Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah
After traversing 4 miles across a vast desert sandstone landscape we made a quick descent into the canyon where we would be spending the remainder of the day. Scrambling down a sandy rock face, over massive boulders and weaving through ancient fallen trees the sun quickly retreated behind the mighty walls we once stood atop. After teaching our companions how to rappel, stopping to adorn our wetsuits, having a not so quick lunch break and allowing the rangers- who happened to be the only other people we would see all day-pass us, reality sunk in.
I knew that I would be face first with my fears as we made our way through The Subway deep in the backcountry of Zion National Park, but nothing could have prepared me for the emotional rollercoaster I was about to experience.
From as early as I can remember, I have been absolutely terrified of the lurking creatures in the deep dark watery abyss. Growing up I remember my cousins teasing me when we would go visit at my grandparents lake house- pushing me in the water towards the fish and throwing seaweed at me, as kids do.
So, naturally, when we arrived at our first swimming hole, everything inside (and outside) of me screamed to turn around and run away. I felt my entire body tense up. “This isn't safe- I can't do this,” were on a loop in my mind.
As I sat there, at the water's edge, I was faced with the fact that turning around was no longer a viable option. We had passed the first rappel and exiting the canyon the way we came would be a difficult feat. I had a decision to make: jump in or try to figure out a way back up the 30ft boulder we had gone down 10 minutes prior.
I took several deep breaths, reframed my self talk, and walked myself through how I was going to conquer my fear. Luckily, I was not alone and have the most amazing partner that was willing to swim back and guide me through the experience despite the crippling cold water. The water, though dark, was clear enough that I could see a few rocks at the bottom of the pool. My partner swam through the same waters a moment earlier and made it safely to the other side without being dragged to the depths of the unknown by whatever creatures lurked below us.
After several minutes, I lowered myself into the water and moved swiftly to “safety”. The fear was real, all encompassing, and guess what- IT DIDN'T KILL ME.
Looking back at that moment, now that I’m safe and sound on my couch, I realized that when we embrace fear- we embrace the illusion of safety that our comfort zone provides us. I believed that if I didn't jump in everything would be fine, and it would have been. But the reality is that when we move through fear, we provide space for the most beautiful transformation of self to take place.
As we made our way deeper into the world-renowned slot canyon we were greeted by several more pools, much deeper and darker than the first. Though terrified, I knew I was capable. My mantra switched from panic and self doubt to: “you can do this.”
And then we reached the ultimate test. After rappelling down a beautiful waterfall and wading through mid thigh level waters we reached a boulder lodged in the middle of the path. The walls were no more than an arms length wide and as I climbed atop our newest obstacle to view what laid ahead for us- I saw it. A deep, dark cauldron of water about 4 feet below where I was standing. Until this point I was able to lower myself into each pool we had come across. This time, slow and steady was not an option. There was no easing into the fear. I literally had to jump all in.
I was the last of my group to go. My partner had swam back to retrieve the final bag from me and was visibly freezing in the waters below that clearly never saw the sun. I knew that relying on his ability to tread water for 5 minutes as I talked myself into jumping wasn't an option.
Everything stopped. I remember the moment my feet touched the water. I was entirely submerged. The expectation of immediate shock due to the frigid temperatures barely registered-I felt my entire body be cradled by the water as I sank to the depths of the pool I hovered above only moments before. The world slowed down. It was one of the most peaceful experiences I have ever had. My arms began to float like I was in one of those music videos were the artist is dancing around in the depths of the ocean floor.
As I rose back to the surface I felt pure adrenaline surging through my entire body. It was exhilarating! I was alive! A huge smile spread from ear to ear as I swam through the tight canyon walls towards my friends that stood on solid ground about 40 ft ahead of me.
I was on cloud nine for the remainder of the hike. Every pool we crossed seemed so insignificant after that jump. I welcomed swimming through the waters with open arms. I was no longer restricted by my fear. I was empowered by it.
A quarter of a mile later the most amazing geological formation appeared as the canyon walls retreated before us. The canyon widened and the walls began to curve as though a sculptor had spent years slowly maneuvering the rock between his hands to create the most breathtaking masterpiece . Water flowed effortlessly over the sandstone landscape pouring into deep crystal clear aquamarine pools. We had arrived. This was “The Subway”
Amazing in itself, due to its unique nature, what made the scenery I was surrounded by even more divine was the journey it took to get there. Though cliche, for me that day was ALL about that journey.
Fear is a funny thing. It can paralyze us. It keeps us in the safety of the known. Never asking us to step into the darkness, or in my case swim. Though sometimes necessary to assist us in sustaining our lives- fear can also keep us from truly living.
In order to overcome this we must first understand it. We must ask ourselves what it is we are afraid of and how its appearing in our lives. More often than not, fear is an illusion created by our minds to keep us safe from physical, emotion, spiritual pain or suffering. We base our understanding of reality on our past experiences. Thus, we form limiting perspectives and ultimately limit our ability to choose differently when we let fear take the wheel. We must become aware of the story we are telling ourselves, so that we can rewrite it.
Once we can understand the emotions we are experiencing we can begin to pick it apart. Is this a rational fear? Will it actually hurt you? What will happen if you face this fear? Fear is a good thing IF it keeps us safe. However, most of the time what we are afraid of aren’t actions but the emotions accompanying them.
Only after we identify, understand and analyse our fears can we begin to embrace it. Easier said than done right? Start small! Here are 6 ways you can lean in to the fear:
Travel advice: You've got this! If I can jump into a deep dark pool of water in the middle of a slot canyon, you can overcome whatever it is you're afraid of!
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