The concept of flying through the air might scare some. For me, I always find myself flying or longing to fly.
It started when I was really young and convinced that I used to fly down the staircase of my old family home, down to the living room. I know it didn’t actually happen and I never had a banister that afforded the slide/fly opportunity, but I would always skip or hop a step and to me, that felt like flying.
I remember having dreams where I would skip over all of the steps and just land at the bottom like a bird to a branch or a gymnast with a gold metal landing off the balance beam. It made me feel powerful, even when I was a kid, ridiculed for being fat or smart or awkward. In my dreams, I would always soar.
I must like the air, the feeling of time pausing as I glide through air, refuse gravity and it’s force using the strong body God gave me and the determined mind my parents trained me to have in all my flights of fancy.
When I was a teenager, I spring-breaked in the Bahamas with my girlfriends. Tanning was what all my friends wanted to do but parasailing was what I wanted to do. Why be on the beach when you can DO on the beach? I recruited my dear friend Dara and we went in tandem over the clear aqua sea of the Caribbean, led by a rogue boat captain, he dipped us in the water and from the water launched us to the sky. We travelled the coast for a mile and back. He dropped us a couple of times like a stubborn kite lost in the wind, but we laughed and flew and got drenched with sea, salt and smiles. I still look back at that day as one of the most memorable. The rest were filled with a new drunken haze and that kind of flying is never memorable.
Being in a beautiful place floating in the air above the sea and laughing with my friend was just the right thing I would continue wanting to capture as the years kept progressing.
I was a heavy kid but I lost weight with Weight Watchers and then I discovered running.
I started running, then racing and competing with myself for time.
When I went to college in Boston, I marathoned several times and although I was on land the whole time, training and racing 26.2 miles, no matter how my mind or body would lag at moments, I felt that same flying feeling I remembered from my youth, leaping through space and time, matching the beat of my pulse to the pounding of the pavement to the finish line.
Flying to LA in a plane…
I went for a visit after college over a decade ago. It wasn’t my first time to LA and it wasn’t my first time flying. That visit kept me in LA for many years.
My first few times back and forth from LA to NY felt like time stopped. Since then, my home has always been in both places and the time above and between whilst in flight always allowed me the time to stop and reflect on the lives I had in both places, my family and friends in NY and my friends and new ‘family’ in LA. When you are above it all, time zones and daylight, you can suck yourself into entertainment, food, drinking, and conversation, to dos or reading. I would write and look at my life while time stopped and see what I was doing from above. I took the bird’s eye view and looked at what I’d been doing and tweak my ideas and dreams. I’d decide what I needed to get rid of or what my new game plan was to achieve my dreams and let them take flight in my mind, the idea, and the space. By the time I’d return back to LA, I’d be ready for the newness of it all, refreshed and invigorated by being above and being back on land.
It’s been many years of ‘flying’ coast to coast. I catch myself sometimes just wanting to ‘get there’ or back, but I always try to remember just how important it is to live in that space between the places, the space between the actual action, the space between the doing where there is no effort but just being, just flying, contemplating the time and room without, ‘the rest’. But then I’m drawn into the speed of reality and the sensation that doing and achieving has more concrete rewards and result.
When I was much older, I went to Costa Rica on a yoga retreat. Zip cabling above the dewy rain forest was the most sensual, spiritual and peaceful things I could imagine. I would think of Hanuman, the monkey god, swinging from tree to tree by his raggedy tail, getting into trouble while trying to make sense of it all. I had a harness strapped around my groin and belly and couldn’t have looked less attractive, but gliding across that forest, hundreds of feet above the soft earth made me feel closer to it and connected to all that was beneath and around me. Free from anything but the line that held me up, I was liberated. I could do anything. The strength, I had. The will, was there.
I had friends that thought it would be a good idea to jump out of an airplane.
The hardest part of jumping out of a plane was not only putting on yet another unattractive harness, forcing the fat you wish was not yours out of the tight canvas grips. The hardest part was getting on the plane and making your way into the air. It’s quiet and the trip is long although just minutes. And even though your instructors are most probably high and hippies, even they are silenced, meditatively so, preparing for the peace balanced with excitement when you 1,2, 3 GO!
