A good scare is worth a thousand words of advice. It brings us to attention. Fear is the most worthy opponent of personal success. Inside the ignorance and illusion of fear, the ears, the nose, the eyes, and the mouth simply do not function properly. Whatever gets decided in the face of fear, usually moves us backwards. We simply have to learn to step beyond the outer senses of fear.
When something is afraid, it smells bad. Check out your armpits after a day of “shaking in your boots”. Animals can smell fear on people, and it usually unsettles them. Rightly so. A cat will hiss and claw, a dog will growl and bare its teeth, and a horse will buck, rear, and spook. Fear makes people act stupid, too. I suspect that stupidity is the only real sin there is, and it usually stems from fear. Fear and Love runs through our blood and we decide who wins.
The concept of sin comes from the ancient survival skill of archery. In archery, “sin” means “off the mark.” The “degree of sin” equals the “degree of off centeredness.” Fear makes us do stupid things, whether they look mean, sad, angry, or guilty. Stupid is stupid, and it results when we are afraid. We are afraid when we are off the mark of trusting, like little children, in the love, within and all around.
When I first opened my heart, I decreed, “Use all of me. What must I do?” I visioned a possibility so vast that it scared me. The only way I know to overcome fear is to face it head on. I decided to visit rattlesnake canyon.
Rattlesnake canyon sits on the Green River in Utah. There are times during the year when the wall of waves that run through it stand twenty feet tall. I had never rafted through a twenty foot standing wall of waves.
Years ago we created “The Challenge of Excellence.” Our training programs focus on people’s strengths. We utilized our Challenge Ropes Course, High Games, and Team Initiatives to allow participants to interact and test their skills. This allows us the opportunity to “track” them and determine their strengths. Companies come to us with specific outcomes and beliefs about obstacles and how to achieve their outcomes. It is our job to discover the actual resources they have to meet their intended goals. To do so, we design experiences that test each person individually and within the group. We also profile the group’s strengths. Each group is different so we custom design experiences to meet their specific needs. We do the same for ourselves.
We had been in a rut and could see that our lives were quickly moving into the fast lane. We picked the Green River for our personal challenge because the flow is fast and unceasing. We knew that we would encounter obstacles and would need strategies to pass through them. The weather, the standing walls of waves, and the rocks would test us and give us opportunities to better understand our personal strategies for dealing with obstacles and challenges. The Green River was a perfect metaphor for our current business situation. We would need expert advice. We contacted Kirk and Steven.
These river rat friends often lead excursions on the Green River. Our first decision was to surround ourselves with strong, courageous, fun-loving leadership. Brooke and Chrissy agreed to join our ritual dance with the river. Kirk invited a couple of his buddies to join us. They cooked for us, set up camp, carried gear, and provided outrageous laughter.
When rafting a river and negotiating a standing wall of waves, the most excellent choice is to buckle up, aim for the center of the wall, and row like hell. The metaphor suited us. Go for the center, no hesitations. Maximize speed. It often seems that the finest quality of information comes crystal clear, with high velocity, straight through the center to the heart of things. High quality recording is computed at high rates of speed. Crystal chips transmits frequencies used in high technology from the belly of their tightly packed, high velocity bodies. Arrows are pushed spiraling at great speed to their mark. Standing river walls are penetrated and conquered by fast moving, direct hitting rafters. We used every standing wall on the river to represent what we lacked in understanding about our next business move. Trust, launch, and focus forward!
I went overboard at Rattlesnake Canyon. In that moment, I got the experience I came seeking. The wall stood over ten feet high. The passage was narrow. The rocks were enormous. We decided to sit up front on the raft and mount the side and ride the waves like a bucking bronco. Stephen was our oarsman. My vest was tight, my shoes tied. I felt invincible. In that moment of power I wrapped my hand around the raft ropes, lifted my favorite hat with the rattlesnake band high in the air, and kicked that ole’ raft in the sides as she bucked her way through the approaching rapids of the infamous Rattlesnake Pass.
Rattlesnakes were my strongest teachers growing up in the Florida Everglades. They were everywhere. I learned to play with an attention to their presence. To this day, I walk the earth with a poised rattlesnake etched in my third eye. They taught me to “pay attention.” This day was no different. In the height of one of my proudest bucking salutes to Rattlesnake Canyon, the raft bucked straight up into the air, and turned nose-down into the crashing, spinning waters. In an instant I was overboard. My attention had been on the rattlesnake in me, the rattlesnake on my hatband, and the Rattlesnake Canyon wall. Without conscious thought I put a vise grip on the raft rope and lunged for my drenched hat. With the fierceness of a striking snake, I grabbed my hat and hung on for dear life. I was drug with the raft, bucking, twisting, lunging...all the way through Rattlesnake Canyon Pass. My body careened off rocks, appearing and disappearing under the rapids. I arrived on the other side of the wall, soaking wet, safe, and unscathed. A miracle, a victory, a promise! I instinctively felt that “no matter what came our way” we would be safe. We would make it. We would ride the tides of change and come out on the other side safe and sound. We would not only survive, but we would thrive.
For seven fun-loving, outrageous, terrifying days, we “shot the rapids” of the Green River. The wild and scenic rivers allowed us the opportunity to bare ourselves to nature. There is something childlike, raw, and vulnerable about rafting the river naked. It is good to expose our flesh to the energies of earth, wind, and sun. It is powering to stand naked in the wind and swim naked in cold, rushing water. We loved the long lazy hours of naked river rafting.
By day we rafted, rested in the eddies, and explored the runes along the river. By night we feasted, stargazed, stared into the fire, and sang songs from our childhood. To the casual observer our trip may have appeared to be like any other river trip. However, we knew that every breath we took and every move we made, every thought we shared and every turn of nature was both a prayer and a promise. What goes around comes around. We paid very close attention to the omens of the river. What we give, we received back again. We intended our every action to be the very finest that we had to offer. What occurred on that river gave us hope for the future.
We drifted with ease in the smooth places. We pulled into eddies and rested when we were tired, or needed to strategize our launch through a standing wall. We raced over easy rapids and cheered for each other and ourselves equally. When a standing wall could be heard in the distance, we prepared ourselves with expedience and sobriety. When not faced with standing walls, we stripped off our life jackets and relaxed.
We treated the river like the flow of life. It doesn’t stop and let us off. It required us to hit the wall head-on and hard. Otherwise, we risk the possibility of capsizing, being thrown into the rock canyon wall, or getting stuck in the suck hole at the bottom of the wall. In this place we would spin forever or be forced to take off our life jacket, sink to the bottom of the river and walk out under the wall. This was never our choice.
At the end of our trip, I threw my hat into the air in gratitude for the lessons of the river. The entire journey was the highest of Games. The river became our teacher and our prophet. We trusted our future to the lessons she taught us. A Rattlesnake had called us to a dance and we responded with joy and gratitude. May every step of our lives teach us of ourselves and help us divine our destinies.