As wave after wave crashed into me on Copacabana beach, I remembered that as a kid I would always play a game with the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans in which I would stand up again and again each time the waves knocked me down. Despite the inevitable defeat against the Ocean, I found a liberating ecstasy in my Sisyphean effort.

I felt the same way on Copcabana, as the waves took a lot out of me. The realization dawned on me of how this completely contradicts a supposed Wu Wei go with the flow lifestyle! This time I watched other swimmers go under the waves completely as they swam farther out to catch some nice waves. I rode a few but found myself afraid to venture to deep into the waters… The metaphor was not lost on me, and this fear is something new for me.

A more familiar fear I experienced was that of heights. When I last visited Sugarloaf and the Chriso the Redentor statue, I stood trembling as close to the center as I could with an immense unease. This time I was able to stand at the edge and appreciate the magnificent views, I’ve come a long way.

A friend once told me “fears are never conquered for good, they have to be revisited time and again.” I experienced this truth on the top of a mountain hike in the Tijuca Forest, where it had rained recently and we were on top of a large boulder that had shear cliff edges. I began doing Qi Gong movements with my Brother, and found that connecting with energy intensified my anxiety and I felt it very hard to make my movements large and relax. Several times during the movement set I felt like giving up, and I did step back a few times further from the edge. I am proud of my brother who stood confidently still right where he had begun just a step or two from the edge for the entire movement set. His courage inspired me to make it through to the end where I felt a deep stillness as if the entire universe was holding me and reassuring me that I was safe. I went in and out of this state, as it was difficult to maintain this trust! Sure its easy to trust the universe inside of your room on a meditation cushion, but when you’re on the edge of danger letting go of control becomes a real challenge!

I sat by the edge later, and the vertigo was eased by an immense cloud cover below us. Several times the winds would blow and I would have literal shocking views!

 

Rio continues to be a wonderful place for anyone with an open mind to learn to open their heart. I am grateful for the new friends and family I’ve met along the way.