“As you journey through life, you will come upon a great chasm. Jump! It is not as far across as you may think.” I heard the late mythology scholar Joseph Campbell cite these words, attributing them to a Native American speaker. They come back to me whenever I enter a transition time, either willingly or unwillingly, and feel as if I cannot go any farther because what lies before me is too frightening, too undefined, too overwhelming for me to continue. Yet these words promise that such responses may be misleading, that my fears may be exaggerating the immensity of the challenge, and if I will forge ahead, take a flying leap, I will be rewarded by landing on the other side–not because I am such an amazing master of the long jump, but because the distance across the chasm, the obstacle I faced, was much less than I had believed.
Fears have that power to so alter our perceptions that we are unable to see clearly and understand fully what we are dealing with. Fears can keep us stuck in place for a long time, convinced that the chasm before us is too vast for any mere mortal, especially one as limited as we feel ourselves to be, to ever cross. And as long as we remain standing on the edge of the chasm, we will be unable to know any other reality. The chasm will still look impossibly wide.
But if we find it in ourselves to jump anyway, summon the courage to take the risk of possibly plunging to ruin in that chasm but deciding that remaining stuck in place is no longer an option we want, then the mysterious promise of the Native American words can unfold for us. We set out running, throw ourselves out into air with all our might–and discover that fear had created an illusion that was never true. We land safely on the other side, now looking back to see the chasm was not so far across after all. And the next time we come upon a great chasm, having learned how far we can jump and how chasms can deceive us when fear takes hold, we may not be held up quite as long in our journey.