It’s time to dream really big and really free . . . Robert Brezsny
“What’s most adventurous and exciting for you?” Robert Brezsny poses this question in this week’s horoscope. “I urge you to fully indulge in those flights of fancy,” he proceeds to nudge at us.
A few years ago, I signed up for a trapeze workshop through Omega Institute in Rhinebeck, New York. I really didn’t know much about trapeze. I had gone to the circus once as a kid, when I was four, on a hot steaming summer afternoon. I remember that I wore a purple dress. I remember that I spilled soda all over it. And, I remember the lion, how it roared loud and angry, and the tent, the way it billowed when the thunderstorm blew in and that my mother was afraid that it would all fall down on top of us. However, I don’t remember the men and women who flew through the air with the greatest of ease. They must have been drowned out, at least in my mind, by the storm’s thunder and the lion’s roar.
But this workshop seemed tame to me, friendly and inviting, more purr than roar. After all, it was Omega, summer camp for grown-ups, the same place where I had attended many a yoga and writing workshop, where the Oms sail through the air and the gardens are organic and the bookstore is filled with the music of Krishna Das. And Sam Keen, the philosopher who wrote, Fire in the Belly, and was well into his sixties, had participated in this experience for years. It was the description that had initially drew me in, “For those who want to set their spirit free . . . for those who want to fly . . .” Who doesn’t want to fly?!? And then it was the attention that I received that kept me going. “I’ve signed up for trapeze school,” I’d tell my friends, my yoga students, anyone who would listen. “Awesome!” they’d say. “Wow, you’re brave!” they’d exclaim. “You’re crazy!” some of them would cry.
Crazy or not, I wasn’t going to back out now that I’d told my whole world, so off I went, in the heat of July, to Rhinebeck, to summer camp, to the circus for a week. And it was like the circus. As other workshops gathered in the cottages and meeting centers, as the gospel singers belted out their tunes and the writers wrote their essays and poems, as the painters painted and the yogis breathed in yoga, we met in the field, all twenty of us. Our instructors were real circus people, trapeze artists who had sailed through the air all over the world. And it wasn’t a purr afterall. Our set-up, the one I presumed would be of junior size, a playground for beginners, was real, the real deal. I had to muster up my lion’s courage. On day one, we were already climbing up the ladder, many many many feet up into the air, with death below us if we slipped and fell. I was petrified and I was a rookie. Most of these people had been flying for years. That’s what they called it. Flying. And no one wanted to hear my whimpering, my moaning. No one was going to pity me because my legs were shaking when I stood on that platform with the ground far far below me, and my body not caring that I had a harness around my waist, that there was a net; no one was going to let me off the hook when I could barely let go of the bar I was clutching in a deathgrip to grab the trapeze that my circus helper, the one who was standing behind me, had scooped in for me to hold. But grab it I did, and lean forward I did. Again and again, many times a day. And when the instructor from way down on the ground, just like they do in the Big Top, would holler “Hep”, I would hop out. And every time, every single time, the terror transformed itself into an exhilarating whoop of unbridled freedom. To fly out over the sky, to swing through the air on a summer’s day — there is nothing like it.
And on the evening of the third day, with the two hundred or so Omega guests and people from the nearby town set up in chairs on that field, with the lights blazing on our circus set-up, and the music, not the gospel singing or the Krishna Das chants, but real circus music bouncing through the air, we became an act, a circus act in a real circus. And when it was my turn, me, who had whimpered and moaned and shook for three days, climbed up that ladder with a lion’s confidence, with fire in my belly, and when I looked out at the crowd, the crowd I really couldn’t see because of all the lights, I can’t say that I didn’t clutch the bar with my left hand, but with my right, I reached up and waved, a circus Big Top performer’s wave. And I leaned forward, sticking my solar plexus out in a way that I hadn’t before, and I almost heard my inner roar as I hopped out into that circus air, into the lights and the breeze and all those hushed voices, and, just on cue, I lifted my knees up, swung my feet over the bar, released my hands, swung back, and just like they do in the circuses that I never before had watched, I caught my catcher’s hands, or he caught me, I can’t remember, and it doesn’t matter, because I was flying, flying high.
And afterwards, while the rest of the campus slept, while the singers and the writers and the yogis dreamed their dreams, we celebrated. We laughed and reminisced and even though I don’t drink champagne, I felt drunk with it all.
So what’s most adventurous and exciting for you? What are your big dreams?
I don’t know if I want to climb up that ladder and swing through the air again. I don’t think I want to run off and join the circus. But I do know that a stage and spot lights and a crowd light me up. I know that flying is fun. I know that climbing my way up a ladder out of fear and into exhilaration, nothing feels better than that. I know that I’m ready for the Big Top.