Utility pole gives different view – literally, figuratively

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The world looks different standing atop a utility pole with outstretched arms, preparing to sail off into open air. I know because that is where I found myself, not a place I ever thought I’d be standing.

Where to begin this tale. When Saturday dawned, I knew it held something unexpected because the night before, the teacher told the yoga teacher training students to be ready to get on a bus at 8 a.m. She did not tell us the destination, which turned out to be a very good thing.

We bumped along, having an anatomy lesson as we traveled, with no idea what lay in wait for us. About 10 minutes out, we got release forms to sign, and the energy level soared as we read the words, “Rope Challenge.”

“What the heck, what the heck, what the heck?” were the words screaming inside my head as I signed with shaking hands.

When the bus stopped, I fought the urge to hide under a seat hoping no one would miss me. Instead, I filed off with the rest of the students and headed for the “staging” area.

A line of harnesses lay on the ground and as I stood behind one that was to become my lifeline, anxiety rose in my chest. Was this really happening to me? Surely, I was in some weird dream from which I was about to awaken.

Nope. Not a dream — and I marched with the others on my team toward our first challenge, the zip line.

As I stared up at a platform about 30 or so feet in the air, anxiety turned to panic.

“I can’t do this,” I whispered. “I cannot do this!”

Standing next to me, my friend Gayle was equally in panic mode and like me, fighting an urge to run for the safety of the bus.

Then as the first team member went up the pole, I heard another voice whisper.

“You have already done the hardest thing you will ever do in this life.”

I fought back tears remembering another time and place, a personal challenge and a loss that seemed impossible to survive. With that thought, the fear of the rope challenge left, and calm and peace descended.

I turned to Gayle and said the words I’d just heard.

“I’ve got this,” I told her and anyone else standing near enough to hear me. “This is nothing.” And, I prepared to climb to the platform.

At the top, I hurled myself off and flew down the zip line. For the rest of the day, I moved through the challenges with a sense of resolve and complete confidence.

I also watched in awe as fellow students, including Gayle, and our instructors faced their own fears and overcame them with amazing strength and grace.

Finally, we arrived at the last challenge, a utility pole standing alone in a clearing. The goal — climb it, step up onto the top, balance, say a few words about yourself, then jump with all your might trying to hit a ball suspended from another pole in front of you.

As I reached the top. I thought how grateful I am for my life, for surviving all the challenges, the difficulties, for all the good times and the bad. I balanced on the pole hearing encouraging voices below me.

“I am blessed,” I yelled and I jumped.

Later, I thought about the gift the day was for all of us who went through the challenges. I knew we learned important things about ourselves and about each other.

My lesson, the one I keep with me from now on — no matter what comes my way, there is peace available if I take the time to tap into it. And, knowing that, the world looks fine no matter where I am standing.