“Don’t even think about playing around the river. You’ll slip in and drown.” This order, bellowed by my Mom, topped The 10 Commandment list of my catholic childhood. Drummed out of me was the notion of trying to take risks.
On the other hand I heard, “Life is nothing more than a game of numbers.” Mom said I would die. My coaches and teachers told me, as an elementary school student, the more risks I tried to take the more rewards I would receive.
Underlying all this rhetoric was my fear. I didn’t know how to tell the world how scared I was, nor was I encouraged. I didn’t even try.
I was afraid to tell anyone that my Dad beat my Mom. That my brothers beat my Dad. That there wasn’t any food at home. That we were on welfare. That I was gay. That I was afraid of being afraid.
False Evidence Appearing Real. Fear was real for me.
Living from the vantage point of ‘don’t’ is exhausting. Learning to take risks without being encouraged or even taught how to take risks made me sad.
From a philosophical, theological and even a spiritual perspective I’ve always thought that my work, in this lifetime, centres around acknowledgment. So of course I’d come through a woman who gave birth to ten kids.
Robin Sharma shares, “To live your life to the fullest, start taking more risks and do the things you fear. Get good at being uncomfortable and stop walking the path of least resistance.” I hear, “Stop trying to be secure.”
Years ago, while studying in San Francisco with a powerful spiritual teacher by the name of Matthew Garrigan, I told him that I ‘tried’ to do the homework he assigned. Matthew abruptly stopped me and said, “Pick up your pen and listen very carefully.” He quickly told me he was going to ask me a simple question. I can still feel his intensity.
With a higher pitch in his voice Matthew said, “Try to drop the pen.”.
The pen dropped from my fingers. “What did you just do?”, Matthew asked. I nervously said, “I dropped the pen.”
“Pick it up”, he ordered and then said, “Now try to drop the pen.” Again I dropped the pen. With the patience of a saint, he said. “Thomas, what did you do?” Feeling scared I said, “I dropped the pen.”
For the next twenty minutes Matthew repeated this lesson.
Finally I got it. There was no such thing as ‘try’. I either held the pen or I dropped it. My story disappeared.
I’ve learned to stretch my boundaries, while being afraid, and not be the least bit concerned when someone says “Don’t do that” or “Give it a try, Thomas.” I am free.