Wednesday is Leap Day and since that only happens once every 4 years (minus a few years here and there) it seems fitting to talk about the idea of taking a Leap of Faith: reaching out and stretching the boundaries of reason in order to grow.
In my own experience, growth happens when you get to the very edge of a situation – the place where you’re not sure you can stay upright and a fall seems quite possible. On the flip side, always choosing the safest route and focusing first on protective measures may not prevent growth altogether, but can certainly slow it down.
Once I had a crazy dream in which I was being chased by an enormous evil monster that intended to destroy me. I couldn’t run fast enough to get away and the monster jumped on my shoulders forcing me to carry its weight as I ran. Then I found myself on the edge of a cliff and knew I had no chance of survival. A voice told me to jump and without thinking about it I spread my arms and took a graceful leap off the edge of that cliff. Instantly the monster vanished and I felt myself totally free of his burdensome weight as I floated through the stars.
Now, of course, that was a dream and is subject to a great deal of interpretation, but to me the evil monster was the weight of my own Shadow. The Shadow contains all of my fears, disappointments, resentments and entitlements – all those negative experiences and emotions that keep sabotaging me as I try to grow and do good work in this lifetime. And it was taking that Leap of Faith, not knowing whether or not I would survive, that finally enabled me to be free of the Shadow’s burden and float in equanimity.
But a dream is not very helpful unless it can be translated into real terms. So how did that dream become reality in my life? What leap did I take? Well, I left my job as a medical director and my career as a practicing physician and became an author. The leap was enormous and I still haven’t discovered if I will crash on the landing, but it was the willingness to take the leap that made all the difference and catalyzed my spiritual growth.
However, without quitting your job and giving up your career, there are many other possibilities for taking a Leap of Faith in 2012 – the year when the Mayan Calendar ends and we are literally approaching the edge of the cliff in finances, the environment and politics around the world. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Start a new spiritual practice. This is a great time to take up yoga, meditation, prayer, dance, journaling, exercise or other spiritual practices to enhance your growth in consciousness.
- Break a bad habit. There is no better time to give up those destructive behaviors that are interfering with your health such as smoking, drugs, alcohol or other addictions. Let 2012 be the year you finally make a change!
- Change your image.We hear a lot about companies “rebranding” these days but it can be helpful for individuals as well. Think about who you are now and how your appearance and behavior can better reflect your true identity.
- Learn something new.Take a class, travel to a new place, try new food , make a new friend – you won’t know how much you have been missing out on until you take a leap into something brand new.
- Plant a garden. Seriously, gardening is a total leap of faith – you place tiny seeds in the ground, water them and wonder what will happen next. But the miracle of watching a garden grow will convince you to try a little risk in other areas and the pay-off is well worth the effort.
- Become a volunteer. Find an organization whose beliefs you can support and offer up your time to help their cause. Giving of yourself and your time can be a leap of faith because there are no guarantees that you’ll get anything in return. But, just like gardening, prepare to be amazed by the rewards you will receive from doing volunteer work.
So how do you get started taking this Leap of Faith? First, decide on the action you want to take and be sure you can commit yourself to the change. Then consider doing a 90-day challenge: promise to devote the next 90 days to your Leap of Faith. If it isn’t working or doesn’t feel right after that time you can abandon the project and move on to something else. But every Leap deserves at least a 90-day trial period and if you are successful at maintaining your new behavior for that length of time, you will have developed a new habit that has the potential to change everything.
So start tomorrow and give some thought to your Leap of Faith. I guarantee you the monster won’t vanish if you don’t take a chance and step off that cliff. Since everything could be coming to an end this December anyway, 2012 is a very good year for starting something new. What are you waiting for?