Helping Nonprofit Leaders Transform Conflict

Leadership Coach and Mediator

I’m climbing a tree. 100 Feet high. I am terrified of heights. I  tremble with fear standing on a ladder. Diving of a diving board is beyond my comfort zone. Let alone climbing a 100 feet high tree. Okay, I was anchored to a belay. It made no difference. The fear was shaking my body.

I made this a sacred journey. Into my fears. To my dreams. A unique opportunity to be fully present with my terror, be touched by it, open up to it.  A holy practice of trust. Of the tree, my community, of myself. Trust that life and light arise from embracing my feelings.

I wake up at 6 am, meditate and write a poem. I walk up to the tree, and hug it. “Please, allow me to step on your branches. Talk to me. Share your wisdom. Hold me and keep me safe.” My belay drums the drum and sings a song. My two friends bow to me. I get into my harness, and take the first step. I am terrified. I tremble. I sweat. I put my arms around the tree and cry. Tears of existential fear. I wait till I hear the tree tell me my next step. It seems incredibly far away. I take my step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I wrap myself around the tree. “Talk to me. Hold me. Keep me safe. Show me my next step.” I don’t move till I regain trust and courage. In the tree, my belay, myself. I see the next step. I tremble. I sweat. I cry. I continue.

Halfway I am complete. I did my inner work. I stood my feelings. I don’t have to reach the top. I don’t have to force myself to get results. “Ann, I am ready to get down!” Ann responds: “Look down, and feel your feelings. Look up and feel your feelings. Then make a choice.” I look down and see my community, patiently waiting and honoring my choice. I look up and see myself exuberant with the total sense of freedom of having journeyed through my fears, terrors, and obstacles to life, to choice, to trust.

I take another step. And another. And another. And within minutes I am at the top. I look out over the canopy of trees, it is beautiful beyond imagination. I look down, and feel no fear. Just extreme freedom and joy. I am one with the universe. I yell so loud, that it can be heard at camp. “I AM AN ANIMAL!!!”. I take off my shirt, my bra, and I let the universe touch my very skin, my bones, my cells. There is no “I”, there is no “you”, there is no “here”, no “there”. There just is. Right here, right now.  Being.

I have a kissing reminder of the tree on my leg. Some call it a scar. I call it the proud mark of my courage, the tree and living life to the fullest.

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