When you go in tandem the first few times before you are a ‘skydiver’, you really don’t have the time to think about anything. You have to put your trust in the person that you are clipped on to to take you on the ride. I don’t remember anything other then the terror and ear popping that happened as we got higher and higher. Higher than parasailing. Higher than zip cabling. Ok, that’s enough. Nope, we’re going higher. And I’m always the first to go. 1, 2, 3, GO!! There is one or 2 seconds where you feel the fright. Then there is the free fall. It’s fast and invigorating, like wind in your face with the window open on a long stretch of road. Someone videotaped it and I wished I were thinner in hindsight ‘cause all you could see was the flaps in the wind, face, belly and all. I only thought of that when I watched it, not when I was in it. Cause in it, vanity doesn’t exist. Just doing. Just absolutely and completely taking the machete to any feelings that preceded the JUMP!
Then, the parachute let’s loose and everything is slow. All you can see are your feet below and earth further below and air, so much air all around you that you can barely fill your lungs with it all. And you are full, with air, and physical chemicals that I can’t describe and words that come out of your mouth that sound religious even though you might not be and screams of absolute release and the support of someone you don’t know that says just trust me, everything will be ok.
I didn’t care if he was high or that his buddy was in the hospital because his parachute didn’t open last week. He had done this a thousand times and loved seeing the fright of people melt into the bliss of just being above it all. As a teacher I think of how proud I am watching someone effortlessly move their way into crow pose or headstand as I watch and support. They tell me later, that was the first time and I think, really, well, I’m glad I was here, but it was you that did it.
In pause, above the ground, I fight God’s gravity and use man made materials to explore the air between earth and space and sunshine. Touchdown was effortless and the rush wasn’t like running a marathon. It was much easier to complete or compete with. I felt full of life and all of the elements. I felt the earth and the sky and goodness knows I was looking forward to the water I could drink after the trip. Is it too soon to go again?
I’ve never loved going upside down in yoga. So I do it because it challenges me. Going through a flow of balances and holding postures, being still and solid makes me feel that same feeling of flight. I can feel it while being grounded and still as opposed to turning myself upside down in uncertainty. Yoga always makes me feel like I’m flying, when I’m in my body and in the moment.
When I started personal training, I started playing with physical exercise in a way that went outside my textbooks and workshops. I learned what I needed to learn for now and wanted to go out in the world, practice and explore fitness in the way I wanted to and bring it to my students. Living in Santa Monica has been the best inspiration for that. When I come back home to Santa Monica, I can feel that flying feeling in my lungs. The air is cleaner. There’s more of it. I strap on my ipod mini and supportive running shoes and walk towards the edge of the California Incline. I skip steps and fly down flights, living the same dream from when I was young. Now I can actually leap over several steps and know it’s not a dream. I get to the path that meets the sand and I jump over parking bumps, curbs and sand dunes. I leap and play like it was yesterday and the beach becomes my fitness and yoga laboratory. It’s the place I feel the freest, flying through the sand and concrete, coming up with new and fun ways to bring fitness and stretches and bliss to my clients.
It’s the closest I feel to being a kid.
When my dad got sick again before the holidays and after I had spent some weeks at home, I returned back to LA only to find and move to a new place. It was stressful but my mom gave me the ‘Sex And The City’ series to watch when. She said it always made her feel better when she would literally put the shows on in the background of what she was doing listen to the music and dialog. Being that I was newly single, now at the age of these gals when the show was hot, had to find a new place to live and a new life while my dad was sick at home, I found the same solace in keeping ‘Sex And The City’ on the background as my mom does, while I packed up boxes, looked for apartments on Craig’s List and tried to figure out what I was doing with my new adult life.
When I got to the episode where Carrie was newly single, on a new path and decided to do the flying Trapeze at Chelsea Piers in Manhattan, I knew I had to do something new. Not something grave, but daring and crazy and new. I needed feel that feeling of doing…something…and flying.
