When I decided to go zip lining for the first time I had no idea the lasting impact this experience would have.
A couple of years ago my husband, bonus daughter, and I decided to go zip lining in the hilly Pembina Valley in Manitoba (yes, it’s true, there are hills in Manitoba!). It was a glorious fall day and the hills made the views particularly spectacular. Not surprisingly, I found myself both excited and nervous. The nervousness came from the unfamiliarity of the situation, a bit of doubt whether these cables could actually support me, and (I’m not gonna lie) a bit of self-doubt (will I be able to do this “right”?).
We opted to complete the 5-cable tour, and on the first cable my attention was focused on the equipment and mentally rehearsing the proper landing on the platform, which seemed to be coming at me with incredible speed. On the second cable, I was definitely more relaxed and the sensations in my stomach were much more about excitement than nervousness. My focus shifted from evaluating the safety of the equipment and mentally rehearsing my landing to trying to control the direction I was facing as I zipped down the line. I persisted with that focus for the third line but, despite my best efforts, I just couldn’t seem to master this.
I realized I had only two cables left and I had a couple of choices. I could keep trying to control the situation and focus my attention on that part of the experience or I could just let go of that need and enjoy the ride. I opted for the latter and decided to just “throw myself all in” to the experience.
So, on the final two cables, I stopped holding on and trusted my harness to keep me safe. I opened my arms wide and allowed myself to just experience the beautiful views and the sense of freedom that came with just letting go. It was an incredible feeling! As amazing as that was, the days that followed were truly eye opening to me.
The impact of that experience seemed to stay with me for days. For some reason I found myself feeling lighter, both mentally and physically. I remember eagerly sharing my experience with friends and colleagues and reflecting on what it was about that experience that was so impactful. For me personally I think it was a few things. Making the conscious decision to trust my safety to the equipment and instructors and letting go of the need to control the situation was incredibly freeing and it enabled me (in the words of Marsha Linehan) "to become one with the experience and completely forget about myself" (Linehan, 1993, page 111).
I think the other piece for me, was having my arms wide open as I flew down the cable. For those of you familiar with Linehan’s work, you’ll likely remember the DBT skills that involve gestures or small shifts to how you carry your body (e.g., half-smile, willing hands, etc.) and the positive impact these can have on our emotions. Since my zip line experience, I’ve been experimenting a bit and have noticed that, for me personally, I feel lighter when I intentionally open my arms up wide. It takes only seconds to do and, at least for me, takes away some of the heaviness that comes on days when my work and other responsibilities seem to weigh more heavily on me.
Are there experiences in your life that could be made richer just by “throwing yourself all in” and/or by trusting the process or experience rather than trying to control it? Are there some experiments you could try in order to see if shifting your body or making certain gestures can also take away a bit of the heaviness on those more challenging days?