(© Jim Leonard)
This is the story of how I permanently resolved my fear of high places, and of flying, in a single Vivation session.
One of the formats in which we do Vivation with advanced clients is called a "Vivation-in-Action Adventure".
We do not need any special circumstances, or even a quiet place, to Vive. Our aim is to Vive continuously, everywhere we find ourselves. So for advanced clients, who are already comfortable with their ability to Vive, we sometimes do a session while we are doing something else at the same time.
Often this means doing something that the Viver has found challenging and emotionally activating in the past. Gentleness and safety are the highest priorities for doing this, and we do not seek an activity that is too activating. What I am going to describe would be too activating for most clients who have a fear of high places, but I am an advanced client indeed, and it worked for me.
All my life I had a fear of high places, "acrophobia," we could call it. Flying used to be a major ordeal for me, which was inconvenient since my work requires frequent travel. I used to be unable to relax fully while flying, never quite letting myself sit all the way down in the seat.
In a seminar I was leading in Florida, in the mid-1980's, I mentioned this to the group, and someone suggested that I overcome it with skydiving. Needless to say, I found this suggestion just horrible, but I knew I could integrate anything with Vivation, so I decided to try it.
I found a parachute ranch nearby, outside of Tampa, and called them up. It turned out that two world champions skydivers, a father and son, both named Cliff, ran the school. They told me that we would do a kind of jump called "tandem," which meant that one of them would jump with me, attached to my back by a rigid harness. My instructor would pull the ripcord.
I went to the ranch and started off by explaining Vivation to them, so they'd know that I was Viving and not hyperventilating. They understood well.
Before I could jump, they did a couple of things that heightened my activation. They made me watch a video that covered many different things that could go wrong with the jump, including cutting away the main chute if it did not deploy properly and then pulling the reserve chute. Then they made me sign a very long liability waiver, that said basically that no matter what went wrong, I wouldn't sue them, and neither would my estate.
They also told me that skydiving is much safer than it looks, there being about one chance in a million that I would hit the ground without either of the parachutes opening. The senior Cliff told me, "Obviously I think it's safe or else I wouldn't let my son do it. The most dangerous part of skydiving is the drive to the parachute ranch."
So we got in the plane and went up. I had never been in a small plane before, and even this initial part was very frightening for me. But then came a very scary part, followed by the really scary part. The very scary part was that when we got to 12,000 feet, Cliff (the elder) had to open the door and lean out to make sure that we were in the right position over the drop zone. He was attached to my back in a rigid harness, so when he leaned out, I did too. "Don't hold on," Cliff told me. I told him words to the effect of "Agggghhhhh!!!"
But then, the really scary part was getting out of the airplane. This made no sense to me–climbing out of a perfectly good airplane. We had to put all four of our feet on a tiny little platform just beneath the wing strut--I hated it.
Then he said, "One two THREE!" and he jumped. Extremely unwilling, I tried holding on to the strut, but obviously I went with him.
I blacked out with fear, and cannot remember the first few seconds of the jump. He told me afterward that because I held on, we tumbled through the air, but I can't remember that part at all. Then, finally, I managed to relax in free-fall, Viving, as I had been doing from the time I arrived at the parachute ranch. When I relaxed and Vived, the fear integrated, and I really enjoyed it. We landed so gently that it seemed almost like a miracle to me.
After that integration, I have never had acrophobia. I returned to Florida a couple of months later, to lead another seminar, and I went back and did another parachute jump. I loved every minute of it.
Ever since that first jump, I have loved flying.
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