My sister had done the trapeze in NYC as well, with the desire to conquer her fear of heights. She told me that they had a school in Santa Monica. I looked it up and it was a quarter mile from my apartment at the Santa Monica Pier. I enlisted some of my friends. Too scared, too expensive. I went with the ex.
I was giddy every step of the way to get there. We took a very small lesson with a very small group and then they put on our waist harness (way more attractive then the zip and sky diving, in fact, more flattering as it was corset style, pinching in the waistline) and we were ready to go. Of course I was first. I don’t think we got enough instruction. Perhaps that’s the point. Don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t know. I’m a visual learner and would have preferred seeing someone go up before me, but alas, I was first and had to just go for it.
I walked up the steep ladder and that was enough to know I was going to be very high. I got to the platform and Randy, nice guy, started saying stuff to me that I know was English, but all of a sudden, fear was my first language and English was a far second. The hardest part was being told to put my ten toes off the ledge. As soon as he told me he ‘had’ me, I knew, all I had to do was trust. Grab the bar with your right hand and hold on tight to the platform bar with your left. Lift your chest, lean all the way forward. I have you. Hold on with your right hand. Hold on tight.
I put myself in his hands and it was written. The cues came to me like words on a page, cues in a class.
Bend your knees and hop. Wait, does hop mean jump? Does that mean go? Stop thinking, just go.
Hop! Both hands gripped tight but not scared and I went, toes pointed toward the earth and there was nothing, but you and the momentum of your body that makes it so, the breath that makes your legs go forward and strength of will. Shoulders strong and still attached! I could feel my body, a body I work hard to keep strong. I know this body. Knees up! And in a moment they were on the bar. Reach! My hands let go and I reached. I reached my hands, my heart and my gaze. I reached to the sky, reached to the possibility. There is nothing like trusting your own strength against gravity to hold you up. Unlike the zip or sky diving, it is up to you to hold the fuck on. Listen. ‘Look to the ocean!’ That’s easy! I arched my back and looked to the sea, my home. I’m flying. For real!!
Backwards and forwards I go. Circus here I come.
Legs go down, hands go up.
I swing my legs back and forth and feel my hamstrings and calf muscles and belly hard at work while my mind is being controlled by the trapeasies.
In a moment I will be told to let go. This is my hardest instruction.
I hold on to the bar and let my legs swing back and forth.
What you need isn’t in your hands. It’s not what you can see or feel.
Let go. There is nothing left to do, you just have to be and the net will be there to catch you.
Really fly. For the first time, just let yourself be free.
There is nothing left to do.
My life is filled with doing, achieving.
I’m here now, so what did you say?
I got myself here. So stop doing and just be. Let go and let yourself be free.
I let go and with grace and a few little giggles, I fell to the net. Gravity called me.
The earth called me. I was back to it…and ready to go again.
I went again, several times. We did the ‘catch’ at the end where you let go and reach for another person.
The hardest part never became easy. It never did. The part where I had to let go and let it be. The physical strength, the momentum, the swing, the ebb and flow, the fear, no problem, the peace in it all just plummeting to stillness, I could swing all day.
It was a great day. I think I’ve done the ‘fear’ thing.
What I need to do next is get out of the comfort zone of uncomfortability and allow myself to live free in the zone that just is…life.
Being for me is the scariest thing. The doing is easy. The leaping is easy.
The letting go is the hard part.
I’m happy I have the thrill nature in me. Perhaps now it’s time to let the stillness of being inspire me.
I can get there and do, scare myself and leap, but it’s the letting go, the space and air where there is nothing but nothing around you that is the hardest thing for me to, pun intended, grasp.
If I can let go of the grasp, the need to do, that is really letting go. That is really what flying, being in flight and feeling that release is really all about. That is conquering the fear.
Doing is half the battle, letting go is the conquering.
They told me that I would feel muscles I never felt before aching. I thought, really, I’ve taken every class and boot camp known to man and I haven’t been sore for years. When I woke up the next day, I felt those muscles I haven’t felt before. I felt alive and strong. Then I went about my day, letting it all-go.