I’m currently in Johnson City, TN staying with a new friend and his family. I met him through mutual friends in Florida at my send off party. He’s a fellow outdoor enthusiast and definitely chooses to live life to the fullest!! He has even built an entire business around inspiring people to Dream Big and Live Large, it’s called Operation Live Life! It’s a content marketing firm that allows companies and individuals to tell their story through a variety of social media outlets and truly inspire others to go live a story worth telling!!! It was clear that we had plenty to talk about and good stories to share about taking a leap of faith to chase a dream…….. Check him out on Instagram @oplivelife or see others living life by searching #oplivelife AND feel free to go ahead and tag him in all your own adventures while you are out there experiencing your own version of Operation Live Life. When he offered up a place to stay and call home base for a bit, while Sienna and I were on our adventure, I wasn’t sure if it was just the cordial thing to do or just conversation, lol. You know, so many people say, “if you need a place to stay let me know” but you never know if they really mean that. I ALWAYS clarify when people offer me a place to stay by saying, “are you sure? Because I will REALLY take you up on that if you mean it!” It’s been the way Sienna and I have traveled so much together. We go amazing places and stay with our awesome family and friends along the way. So take note, if you offer us a place to hang out, we will DEFINITELY take you up on it!!!
We decided to take a day and explore some cool remote places, do some paddle boarding, SUP Yoga, hiking, and whatever else the day brought us. We started out wandering through the little farmers market in downtown Johnson City.
It was so nice to just wander, no agenda, no rushing, no errand running, no goal oriented or to-do list completing anxiety at all……. Just wander through. Stopping to talk to vendors, taste their samples and try new foods. Enjoying the sounds of the banjo and fiddle from the local band that was playing. Ahhhhhhh it was a physical exhale and I was in heaven already.
Then we decided to go load up cameras and head to a remote lake in Roan Mountain so I could do some SUP Yoga and we could paddle around the lake. We drove up to the top of the mountain in the rain and black clouds. All the while claiming the sun was going to come out because we just weren’t willing to turn around. During the drive I could feel little waves of doubt wash over me regarding the weather. I would quickly address this negativity by countering it and reminding myself how powerful our thoughts are, to keep them positive, stay focused on enjoying each moment and letting the day unfold as it will. We arrived at this little back road that directed us to Fairhaven Ministries and we started the ascent….. I was mesmerized by the canopy of trees creating a beautiful tunnel for us to drive through. With a small creek drifting in and out of sight, my attention was brought to the light dancing between the leaves…… WAIT, is that sunlight?!?!?!?! We saw a deer having a lovely snack in a field in the rain. We took the time to appreciate the beauty of that moment!!! As we cleared the trees I saw a tiny patch of blue sky….. My heart began beating faster and joy washed over me immediately. I was scared to completely allow that feeling of joy to reside within me, as I knew in my mind it could be temporary and I try to avoid disappointment. So I made an effort to remain conservative with the feeling, but I just couldn’t contain my hearts joy, so I decided to go with it……. I allowed the happiness to wash over me and enjoyed the beauty with no expectation of the next moment!!! It was probably a 3 minute exercise, but I kew it would have a lifetime effect on me! In that moment I was able to get out of the worry and shift into the knowing!
We arrived at Ripshin Lake, unpacked and paddled out for an epic solo SUP Yoga session! It was heavenly……. I could smell the lake rising into the air, dancing with the sunshine as it fought to cast its rays through the clouds. There is absolutely nothing that compares to being the only person around, completely lost in the delicate sounds of nature. Feeling the buzz of the dragonflies as they dance across the water. Letting the sunshine melt you deeper into each moment. As our time was coming to an end we were approached by a local couple who lived on the lake inquiring about our rights to be on the lake. (Apparently is was completely private and we were trespassing.) Kevin spoke to them at length with such a beautiful respect, it was as artistic as it was authentic. He explained what we were doing and apologized with a deep sincerity that really struck me. He acknowledged their desire to protect this perfect little slice of nature and solitude, even encouraged them to continue to keep it as safe and private as it currently is! They talked for quite sometime as I found myself completely lost in the delicate dance of the dragonflies and butterflies through the reeds……. Their ability to float effortlessly yet also maintain their strength and power is mesmerizing to me. They are able to embrace and perfect the dance between the yin and the yang of life, one of the major practices of this trip for me…… To embrace the feminine, to learn to float, to find the balance I’ve been searching a lifetime for.
We packed up and continued along our adventure and decided to stop at Elk River Falls. As we pulled up, the dirt road was lined with cars. Kevin mentioned that it had never been this busy and knowing that I was looking for solitude in nature opened the door to skip the whole place and see what else came our way. We collectively decided that since we were there it would only take a few moments to get a glimpse of the falls and then we could be on our way. We parked a ways away and walked up to the trailhead. I remember thinking “this is going to be a quick stop since there are so many people”. I was also feeling grateful to see some cool waterfalls since that is a big ticket item on my “must see” list! As we walked the very short hike, (I’m almost embarrassed to call it a hike, it was more like a flight of stairs) I could hear the rushing of the water. It’s definitely a sound that draws me in like a secret potion. We arrived at the top of the falls and I could feel my heartbeat beginning to increase and the adrenaline start flowing through my veins. The butterflies danced in my stomach and my head became lighter on my body. As we walked to the edge to sneak a peak, the mother in me kicked in and I became filled with worry. I couldn’t help myself from instructing everyone around to be careful and watch their footing. I was definitely nervous and couldn’t get very close to the edge. I wandered around the top and enjoyed the views, letting the beauty steal my breath on more than one occasion. My attention was drawn to a group of 3 boys, down towards the edge of the cliff, where the water fall stopped flowing across the top of the falls…… They were looking and pointing and assessing like surveyors. It hit me, OH MY GOD…… They were going to jump!!! I couldn’t believe what I was about to witness and more than that, I couldn’t believe the words that were about to leave my lips, “I want to jump!!”
