I’m afraid of heights…so, naturally, I took a hot air balloon ride last week (a surprise part of the Starfish Retreat I attended).
Before I went up, I admit I thought about hot air balloon rides much like my brother described:
“I’ve always wanted to go up in a balloon, but I thought they always tangled in power lines and caught fire and all the passengers plunged to the ground in flames. I guess I had the wrong idea…”
Hmm. well then.
Although there were a few moments of pilot angst (or maybe it was just mine?) as he radioed the ground chase crew: “The power lines… are they perpendicular to me? copy that. COPY THAT?!? NICK, PAY ATTENTION TO ME… ARE THE POWER LINES PERPENDICULAR TO ME?!?!” Thank God they were, apparently.
I’m joking around here, but make no mistake — this was serious business. In the pre-flight briefing, the pilot not so much asked as told us to put down our cameras so we wouldn’t miss his instructions… and although he was personable, it was clear this was not a time for frivolity (so I stopped talking about body bags and updating my will).
Then there was the ground crew of boy-men (mid-20s?) who were 10000% focused on the pilot’s instructions at all times. Direct eye contact, instant reactions as if there was an actual physical connection between his words and their actions (picture 4 guys diving to a full-body hang onto the basket side before the pilot could even finish the command “FULL WEIGHT ON!”)
Then we lifted off and I got one of the biggest surprises — and treats — of my life: pure, complete, unfiltered stillness.
Never before in my life have I experienced such a clear and complete physical representation of utter peace.
Maybe it had such an impact because I expected something so different and was braced for a ship-like rocking (nope, didn’t happen). And because part of me figured I’d be curled up in a ball on the basket floor battling a very real fear-of-heights panic (nope, didn’t happen…athough I did get a little jello-legged for the first couple minutes).
All I know is that the stillness was so huge and gentle and all-encompassing that it shifted something within me. This was an outer stillness, yet it soaked right into the physical core of me. I think that for a few moments I experienced what yogic traditions call a oneness with the universe, a lack of separation between me and everything else. Everything, including me, simply WAS the stillness.
Profound? Oh yes it was. Still is, actually. Because when you get such an exquisitely pure taste of stillness — within the midst of movement, nonetheless! — you experience God… within you, outside of you, even AS you.
“Your innermost sense of self, of who you are, is inseparable from stillness. This is the I Am that is deeper than name and form.”
“It is the stillness that will save and transform the world.”
– Eckhart Tolle
Transform the world? Oh yeah…stillness is a big deal.
“Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”
– Hermann Hesse
It doesn’t take a hot air balloon to find your stillness (although I admit it does help!). In the quiet of the early morning dawn, the late day dusk, the appreciation of the waterfall of a child’s laughter… so many places you can find your stillness.
“In stillness the world is restored.”
Find your still places, and go there…again and again… Restore yourself. Restore the world. (Thank you).