What a volcano taught me about courage
I’m all about adventure. I’m also a chicken, aka a scaredy cat.
This is part one of a series of adventures I had recently while traveling in the South Pacific.
I heard the rumbling, then an explosion. The thunder was coming from somewhere deep and it was primal. The ground shook beneath me and I felt the same way I’d felt when I’d been caught in Japan’s huge earthquake in 2011 – terrified.
I wanted to run back down the way I came. I asked myself, what was I thinking?
My husband and I arrived on the remote island of Tanna in Vanuatu, an island nation in the South Pacific, to climb up to one of most active volcanos in the world.
Here was a rare opportunity to stand on what seemed like the edge of hell. But it was the unpredictability of what was happening that freaked me out the most.
I stood on the rim and peered down into the throat of the volcano, the earth coughed up blazing lava every few minutes.
As I heard another explosion, I thought, this is it, we’re all going to die now.
And I won’t ever see my granddaughters again. I felt sad but consoled myself – at least they would know that their Gran was on a great adventure when she died.
The gasses from the volcano were overpowering. I could hardly breathe through the sulfur and fumes.
The ash cloud loomed high in the air – black thick smoke billowed from the fiery vents in the earth.
My husband gasped, “I can’t breathe, I’m going back down.” Later he informed me that he felt as if he was going to pass out.
For me, I kept going. I had to.
We had paid a chunk of money for this damn adventure, driven hours over the roughest roads anywhere on the planet and were bounced to pieces in the back of a pickup truck.
I heard a familiar voice in my head say, “just bloody suck up your fear and experience this epic, once in a lifetime thing. Get over yourself.”
And with that I plunged ahead.
As I walked along the narrow path around the edge of this fierce opening in the earth, I imagined slipping down into the crevasse.
Would someone risk their own life and rescue me? How soon before I’d be hit with lava and would it kill me instantly or would I writhe in agony from burning? Would I be able to stop myself from actually falling into the red hot flames?
Who knew except the three unfortunate souls who had died here back in the 80s? Apparently they had come at a forbidden time when the level of intensity was a “3.” We were experiencing a “1” and that was plenty scary enough for me.
The other option if I fell was to go off the opposite side of the volcano. Just as you would imagine the slope up to a volcano, it was a 1,184 foot drop where I imagined I might roll down without stopping. I didn’t want to go either way, but I surely did not fancy dying in the fiery hole.
When I’m working with clients and we talk about fear, I ask them what will happen if they don’t do that certain thing they’re afraid of. We talk about how fear can paralyze and keep us from having what we want. I walk them through their worst case scenario.
This is was what I did with myself. I imagined the worst. I shrugged my shoulders after realizing the pain probably wouldn’t last very long and I’d be gone quickly.
I found my husband on a lower level, breathing normally and enjoying the volcano as the sun went down, the raw beauty of this amazing place blended into darkness and crimson red lava. I remember thinking how grateful I was that we were both okay. I began to relax and became present to my surroundings. The lava “fireworks,” the shaking, the magnitude of it all hit me as I allowed my body to feel the sensations.
I found the courage to be present
I realized that this was Mother Earth, like a dragon, roaring and shouting. This was more than powerful, more magnificent than anything I could imagine and I was standing there, alive, daring nature, wondering, fascinated and mesmerized.
I felt a reverence and appreciation for the wonder of it all. I surrendered and found my courage.
Here’s what I learned on that day by the volcano. Maybe these tips will help when you feel the grip of fear like me and it’s keeping you from doing or having something you really want.
I challenge you to decide right now to do something different:
Talk back to the voices in your head that freak out when you’re out of your comfort zone. They will take over but only if you let them.
Follow your dreams. They are your guides to help you design the kind of life you want. The dreams will help you override the fear.
Remind yourself of other moments when you’ve overcome your fear.
Finally, ask yourself – what’s the worst thing that can happen and what would I do? My guess is you’d find a way to cope.
Where in your life are you too scared to make a change?
When have you found the courage to do something scary?
I’d love to hear your stories You can share your experience here under comments.
Share this article. You may know someone who longs to follow their dreams and have adventures but holds back. This article could help, knowing that there are people like me who feel their fear and do it anyway.
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