I named this blog “peace in the freefall” because I face a lot of challenges in life. I would even say I face more challenges than the average person, and part of that is because of the choices I have made and continue to make. Sometimes it’s just because of circumstances out of my control. Most of the time, I experience these tests as falls off a cliff. There have been instances where I actually am brave enough to face the challenge and “jump off” the cliff willingly, believing in doing so that I am submitting myself to Allah’s will for me at that moment and in that situation. Most of the time however, it feels more like I’ve been pushed off the cliff’s edge by the hands of Divine Decree, and the only choice I have is my response while falling until I land.
Sometimes, before I am removed from land (so to speak), it’s the idea of falling that is the most frightening. Of course, it feels very similar to falling without a parachute or net to catch me. I sometimes worry that the falling part will be too long, or that it will be too short and I will hit the ground hard before I’ve had the chance to adjust to the change in my reality. Then, there’s always that part to worry about- the landing. I’ve often feared it to be one that’s hard, painful, and difficult to recover from. Another reason I’m writing this blog is to remind myself that so far, none of my landings have been as hard as I feard. In actuality, all of the worst things I’ve gone through have had tidy and complete resolutions or restorations. I would compare them to landings where I am captured by a pool of water, or even landing on my own feet as though the fall were a mere jump! Forgetting how Allah has resolved my past troubles, is what often keeps me from feeling peace when I am facing new ones.
Last night I had a dream that I went hang-gliding. In real life, I’ve never done this; nor have I had the interest (or aversion) to. In my dream, I remember being on a high cliff with my glider. I remember that it was my choice to go ahead and jump off, or to walk back down the slope and let the adventure go. I remember feeling that I needed to do it, that I wanted to do it so I could learn to be more at peace with being “out of control” and learning how what I do have control over in a situation like that can help drive its outcome. I remember walking to the edge of that cliff several times and looking over it, worrying about things like, “what if the glider doesn’t catch air and I go straight in a nosedive and crash at the bottom? What if I can’t steer it away from the other walls of the canyon and I crash into one? What if I have to pee while I’m in the air?” (Yes, I actually wondered that, funny how I would’ve never worried about that if I had been truly awake!) Yet, while I was debating all those fears, I was also curious about what it would be like to fly, to be weightless and careless and experiencing something I never would unless I did this.
I decided to take the chance. I ran down the slope toward the edge of the cliff and jumped off. I remember feeling a sick feeling when I jumped, a feeling of imminent peril, that was immediately erased by the reality that it was “too late now” once my feet left the ground. That fear, the fear that had been swelling in me for moments before I acted, was now replaced by the reality of being in the air andd having to pay attention to what would actually happen next. Indeed, one of my fears started to come true- I started to nosedive. Yet, I realized it was still a long way down, so I thought I had time to reverse the course. I jostled around until I felt air lift under the glider and it’s flight go from vertical to horizontal. I felt more than relieved….and I realized then even though I was scared and my worst fear might have come true, I was able to influence the situation so that it did not get any worse…and in fact became better.
Once my fears melted and I felt safe in the air, I could really take in the experience. It was not a frightening experience, it was actually very liberating and empowering. I felt that I had faced the worst and found a way to make peace with it and even find benefit in it. As I began to land near an ocean beach, I realized immediately that the new problem of landing would need to be worked out. I didn’t want to have a hard landing, but I was feeling more and more that the previous fears I had were never necessary. I thought about how everything I needed to take off and fly was with me, and so everything I would need to land was also available to me. With this confidence I made it to the ground and then went back to the sales office and threw away my receipt for the glider rental and the sunglasses I purchased. I felt that I had learned how to do something I’ve never done before, and it made me feel like I could do it with anything that came my way.
Waking from this dream I realize how much it teaches me about the freefalls I find myself in with every new test and trial. I see now that I am not freefalling without any protection, as though each fall were a haphazard accident. I realize that I am not falling, but flying. Sure, I may be off the cliff, off the ground. I am in the air, and gravity is pulling me. I will be back on the ground again. Instead of it being a chaotic spin to the final resolution, I am actually given the chance to soar, to master the winds that I am thrown into and to enjoy the sensation of being at the mercy of something greater than me. I am given by Allah everything I need to fly, to see things in a new way, and to land gracefully. What I thought there was to fear, was really nothing to fear at all. It was a blessed opportunity to be taken to a level beyond normal human experience.
Because of this dream, I will be looking at my circumstances much differently. I will be approaching the freefall with more courage. I will remember that I have done this all before and made it down safely, in dreams and real life. And it will be true.