June 25, 2015

Falling: With Arms Wide Open.


You said to me once: “I’ve never played that faith game, you know, the one when you fall back into someone’s arms? I never could. I can’t even imagine doing that!”

After all this time, I still remember you telling me. It’s like a beacon in my mind.

A bright, bold and flashing beacon that I can’t forget.

It may be that it’s inconsequential. It may be that it’s not important. Or it may be that it’s a game that you and I must play.

In gymnastics, we used to practice back-walk-overs. Initially this required two people.

I would stand, feet shoulder width apart, arms raised over my head, hands bent back on my wrist as far as they’d go, in preparation for a sharp arcing motion of my back that continued to round out my entire body as my hands searched for the safety of the floor behind me.

My partner stood next to me, feet placed wide for stability, arms straight out forming a table that I could fall into if my arc failed to be tight enough to allow my hands to connect to the floor.

We practiced this over and over, alternating positions, instinctively knowing that each role was equally important. Each role required a strong sense of assuredness in one’s own ability and in the abilities of the partner—either to catch or to fall.

You asked me, as your friend and trainer, to help you grow stronger so this is your workout:

For 10 minutes each day, find a chair to sit in. Not a chair that may have a wobbly leg. Not a chair that is rickety, fragile or incomplete.

Find a cozy chair that wraps its arms around you: with pillows, arm supports and a wide foundation.

Possibly the blue chair that sits securely in the corner below your window. The one that is swathed by south and west facing windows that guide the afternoon light onto your book as you read.

For this 10 minutes, allow your mind to drift into the feeling of failing, of falling. Imagine failing in different ways. Imagine your highly intelligent mind failing to form a thought. Imagine your endless creativity faltering. Imagine your knees going weak and collapsing.

Imagine your weakness.

Allow yourself to feel this for 10 minutes every day in this very securely wrapped and supported way.

Keep doing this until you find the one failure that sets your spirit on fire, the fear that brings the pressure onto your chest, the one that sits in your throat and steals your breath.

This may take a few days.

And when you find it: sit in your secure chair and begin to imagine yourself falling into that one fear.

Visualize throwing yourself into that feeling with your arms open wide—the most humanly vulnerable position— until you feel your muscles let go.

Feel that split-second of weightlessness as your whole body gives in and falls. Feel the weight of the uncertainty of not knowing if you’ll be caught. Feel the fear of falling without a guarantee of someone to catch you.

Visualize this daily from the safety of your supportive chair. Eventually you will envision your way into the ability to walk through your life sensing the continued presence of your reliable support: the cradled compression of faith, the newly fortified rhythm of your own heart and of someone behind you ready to catch you.

At this point, begin to look at all the people that surround you. There may be someone in your life that has the strength and fortitude to stand behind you.

It may be someone you’ve known your whole life, or not. It may be someone you work with, or not. It may be a family member, or not. It may be someone you haven’t met yet, or a new friend or a roommate, or not.

This person will be someone who has fallen and gotten up repeatedly. This person will have the unquestionable strength of one who is practiced in letting go.

One with the ability to throw his/her own arms wide—the most humanly vulnerable position—and to stand on the foundational strength of a lifetime of training and preparing to stand behind you, ready to catch you.

This individual is not one that spends a lot of time focusing on themselves and their own path, but someone who has learned to look beyond themselves and straight into others. One who has graduated from the self and is invested in the internship of applying their knowledge of faith and vulnerability in the very physical and emotional act of supporting others.

When you are looking around to find that someone that may be there to catch you, they will be the one who sees you: not only looks at you, but looks into you.

They will be able to see your depth: all the ugly beautiful naked tender rugged recesses—and continue to stand there, unfaltering, unwavering and steadfast, to catch you.

They will not be the multitude of friends who gain from knowing you, who find nourishment from you, but the ones who reside on the sidelines ready to offer you nourishment at your weakest moments.

It may be that this beacon is flashing in my mind, this sign of need, because I, myself, need to practice this. It may be that, as your trainer and friend, I also need to engage in this exercise. This may be my indication that it is time for me to strengthen my vulnerability.

It may be that writing this to you is my way of saying, “I need to exercise this muscle of weakness.” It may be that you are my teacher.

This is what I am experiencing now: a daily routine of falling backwards—weightlessly falling into uncertainty. This continued repetitive practice of ultimate strength and courage, dismantling the wall in order to be unguarded, unprotected and entirely exposed, will encourage in me a sturdiness, a force, a durability so that I will be an effective catcher for any one in my life who needs to fall—to fail.

This daily practice will do the same for you.

I will stand behind, and offer my might to my children. I will offer it to my dearest friends. I will offer it freely to those who need it.

It may be that this game is but a game, or it may the most important work that we can do.

Arms thrown wide—the most humanely vulnerable position—searching for the strength to let all muscles release, finding the courage to close your eyes, fall back into the unknown—relying solely on the faith that one person is behind: arms thrown wide, palms open to receive, feet planted solidly on a concrete foundation—to accept you, the bewildering-simple-flawed-absolute-miraculous you at any moment.

Your friend on the sideline,

Catcher and faller.


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Author: Adria Cannon

Apprentice Editor: Jessica Chardoulias / Editor: Renee Jahnke

Photo: Jessica Burdon

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