Ummmmmmm HELLO….. TAKE IT BACK! NO you don’t want to jump off a cliff! That’s f#@%ing CRAZY……. Those were the thoughts that came immediately after I spoke those 4 little words, “I want to jump”. I sat with the thoughts and examined them as I watched all 3 boys propel themselves over the edge, into the nothingness, landing with a giant splash and swimming to shore. Kevin quickly confirmed with me that I wanted to jump. I assured him I did and told him I was scared and wanted to see what things looked like from the bottom. We hiked to the bottom of the falls where the majority of people were hanging out, taking smaller jumps off random rocks in the waterhole. I sat on the edge of the rock watching the waterfall, staring into it’s being and wondering what it would be like to really jump. I had a mix of excited emotions and compete terror. I was VERY aware of the FEAR soundtrack that was on auto play in my head. At times it was deafening, yet it was always followed by a still, confident and quiet voice that urged me to stand on that edge and take the leap. I continued to sit at the bottom and watched another three guys jump from the top. I had enough evidence that I wasn’t going to die, (I mean I just watched, with my own two eyes six successful jumps without any issues). I nodded to Kevin that I was ready to head up and asked one of the boys who had already jumped twice to take me to the top and show me the proper route. We walked up the stairs and he showed me the very narrow edge that you needed to leap off to make it safely. It was literally three steps and jumping out over an edge into nothingness…… You literally couldn’t see what was over that edge and you certainly couldn’t see the bottom. I knew there was a rock that came out from my assessment at the bottom, but I also watched six people successfully flail themselves over the edge and survive. Many of them to scramble right back up and jump again. I walked to the edge, well not really the edge because I was to scared to walk that far, but close enough to the edge to know that I had a spot to shoot for and knew I needed to take three running steps and time it perfectly to land the last step as close to the edge as possible so that I could push off with all my might to clear any rocks and be on the outskirts of the plunging falls so that I didn’t get caught in any crazy down currents…….. And this was the exact insanity I fought with for the next 25 minutes of my life.
I must have gotten set up and ready at least 20 times. I would walk to the crack in the rock that had three separate groups of weeds growing out of it. I would put my right foot just to the right of the center weed, growing strongly out of a giant stone. I would gently bend at my knees so I could get good momentum. I would bend more aggressively at the waist as if I was waiting for the gun at a race start. I would keep my chest up and my eyes looking further out than I actually wanted to land to compensate for any hesitation. I know from plenty of sports that where we look our bodies will follow, so I was counting on that being applicable when tossing your body off the side of a cliff racing the water to the bottom of the fall. There I would be, in my “ready” posture and then my mind would start. The inner dialogue began about fear vs. insanity, about taking a leap of faith, about calling on all the ancient Indian warriors, God and Buddha to keep me safe, about taking risks. The dialogue screamed, I wanted to be able to see what was over the edge, my mind fought so hard to create a sense of safety by building evidence that we just watched at least six people jump safely, that there was nothing to worry about. A piece inside me, deep inside me just kept whispering, “it’s going to be ok, just do it”, “you’ve always wanted to do something like this, now is your chance”, “you always talk about taking a blind leap of faith, now’s your chance to actually DO IT”, “for every #livelifetothecorners hashtag you post, you need to do this”…….. I would take a deep breath, be ready to go and my legs just wouldn’t move. My mind would say, “ok body let’s go” and my legs felt like they grew roots right into that crack in the stone. My legs just wouldn’t respond to the command from my brain. I would stand up and walk away from my start point and begin the entire process all over again. In the midst of getting ready, two separate people walked up and completed their jumps. I would watch in amazement as they would walk to the edge, look over, ask the proper path, take their shirt off and JUMP!!! Ahhhhhhh, why was this so hard for me? Why was I letting the fear paralyze me? Why was I struggling so much? I wasn’t sure what the answer was to any of those questions, but what I did practice was kindness to myself. I allowed myself to get ready and then chicken out as much as I needed until I was ready…… really ready!!! That was a powerful experience in itself. With those continued moments of radical self acceptance something shifted inside me and all the sudden I was ready. Two young girls arrived and cheered me on with such sweet encouragement. They had NOTHING but positivity oozing from their beings. We laughed about our age difference and crazy life experiences and what their mom would be doing (they were 18 and I am definitely old enough to be their mom and they added that their mom would NEVER do something like this, but they thought it was amazing that I was willing to continue living such a cool life). With that support and my ability to relax into the moment, I was ready. Ready to take the leap of my life!!! I took my last deep breath, lined myself up, said a silent prayer, exhaled, leaned into the downward slope of the cliff, felt my legs loosen their grip and begin to move, I took three large steps and leapt off the edge into the complete unknown……..
In the 5 seconds it took me to hit the water, (maybe even less), so many lessons of life solidified into my cells! I felt them settle in like a new concrete sidewalk becomes a permanent part of a road. I wanted to pause time so I could sit and stay in that moment for as long as I wanted, as often as I wanted!! I felt complete freedom and that freedom was born in a moment of 100% committed FAITH!!! My practice continues to be getting still enough to listen to the quiet whisper, being in full acceptance of my truth in any given moment, offering kindness in that acceptance, dedicating my life to being in the present moment, and continuing to take leaps of faith so that I can live my life into the furthest reaching corners where all the magic resides. I encourage each of you to explore the corners of your own lives and go play there as often as possible. Develop an intimate relationship with the quiet whispers of your own heart and follow them to the magical experiences they will lead you to.
Love & Light,