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Thursday, January 11, 2018

Life Lesson: Safety is an Illusion

A recent reflection yielded an interesting thought: "safety is a very expensive illusion" (Cameron, The Artist's Way). Now what do I mean by safety? The word represents a host of meanings, from comfort to predictability, and I think that the way in which Julia Cameron uses the word is the same.

Change is inevitable. I read somewhere that we replace a great number of our body's cells on a regular basis. Amazing to think that we might be entirely different people today physically than we may have been a year ago. I look out the window and am reminded daily that the weather changes, sometimes by the minute. With all this change happening around me, why would I resist it? Why would I gravitate to "safety" by trying to keep things the same if change is really the only constant in life?

My choice of reading material today reminds me that I say "yes" to a great number of things that do not really matter in the grand scheme of life. Perhaps my saying "yes" so often is really a disguised attempt to stay safe. I aspire to say "yes, and . . ." this year, but I do not mean that this aspiration tells me to take on more things. The "yes, and" aspiration refers to attitude. While I aspire to a positive attitude in life generally, I need to learn how to be ruthless about the small things that do not really matter. I need to throw caution and the illusion of safety to the winds. I need to take "leap after leap in the dark." (Agnes de Mille)

Cameron reminded me that I need to be willing first to do something badly. I need to throw perfectionist tendencies to the wind. "Usually, when we say we can't do something, what we mean is that we won't do something unless we can guarantee that we'll do it perfectly." (Cameron, The Artist's Way).

I also read the story of how Himalayan Sherpa explain how they move up the mountains in a seemingly effortless way. The Sherpa explain that they view the mountains as friends that lift them up and carry them along.

Rather than think about risks and challenges as being scary, I want instead to "expand my self-definition" (Cameron, The Artist's Way) and find a friend in the mountain, embrace the challenge as opportunity, and let the mountain carry me along.

I want to let go of the illusion of safety and comfort that comes from the tendency to clutch to perfectionism. I want to take risks and get messy, stand up to challenges and redefine them as opportunities, and leap into the dark unknown and shine a light. I want to see what more life has to offer.

What are the things that you cling to rather than venture out into the unknown and make new discoveries? What would you do differently today if you knew that you would not fail? What would you try?

Why not try it? Now. Today. Why not?

Until next time,

Happy Practicing!

----- Paula -----

© 2018 by Paula E. Bird


  1. This was a thoughtfully written piece, Paula. So much of it resonates right now for me, with the projects im undertakjng, and gives me material to be my mountain, to carry me up the ascent and to let go of the fear of not being perfect. That's the sense of, oh, I'm not ready yet to . Throw that cautiousness to the wind and keep going!
    Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Wendy. I wish you every success as you journey up your mountain! I still look around for my personal sherpa!