Actually the high ropes challenge didn’t really teach me anything about fear that I didn’t already know, it just helped remind me to be alert to it, what it’s purpose is, and how to overcome it.
I was really excited to participate in the high ropes Challenge course at the Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, and as I watched the introductory safety video, I did not feel one bit of nervous anticipation, only the humid air that was now trapped in my bush-fireman outfit suit. I was ready to go.
This was something I had wanted to do for years. I couldn’t wait to Tarzan swing and zip through the tree tops on the flying fox. After what seemed like ages, the video stopped and we were lined up ready to go.
Craig was in front of me, just in case I needed a hand up. I was a little concerned how his fear of heights may impede on his experience. Silly me! I should have known better, give him any physical task and he will absolutely conquer it effortlessly.
There were only two allowed on any of the tight ropes at once and I waited until Craig was halfway across before I stepped out onto the thin, yet strong- so my mind kept telling me- steel cable. One foot on and I started swinging from side to side, wobbling unsteadily. And then I looked down. “Oh my God. What have I done? This is a long way up.”
The adrenalin began creeping its way up from my stomach, kickstarting my heart into gear, and making the sweat stream down my face.
“Ah, Craig.” my voice squeaked. “I don’t think I like this. How do I do this?”
“You’ll be right. Just take it slowly. Turn your feet sideways and walk forward.”
It had been raining, everything was slippery and I suddenly lost all faith in my Kigo footwear, that had never let me down before. I made it across the first tight rope and was confronted with high rope challenge after challenge.
At each caribiner interchange, I took a deep breath in order to push the fear away “Why do I keep doing this to myself. I’m getting to old for all this high adrenalin stuff.” I kept looking for the nearest exit route and the only one I could find was straight down. And so with head down, I continued to soldier on.
The fear of course was all imagined, as with two safety caribiners attached there was no way I was going to plummet to my death. Strange, how when you are suspended above the air, moving across a cable by using your arms to swing from rope to rope, you tend to forget this.
My concentration soon turned razor sharp. I had to focus on each step forward. That was the only important thing. I could not look behind from where I just came nor get overwhelmed with the height I was walking over, or how far ahead Craig was. Any of that would distract me from what I needed to do to get me to the other side. Pure focus on taking one step at a time.
I thought of how this is how true success comes along, by having razor sharp focus on what needs to be done now. So many times we let the tasks of yesterday and tomorrow overwhelm us and we cease to focus on what needs to be done now. If we get that right then before we know it our slow steady steps have brought us to the goal and has prepared us for the next challenge.
And when you finish that one you’ll discover a flying fox, your reward for a job well done. Clip yourself on and go for a wild zip-lining ride high above the canopy.
Fear kept arising with each new challenge and I soon learned how to be a controller of that before it sent me sliding down the batman pole prematurely.
For each new high ropes challenge and Tarzan swing, I would spend a couple of seconds analyzing the challenge, going through the motions I needed to perform in my head to successfully reach the other side, and then once on the challenge, focus purely on one foot in front of the other.
And when my mind started to think about the wobbles, the aching shoulders, the slippery cable, and the drop below, I turned my attention back onto my breath. “Just breathe Caroline. Breathe.” Deep breaths in and out.
In essence, this is the only thing in life, we need to worry about. Are we still breathing?
How we forget how much power there is in our breath! It is our life force and we rarely pay attention to how much it can help us. It centres us, keeps us focused, calms us, and gives us powerful energy.
And with that one simple redirected focus, I was safely through to the next caribiner change.
All was going well, I had gotten a hold of my fear and I was actually really enjoying the physical challenge. That was until I reached the black tunnel. Two black tubes gently swaying 1.8 metres from the ground. I’m glad Oprah wasn’t brought here on her recent trip to Oz as there was no way she was fitting through the small tunnels.
It took me several minutes and shouting instructions from Craig and a safety dude below to work out how to even get into the thing. And then halfway through the safety dude decided to shout out that his instructions were wrong and I was stuck in it wrong way up. You certainly couldn’t turn in it, so I’d have to find a unique way to crawl out of it.
A small gap represented the transition from one tube to the air, and while there was no way Flat Stanley could fit through the gap, I suddenly became paralyzed, claustrophobic with each passing second as I tried to work out how I was going to crawl over that gap from one tunnel to the other. I couldn’t go backward and I couldn’t go forward.
The curse words started flying, as I just couldn’t think of anything else to say or do. After about 5 minutes of lying, sweating and swearing, and with no other option, I took a deep breath and talked myself into just moving forward.
I made it over the gap, and I managed to climb out of the tunnel. Craig had gotten way ahead of me now, and I saw him higher up the course about to get into two more black tunnels, that were actually smaller than the ones I had just been stuck in. Uh oh.
A sign in front of me pointed to the right which said “More challenging exit” There were 2 challenges– a swinging rope cable walk, and then an exit down a rope ladder wall. It didn’t look too bad, but I was over more challenging so I looked to the left, the exit Craig took.
“Oh dear, this is the end of me.”
I tried to call to Craig to come back and help me. But it was too late, he was too far ahead. I had reached a road block. I’ve come across them on hikes before, and I’ve always had Craig to talk me through them, and I’ve done it. But now, on my own, I was a goner.
It was a ladder. A ladder surrounded by only thin air. A ladder with about 5 rungs on it and about 3 caribiner changes while on it. I’ve bungy jumped before, and approached rock climbing with enthusiasm and reckless abandon, but get me near a ladder and I cower in fear. I do not know why, but I hate them. And that ladder was leading to the black, claustrophobic tunnels anyway.
“Well, that is me done then.” I said to Kristy, who was behind me. “I’m taking the quick,yet “challenging’ exit out.” Fear had just completed a knock out punch, and I was left with the bitter feeling of not completing a challenge. And not completing it purely through my not being able to conquer my fear on my own.
I exited off and followed Craig underneath to the end, berating myself the whole time, “You could have done that, you shouldn’t have given up. Look at all that fun you have missed out on”
Whatever it is you are setting out to achieve in life, it is so important that you have someone along with you for support. Fears will come and go, and you can beat them yourself with your focus to the task, by following a set of procedures that work, and by using the power of your breath.
But soon enough, a challenge or a fear will come along that is too much for you to bear on your own. This is when you need the support of that stronger person who can hold your hand and talk you through it.
Otherwise you will be looking for the quickest way out of there and will be filled with regret because of it for years to come.