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As I continue my journey to follow the teachings of spirituality in order to see what actually happens, my latest ‘proposito’ (purpose/intention) was to experience personal growth by facing my childhood fear of heights head on via a paragliding course.

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Face Your Fears

It turned out that most of my personal growth was coming from facing the insecurities of my two instructors, and their need to humiliate, bully and belittle their student – me.

The real bullying came on my third day paragliding when it was time for me to try my first solo flight. I had woken achy with sinus trouble for the second day in a row, and my right ear was blocked. I was also just too nervous to make the run off the mountain on the first attempt, but the second time, I just ran for my life, flew off the mountain, and immediately hit a thermal wind and shot up into the sky.

You can see my first solo flight at the end of my video here:

I made it down to the bottom but I was so nervous about leaning heavily to one side in my seat, and pulling down too much on my breaks, that my turns were not happening sharp enough, and I came in at an angle.

I wanted to just enjoy that moment – that feeling. I had faced a childhood fear and leapt off a friggin mountain! But my instructors were not going to let me. After the flight, we all went for dinner, and I received feedback. In great detail, it was explained to me in front of everyone why my flight was absolutely terrible, everything past the take off had been completely wrong, and I only survived because God was on my side.

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Any little bit of joy still felt after that flight had been crushed. When he said that one should only jump when 100% healthy and mentally prepared, I snapped out and told him that that is absolutely not fair. He knew that I was not well, and also nervous! – but this reaction was really just coming from a need to defend myself.

I decided to seriously reflect on how best to deal with this kind of behaviour. After all, I still had 4 more flights to finish the course.

One possibility would be to just not let others affect our mood. In meditation, for example, we learn to observe the situation as it is, without reacting, and with an equanimous mind. The problem here is that we can learn to observe our emotions without reacting, but we still have the emotions, and we will still feel victimised whether we react or not. It is a very big ask for this to not affect our mood at all.

Another possible course of action could be to just walk away without finishing. Do we really care what the bully thinks about us? Why put ourselves through the stress of confrontation when it can be avoided? The problem here is that sometimes walking away means that we are actually losing out; after all, I wanted to learn paragliding! And it is usually never the best solution to leave a class that we like, or a job that we like, or a group of people that we like, because of a bully.

It seems necessary therefore to ‘fight the fire’ – but how? The answer lies in nature!

We could ‘fight fire with fire’ by throwing the ball back into their court. Telling them what they are doing and why we will not accept this. Trying to meet them at their level by creating a stand off situation can work to create an understanding of equal strength, but the bully may also decide that they are stronger than we are after all and fight back hard. We can certainly create many enemies this way and it is not helping in reducing our own stress levels. Adding fire to fire creates a bigger fire.

Instead we could try to confront them with intellectual reason. This could be called ‘fighting fire with a little water’. Telling them how they are making us feel, they may just be unaware and do something about it. This method may work if the other person cares about our feelings, but more likely than not, the person does have some idea how we are feeling, and that has not stopped them so far. Whether they choose to be nicer or not, they will feel they have greater control over us and can return to their old ways at any time. Pouring a little water on fire reduces the heat – but only temporarily.

Fire does not put fire out, but a lot of water does. We need to be the water that puts out the flame.

Water is never out of control; water just does what it does; it is cool and calm; though the things around it may not be – and we must be like this too. First, we need a clear and calm head. This can be achieved by stepping out of the situation and allowing ourselves time to breathe, focus and calm down.

The sound of water is relaxing. We can speak softly and never shout. Water is refreshing. We can be refreshing too. We can smile and laugh. Laughter is contagious. It makes others happy, and it makes us feel happier too.

Water has the control by doing what it does around its environment. We, too, can practise control by being confident and assertive in what we do (in accordance with the people around us). We can objectively express why we are not happy (just the facts man!) while also providing positive feedback to the insecure bully when deserved.

As I continue my journey, I find that my experiences with water – rivers, the sea, waterfalls, storms – have a lot to teach me about life itself. For being in contact with water brings our attention (our awareness) to the water. People must take care with and respect water. Water is not a push over.

By behaving as water does, people will find us to be calm, cool, relaxing, refreshing, positive, confident, assertive, and worthy of respect; the conclusion of which will be that the bully begins to consciously compare and reflect on their behaviour, and may ultimately even be inspired to make a change for the better.

Please share this story to inspire others to ‘be a buddha‘!


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