Recently, I was in a science center where I walked in a pitch dark room. In that room they had made an obstacle course, and the only instruction I got was not to let go of the wall with my left hand. So there I was, obediently following the contours of the wall as my left hand was meeting all kinds of strange textures. Even though it was a completely safe experiment and I was having fun while doing it, my brain was protesting, sending danger signals all the time. After I had taken the I don’t know how manieth corner, the floor slightly tilted and I was walking uphill, or so it felt. The danger signals were becoming more acute and my pleasure went down, and then, all of a sudden, I stepped on an air cushion and my brain went into red alert. It was like someone with a megaphone was yelling in my ear: DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! After I had solid ground under my feet again, I was walking more hesitantly than before, lacking the confidence I had had when I first went into the room. Knowing there might be other unpleasant surprises made the experience even less pleasant. Because, who knew what else I was going to encounter? Our reptilian brain is not fond of unpredictability, of the unknown, of change. Honestly, it would be perfectly fine staying coiled up in one space pretending it is completely safe.
As I was preparing to go into the abyss, my reptilian brain was resisting with all its might. ‘Are you mad?’, it screamed into my ear: ‘This is going to hurt! Remember all the other times? Don’t be stupid. Just don’t go in; you’re safe here.’ Determined to go in, knowing I really had no other choice, knowing it would be alright, knowing life would get better, I buckled up, be it slowly. And then, despite my reptilian brain going berserk, I went in. Step by step, I intently descended into what I was knowing would be an unpleasant experience, with every step bracing myself for impact. Yet it never came. Somehow I had it all upside down, somehow I was inside an Escherian drawing, believing to be descending, while in reality I was climbing towards the light. The darkness I was anticipating never materialized, as I stepped into a light so beautiful it moved me to the core, and everything shifted.
I have experienced this shift a few times so far, and it always follows the same pattern. When it happens, the crown of my head is tingling incessantly. It feels as if a cold liquid is flowing down the top of my head. It feels good, yet almost too much of a good thing. I feel lighter than I have ever felt before in my life; I can’t stop giggling and laughing. And I feel hyper, like Tigger on steroids. This only lasts for a few days. Then I am back to being more or less my normal self, but not quite. There will be subtle and not so subtle differences not only in how I view myself, the world and life, but also in how I act. All of sudden, without it being intentional, I start doing things differently, things I’ve done a certain way my whole life. And I really cannot fathom why I did them differently before. I can intellectually understand that a certain world view resulted in a certain behavior, and that a different world view results in a different behavior, but for the life of me, I do not get (emotionally and physically) why I ever saw / did it the way I did, why I could not see what always was in plain sight. It is like not getting how I ever ‘breathed’ through an umbilical cord before it was severed; I can understand it intellectually, but I cannot imagine it being real anymore.
Venturing into the unknown doesn’t become less scary over time, but it gets easier. In the end it is nothing more than a habit, be it a very powerful one. So here’s to a phenomenal adventure, and many more to come. Cheers!
image: Procession in the Crypt by M.C.Escher
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