There was no fear. Only the thrill of the swinging. All I was afraid of seemed to have been left on the platform. After another five flights or so, the TSNY team picked four of us to attempt a basic catch. This time as I arrived on the platform, Abby guided me again through getting into ready position, saying, “Now you’re going to keep doing all the awesome skills you’ve been doing. Just, after “hands off” [when you’re hanging upside down!] arch your back, and look for James.” I looked across to the other side of the net. James was now swinging upside down, and my fear, once again, started to overtake me. But before it could, Abby said, “Ten toes to the edge. Look to James right now and wait for his command. Get ready to bend” . . . which will be on James’ next swing.” His next swing. There was no time to think, no time to back out, no time to be afraid. “Ready!” (knees bent) “Hep!” I swung out, followed the commands for “Legs up!” on the backswing and “Hands off!” as I swung forward, clinging upside down by my legs. I reached for James, offering the webbed part of my hands, palms down. Before I knew it, I was face to face with a smiling-and upside-down James and our forearms were interlocked. Beaming, he looked me in the eye and gently said “Legs off!” I disengaged my legs from the bar and felt James almost laugh as he swung me toward the far end of the net as he said, “So good!,” like he had just heard a really great song or was describing an unforgettable meal.
On the back swing, I was instructed to let go. I did, sat into the net, then crawled to the dismount area muttering “I can’t believe that just happened. I can’t believe that just happened.”
The two hours I shared with that amazing group of people affirmed for me, once again, that to fly well at anything, we must push past our fear, and we must trust beyond all measure. We must become aware, too, of our own points of vulnerability. For me, it wasn’t while on the bar or swinging upside down over the net. It was when arriving on the platform. Each time, it terrified me. Each time, I literally had to make myself breathe.
But then, as we can consciously choose to do, I simply overrode my fear. I moved to the edge of the platform, I trusted, and I jumped. I trusted the support system around me and I flew, using my own body and physics to push past the boundaries of my limited human intellect. Logic tells us, always, to listen to and obey natural law, to do what’s safe, to follow the rational; however, the moment of the jump is the exact juncture where spirituality intersects with natural law, and, in that moment, we can become better than we have ever known ourselves to be. At the crisis point of that jump, we defy logic, we defy fear; we push beyond gravity, consciously override it, and find ourselves doing something we never in our lives dreamed we could do.
In the pendulous motion of the swing we are free to test and become what we yet may be. Our fear remains and belongs on the platform, as it should.
View Rick in: The Crisis Point of the Jump