Fast Wisdom™, Newsletter of Holden Healing Studio
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March 2019

By Lonner Holden

Ascendant Risk: Tread of the Dance Shoes of Transformation

A few weeks ago, I saw the movie Free Solo, a documentary on the first free climb of the 3,600’ high shear vertical face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, the final frontier of free rock climbing. If you saw it and were like me, you covered your eyes more than a few times, because the climber’s risk was just too unnerving. A tiny human speck alone on a massive rock face with no safety harness, ropes or net, just pure commitment, focus and relaxation. But this high level of risk, anxiety producing to watch for most of us, is normal for these extreme climbers. And their sense of belonging to what they do is dependent upon it.

On one hand, it feels impossible for me to imagine what that would feel like for the climber. Just the thought makes my legs go weak and makes me feel faint. Yet, when I think of the most difficult things I have done in my life where it was necessary for me to believe in the highest outcome, the level of risk I had to take came to feel normal, yet unimaginable before that threshold presented itself.


Rising to the occasion is also like rising up the occasion - ascending the shear wall with little purchase for security. Risk is what takes us up when we have no harness, rope or net to catch us. I remember having to feel my way through on an entirely new level. With nothing familiar, instinct and a deeper level of being present to unplanned resources and opportunity became what I depended on. Often depending on good friends, too, who knew that I could do it, because they had faith in who I was meant to become more than myself. They coached me and coaxed me into being able to take the risk on my own as my wise witnesses.


I remember feeling more connected to my situation because, in retrospect, there was nothing between me and the shear wall to rely on so I had to become part of what I had perceived as the threatening landscape of my new experience. I became, not by intention but by default, part of what I had seen as scary when I was previously apart from it. The risk drew me into the situation, became my tread which gave me purchase towards the highest outcome, allowing me to release and forget the old safety tethers. In allowing the risk, something in me changed, growing a trust in risking what I had typically known as the safer route and method of living into allowing new challenges to become more my norm. So I became more trusting of risk being the way I became connected to something greater than myself which would invite me and sustain me - if I took the risk.


A few days ago, I was driving along a local boulevard. I suddenly saw ahead of me high over the roadway a flock of sparrows zooming in a tight formation all in one direction. One sparrow lagged a bit behind. I slowed down just in time to watch an American Kestral dive just behind and out of the sight lines of the lone sparrow, arc up at high speed under it - still out of its sight - bank hard into a full aerial loop to shoot its talons out and straight up and directly under the sparrow to grab it, coming up short in the last millisecond, missing the tiny bird by only a few inches. The smallest of falcons hunting at high speed upside down with astonishing acuity; measuring velocity, time and distance, calculating the location of the sparrow to meet its talons with unimaginable precision. All this happened in less than three seconds. Apparently the Kestral had succeeded at this maneuver before, so was willing to try it again. (You are right to think that I must have almost wrecked the car!)


This amazing experience caused me to reflect on the risk the Kestral was so used to and how risk is a way of life for raptors and prey birds; all animals large and small every minute of their lives. And how risk is part of what makes nature nature - wild, beautiful, awesome, mysterious. Risk is part of the connective tissue of natural living.


Can you recall a risk you took which resulted in you feeling more yourself after the event? Where a greater you came forth because you put what was previously safe on the line and moved beyond that line into a new and uncertain landscape? Leaving a job, a relationship or even way of thinking about yourself which didn’t feel like home to you anymore, or really never had been in some foundational way which you finally came to see? Did any of those moments where you were just “going for it” feel like the tiniest finger hold which you trusted your life with, and which actually held you from falling as securely as when you before had felt your feet solidly on the ground?


Risk might be a tiny whisper high up inviting you to ascend, to dance toe-hold by finger-hold into the new you. A tiny whisper caught the attention of that free climber one day and he did it. It caught the attention of the Kestral one sunny afternoon and it dove. Risk has caught me up in the flourish of its fever and I live feeling more my natural self. 


What risk is whispering to you now? There is an ascent with your name on it. Your more natural self is waiting.

PICK OF THE MONTH: Read stories of personal transformation, risking one's familiar world view while immersed in ancient San Bushmen culture: The Origins Project

Lonner Holden:
Being a Jin Shin Jyutsu acupressure practitioner for 27 years has helped me understand the healing potential of the body and the whole person.  A published poet and backcountry guide educated from early life by the natural elements and animals of the Alaskan wilderness, and with Animal Track & Sign certification, my knowledge of dance, trail running, yoga, meditation, body awareness disciplines and indigenous nature connection practices, I bring poetry, nature mentoring and a lifetime of nature awareness to Vive!  Nature Wander™ urban and wilderness treks to enhance awareness, creativity, vitality, health and well-being.


VIVE!  Nature Wander™
Marin County: April 20th

Marin Tracking Club:
Point Reyes: March 31st, April 28th

Sun Valley Tracking Circle:
San Rafael: Next Meeting TBD

Into the Wild Journeys:
Grand Canyon 2019


See events on calendar »




Fast Wisdom™ is the newsletter of my Holden Healing Studio practice.  Each issue explores a theme of living  in the context of healing so you can live a happier and more vital life infused with well-being, improved health and more effective and empowered recovery.

© 2019 Lonner Holden
Fast Wisdom™
Copyright © 2019 Holden Healing Studio, All rights reserved.

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