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A few years ago, I did a terrifying thing: I took off the entire month. Unpaid. Rather last-minute. With no real plan in place. I called it my Sacred Sabbatical, and it came out of a moment of intense clarity in a women’s restroom at the end of what should have been a stellar Red Letter Day but wasn’t, when I realized in a flash that I was urgently in need of an extreme gesture of radical self-care.
As someone who likes to have her ducks in a row and her coffers full, the idea of an unplanned and unbudgeted month off and unplugged was pretty radical. Terrifying, in fact. Now, I think everyone should do it. And regularly.
After two weeks spent decompressing through the joys of manual labor and almost daily sunrises and sunsets over Lake Winnipesaukee, I headed to California for two of the most glorious, magical weeks I’ve ever had: re-wilding in glorious Big Sur, alongside a beloved friend. Those were precious days spent reclaiming life, remembering what makes me happy, experiencing “the new”, the “unfamiliar”, taking risks, and feeling the freedom that comes with that. So, of course, I had to skydive.
Learning to leap
My advice about skydiving is this: If you have any inclination to skydive whatsoever, DO IT. It had been on my bucket list decades ago, but somehow it had unceremoniously fallen off – “too old, expensive, unnecessary. “ To step so literally into the unknown, at 13,400 feet, strapped to a human being whom you’ve just met, with nothing to save you but a bit of fabric, is an act of such complete and total faith that it has the power to transform on a cellular level. And that was my prayer as I let my body fall out that open door.
My entire Sabbatical – a word which has its roots in ‘sabbath’, ‘sacred’, ‘shabath’; commonly thought of as a period of rest and rejuvenation granted to professors; was practiced in ancient times, when every seven years the soil was left to rest, and debtors and slaves were released. My entire Sabbatical was a practice of “Letting Go”. Choosing Trust. Choosing Faith.
The Universe seemed to keep whispering – or at times shouting – this in my ear over those weeks of adventure. And in that culminating act of jumping from a plane, I experienced the most palpable awe, gratitude, and bliss that I’ve ever known in my life. It felt as if in that literal leap of faith, that surrender and resulting flight, my whole being changed. My cells experienced – and I hope they will remember, always – what it feels like to completely let go, to abandon control, to tell God with every atom of my body, “You do it.”
How ironic that in total relinquishment there can come a feeling of such tremendous power! But the unwillingness to let fear win is an act of courage. The moment in which we choose not to let fear strangle us is a moment in which we choose Life. Those choices, those moments have the potential to re-wild our souls, to awaken our joy, our imagination, and to let us see our world through fresh, open eyes.
Keep letting go
My practice now is to keep letting go, to look for the habits, thoughts, patterns and choices that are keeping me small and safe. I want to live every day with the memory of that palpable awe, gratitude and bliss, which I experienced when I left that safe plane in favor of the open sky. And I endeavor to remember that awe – and gratitude and bliss – is so worth taking a leap of faith for!
Today, may you do one thing that makes you tremble just a little, and that therefore has the power to rekindle your spirit. May you, too, take a leap of faith toward awe, gratitude and bliss.
Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.