It has been a couple days since I leaped from a perfectly good airplane at 12,500 feet above the Earth and in these past two days I have had a very hard time coming up with answers to questions about what I was feeling and thinking. As I sat on the edge of the plane, door open and feet dangling, I had no thoughts....I wasn't scared and I didn't have a single butterfly.
It is difficult to put into words that moment, the moments leading up to the jump and the jump itself. I can describe in great detail how I felt when I landed, but the three or so hours before my feet were planted back on the Earth are not so easy to detail. In fact, I couldn't remember anything about the jump for about an hour and it has taken almost 48 hours to recall the entire experience.
When we left the plane, we were in free fall for 8,000 feet. During that time I was able to muster making a heart with my hands. I didn't scream or hoot (at least I don't think I did) I just existed fully in my body going 120 miles per hour. When Mike, my amazing and wonderful tandem jump guide, pulled the rip chord, I felt the sudden shift between 120 miles per hour and weightlessness. And for seven to eight minutes, we gracefully made our way across the sky and down to our landing spot. It wasn't until the cool air of the sky met the thermal radiance of the Earth, that I grew nauseous. That nausea lasted for about an hour.
What I take away from my skydive experience isn't the adrenaline rush that many people speak of--that didn't happen for me. In the plane, Mike asked me a number of times "how do you feel?" and my response each time was "present and curious." I don't know why I chose those words but they were accurate. As a person who can easily jump into a state of anxiety, I took a totally different route for the skydive. It wasn't 100% conscious, although I did meditate and quietly chant mantras of "I am safe," "I surrender" and "all is well" as we drove two hours to Lake Elsinore from Los Angeles. I was a little moody before we got to the site, but when we arrived, I was calm. Even signing away all legal rights in case of an accident... calm. My heart rate never noticeably increased and when I see those photos of myself dangling outside of the airplane, I am a little baffled how I could have been without a thought or a feeling. But I was. Just present and curious. I didn't have any expectations and I wasn't worried about dying or being in an accident. My biggest fear was that I might pee on the way down. Thankfully, I didn't.
Mike was amazing. A perfect match for us. He was kind and a stellar communicator (he let me know everything that was about to happen) and he was positive. His mantra was "life is good." This is the guy you want with you when you are jumping out of a plane. My husband, John, was happily able to join us on the plane as an "observer" (he has his own experience to write about watching the plane empty). He was able to take the photos from inside the plane and my dad captured photos from the ground. John was witness to my calm and I am sure he was surprised by it.
Yesterday I asked John if I did it wrong. Oh self doubt... so annoying. After all, everyone talks about having a "rush" or a "high" from it and I was mellow the entire time. I even started to worry that Mike might have thought I was repressing my feelings/expressions. John (is awesome) reassured me that it was the experience I was meant to have, designed by me for me. I was present and curious. I was in a new experience and refrained from assigning expectations, judgements or even trying to place any of it into a "feelings" box. Last night I caught myself trying to answer the "how did you feel dangling from the plane?" question and I stopped myself because I didn't feel much other than the entire moment as a still, soft and gentle thing. Nothing about it was normal so none of my usual sensations could be attached to the moment. It was new and sacred.
I am grateful.