Sometimes I feel that my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging onto a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments, I’m hurtling across space in between bars.
Most of the time I’m hanging on for dear life to my trapeze bar of the moment. It carries me along at a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I’m in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in a while as I’m merrily swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance and I see another bar swinging towards me. It’s empty and I know, in that place in me that knows, that this new trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness coming to get me. In my heart-of- hearts, I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well-known bar to move to the new one.
Each time it happens, I hope and pray that I won’t have to grab the new trapeze bar. But in my knowing place I realize that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar and for sometime I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across the void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss — that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer an alternative.
And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” It is called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs.
I have noticed that in our culture this transition zone is looked upon as a nothing – a no-place between places. Surely the old trapeze bar was real and that new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real, too. But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast and as unconsciously as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing, and that the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void where the real change, the real growth, occurs for us. Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored – even savored. Even with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out-of-control that can accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth filled, most passionate, most expansive moments in our lives.
And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang out” in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar…any bar…is allowing ourselves to dwell in the only place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void –we just may learn how to fly.