My parents discovered my fear of heights when I was four years old. My dad took me on a sky tram at Camden Park to overlook the entire area. Not long after the ride began, I wanted off…NOW! My dad had to wrap his arms tight around me, as I cried hysterically, to keep me from jumping off of the edge of the ride.
Of course it made no logical sense, but I would have rather crashed to the ground than spend another second in the air.
I’ve had plenty of fears in my life, many I have been able to release over time, but this has been the most prevailing and significant fear of my life. I have tried overcoming it many times by riding the scariest tallest rides at the amusement parks, but I always ended up with my head between my knees, trembling, crying, and praying not to die.
I gave up on amusement parks. There was no amusement in them for me. And I decided to accept this limitation of mine, except for one small problem. I love to travel, and driving is neither practical nor possible for every destination. So I fly.
I’ve tried countless ways to prepare for flying. I’ve tried talking about it incessantly. I’ve tried not talking about it at all. I’ve tried the logical route of looking at statistics regarding the safety of planes vs. car travel. I’ve tried prayers, meditations, affirmations, reciting scripture, tapping techniques, music, essential oils, breathing techniques, anything anyone suggested. Although sometimes I noticed subtle differences, the result was mostly the same, terror and panic all the way up to the sky.
A couple years ago as I was preparing for an upcoming flight, I was talking to a friend about my fear. She posed a seemingly innocent question, “I don’t get it. You’re so spiritual. Why haven’t you been able to overcome this fear?”
For a minute I wondered if I should be offended by that inquiry. But instead I decided to take that question to God. “Well, God,” I asked, “Why haven’t I been able to overcome this fear?” So, of course, I went to the place I go when I have a question for God. I went to the labyrinth.
As I rounded the corners of the path, I lifted my fear up to God, attempting to surrender it. “God, I don’t know what else to do with this fear. I am giving it to you.” I heard my inner Divine voice say, “How about you believe that you are always safe?” “Oh God,” I sighed, “ You know I’m too logical for that. I see and hear about people getting hurt and dying all the time. I’m smart enough to know that you don’t love me anymore than anyone else. So why would I be safe when so many others are not?”
The reply came, “I’m not promising you will be physically safe. I’m promising you will be spiritually safe.”
In that moment my understanding shifted. I knew that there was never a place or time when I am separated from God. God is in me. God is around me. God is everywhere and always present.
I realized I truly am always safe, even when I am 35,000 feet above ground, even if there is turbulence, even if the plane is crashing, even in death. I am always safe.
There is nothing that can separate me from that Divine presence, the presence that sits with me, that waits with me, that comforts me, that strengthens me, that enfolds me, that surrounds me. Often I forget this, but I knew it in that moment. I knew that I am always safe.
That flight was very different for me than the ones before. I still meditated and played my music and used my oils. But this time as I recited my affirmation, “I am safe. I am safe. I am safe,” I knew those words in a new way.
As the plane lifted up into the sky, I felt a little uneasy, a little uncomfortable. I would have preferred to be on solid ground. But I will trade in terror and panic for uncomfortable and uneasy any day.
I knew that I am never alone no matter what the circumstance, that there is nothing that can separate me from Divine presence. I really understood for the first time what people mean when they speak of “a peace that passes all understanding”. It doesn’t make logical sense. How can we be safe in an unsafe world? And yet, I know, I am always spiritually safe.
It’s not just a naive mantra I tell myself when I am afraid. I really am safe. We really are safe. You really are safe.