By Jolene Baney

Jolene Baney

I jumped out of a plane, on purpose. And while many people have skydiving on their bucket list, truth be told, I most certainly did not. A completely different motivation was pulling at me, one that both intrigued and terrified me. How would it feel to confront a significant fear that has gripped me for much of my life with the payback of breaking free of it? How would it change me?

I am the opposite of an adrenaline junkie; I absolutely hate fast cars, roller coasters, and high places. I get nauseous on boats and merry-go-rounds. I zip-lined once and hated it. A ropes course challenge at the top of a telephone pole ended in dismal failure. Of the four elements of Earth, Wind, Fire, and Water, my spiritual home is Earth. Earth is predictable, solid, nurturing, and safe. I’m perfectly and utterly fine with saying no to the things that threaten my safety and peace of mind.

I’ve also learned the hard way about having healthy boundaries, coming from a family history of addiction. Addiction can wreck havoc on relationships within families. If you have loved ones in active addiction or in the critical beginning steps of recovery, creating boundaries restores sanity, moving from enabling the dysfunctional behavior to supporting mutual respect. Boundaries are good. Boundaries keep us safe. Boundaries help us and others become more self-reliant. Boundaries are personal and empowering.

Jolene gearing up to go skydiving.

So, why in the world would I agree to do this thing that threatens to violate my safe and secure boundaries? Of course, when the opportunity first came up to join my husband and a group of friends on this skydiving adventure, my automatic response was, “Oh no!” But then I stepped back to dig deeper, and the real reason that came through was oh-so-revealing. You see it wasn’t that I really believed it was dangerous (it’s really not), it’s that I didn’t trust myself. I believed that the fear was bigger than me, that I’d get up in that plane and would be paralyzed by a panic attack of epic proportions, with no way out. But then again, I mused, what if there was a gift in the experience, revealing a self-limiting part of me that really doesn’t serve any purpose, and maybe I just wasn’t ready to see my own ability to transcend fear? What if those false beliefs were at work in other parts of my life, keeping me from stepping into opportunities to live a more connected life?

If the opposite of fear is Faith, where was I not willing to trust in something bigger than my limited human ego? I didn’t want to be on the sidelines and wish I’d been brave enough to push through the fear, never knowing what might be on the other side. I’m brave and adventurous in so many other things – traveling off the beaten path, moving to a new country alone, presenting to groups, starting a new career, pushing my limits – why am I so fearful about heights and speed? It’s annoying. It was a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and finally, in a moment of false bravado, I pushed through it all and just said yes to the jump!

In the weeks and days and hours leading up to it, I refused to think about or even entertain any emotional attachment around this looming event. Compartmentalize; that’s a handy, albeit sometimes unhealthy, skill! Even driving to the jump site, signing legal documents (which basically were saying, “You fool, you really shouldn’t do this. You know you could die, right?”). Watching others stick their landing ahead of us, suiting up, getting instructions, boarding the plane, all good, high fives, jokes all around. Don’t look down, don’t think ahead, and don’t let the fear take over. I’m good, yay me! I began repeating a mantra; I’m not really sure what part of my reptilian brain it came from, “I am boundless, I am boundless, I am boundless” as a slight feeling of dread started to creep in.

Then the moment of truth, we had finally climbed two miles up in the sky and others were starting to disappear through that gaping hole in the side of the plane. The rush of cold air was sucking us into the abyss. The noise was deafening. The ground below was now a real “thing” to be reckoned with. I was at the edge and there was no turning back. It was my turn.

I’m doing this!

We tumbled out (jumping isn’t really accurate, as it turns out). I surrendered and let go. God might have been involved. I certainly spoke his name; along with some other colorful characters that I thought might save me. I was disoriented, every fiber of my being and all five senses were on red alert. We spun, we fell, and the force was like a category three hurricane.

If you want to watch Jolene’s skydiving experience, click this photo.

But despite being thrust into the most unnatural of circumstances, falling down to earth from 13,000 feet up at 125 mph, it wasn’t terror at all that suddenly flooded my being. I surrendered, I trusted, I focused, and I reminded myself to be present. It struck me, I am boundless. I can choose to be open to this experience. And what I noticed was that I was absolutely held in this bubble of safety. Roberto strapped in behind me, guiding every move, and Aaron flying around me, taking a video and reminding me to smile and enjoy the experience. They became metaphors for life. My spiritual training and my deep conviction is that God, Spirit, Divine Source, my Higher Power, the eternal energy of life, ALWAYS has my back and has a plan. And in my journey through life, there’s an inner awareness, my higher self, my observer, my soul, there to remind me to be present to it all and find joy along the way. Thank you, Roberto and Aaron, for being my teachers in those few profound minutes as we glided down and ever so gently landed on solid ground, slightly nauseous and weak in the knees, but completely exhilarated! I was glad it was over, I must admit. Earth never felt so good.

“I make choices that evolve me,” this has been my mantra for the last 15 years. My choice to test my boundaries through this skydiving adventure has evolved me in ways, I’m just beginning to understand. I am boundless in a different way now. I still have healthy boundaries, but I think I may move though my limiting fears in a new and more powerful way. Where am I “stuck” and tethered to the ground, preventing me from experiencing more out of life? When can I say, “YES” to a new possibility? What am I afraid of and is it really true? How can I be more present to what is, even when I’m feeling a little out of control? Who can I trust to be there to mentor and guide me through it all, and how can I lovingly release the rest? When is the timing right to “let go and let God”? These are the big questions, the lessons yet to be learned, the great mysteries of life.

So, here’s a challenge for you to consider, what are the ways that YOU can break free and know a greater freedom? Don’t worry, you don’t have to jump out of an airplane to discover your false limiting beliefs, but I challenge you to find your own test, confront your fears, and come along with me to feel the difference it makes to be “boundless”!

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