Don’t Look Down!
I love the Shower Team. They put up with a lot of moaning and groaning from me sometimes and they just keep coming back around with their own brand of (sometimes) tough love. Not long ago I was whining extra long and loudly about wanting to once and for all put some particular issues behind me that had been getting on my nerves. More to the point, I was getting on my own nerves for not being able to let go of some discouragement and worry that I was feeling.
In the course of waa-waa-ing again about all this to the Team, I first got a very clear and pointed suggestion (command?): “Look where you’re going—and don’t look down!” And in that same moment, much to my surprise I got a vivid mental picture of a story from the Bible that I’d heard many times in my childhood.
It was the story of Jesus walking on the water. His disciples were in a boat and the seas were rough and they looked up and saw Christ walking toward them on the stormy surface. He called to one of them, Peter, and urged him to step out of the boat and walk toward him. Peter obeyed and found himself walking across this stormy sea toward Jesus’ outstretched hand—until he took his eyes off Christ and started looking down at his feet and at the choppy, churning waves. At which point he sank like a stone.
I wasn’t expecting Biblical imagery in response to my predicament and so I asked the Team to ‘splain themselves .
It can be a very difficult thing for you to hear and accept that you never really improve any situation by focusing on what’s going wrong. You never really solve a problem by focusing on the problem. You never get yourself to a place that feels better by focusing on what feels bad (but don’t tell the psychologists that).
A more precise and important way of putting it is that you cannot move forward in the direction of your dreams and desires when you are focused on the fear or the worry of failure. You cannot move in the direction of what you want when you are insisting upon staring at what is, where you are.
In fact we would encourage you to never pay attention to what is unless it is delightful to do so. Never give your attention to “what’s real” or “what’s true” unless that reality or that truth feels joyful or hopeful or comforting or reassuring or encouraging . . . For as long as you are giving your attention to anything that distresses or concerns or confuses or frustrates or scares you . . . then you are holding yourself in a place where the joy or the fulfillment or the love or the appreciation or the satisfaction cannot flow freely to you. You are stuck in a place that feels bad and you are stuck there for no reason other than that being what you are choosing to focus on.
There are any number of examples or stories or illustrations of this fact, including the one you’ve remembered. Anytime someone says to the one up on the roof or the ladder or crossing the rickety rope bridge: “Don’t look down!” they are essentially saying the same thing. The very best way to get where you want to be is to fix your gaze on that point—if only in your imagination—and don’t take your eyes off it. Walk steadily in the direction that you are looking . . . because the second that you take your attention off where you want to be and start looking at what’s going on around you, then you falter or fumble or stumble . . . or sink.
No genius inventor ever conjured up a revolutionary new approach by getting stuck in his or her fixation on what was not going well. No one ever amassed a fortune by focusing on their poverty. No one ever got well by ruminating on how awful they felt or found themselves in a satisfying relationship by obsessing about their loneliness.
You are as continually and completely supported in your progress—in your stepping out of the boat—as any apostle in any parable or story real or mythical. You have access to that same outstretched hand and those same reassuring eyes if you will allow yourself to remember that You are part of a Universe that wants only your success and joy and satisfaction.
Keep your eyes on that point on the horizon that calls to you. Let nothing and no one distract you from where you want to be. Make any other facts or figures, problems or conditions, “truths” or “realities” irrelevant . . . Remember where you are going and no matter what’s going on around you or beneath you . . . don’t look down . . . and you will step easily and assuredly across any raging sea toward your desires.
My minister dad would be so pleased to know that I am still learning lessons dating back to Sunday School. I think. In any case, I’ve felt much freer of that discouragement since getting this message. I know too well that keeping my eye on the horizon rather than on whatever’s raging or nagging or nipping at my heels is easier said than done sometimes. But now there’s a clearer image of that outstretched hand—or hands—and the seemingly miraculous calm that accompanies moving toward it or them. It leaves me so much less to worry about . . . so much more to step faithfully toward . . . and all that leaves me/Them stepping much more lightly and feeling for the moment, reassuringly complete.