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Mindful : October 2014
The first time I jumped toward my skydiving license, I jumped out of a large plane with 23 people. It had a nice, wide door. All I had to do was walk to the doorway with two instructors gripping hold of me. Then I gave the count; “1, 2, 3,” and I was off. It went well. The second jump was different. A lot of the drop zones—that’s what skydiving areas are called—use smaller planes. For my second jump I was in a four-seater 182 Cessna. That scared the living daylights out of me. The first instructor climbed out on to the strut of the plane, then I climbed out and hung on until the second instruc- tor came out. Then I did the count and jumped. For me, hanging on the strut of a plane, 12,000 feet above the ground, was maybe the most frightened I’ve ever been. Now the Cessna is one my favorite planes and I love climbing out on the strut. It’s a little uncomfortable with four people in a cramped space and it’s slow—it takes 35 to 40 minutes to get to 10,000 feet. But it’s worth every single minute when you jump. Starting Something Extraordinary I started the sport when I was teaching at a state university. It was a very tough semester; professors were sick and there were some very disruptive students. One day I walked out of the school and I thought, I need to do something extraor- dinary to take the edge off. I looked up at the sky, and said to myself, OK, I’m going to get my skydiving license. That was the beginning of the beginning. I’ve completed 151 jumps. Although some people do that many jumps in three or four months, I’m not able to do it as often. Free-falling is Really Flying Skydiving is nothing but excitement. Part of that is ner ves—if someone tells you they’re not ner vous before a jump, they’re lying. It’s something so unnatu- ral, so unusual. But once you’re out there, you hear the wind and your own thoughts—and noth- ing but. It’s a feeling of utter freedom. Free-falling is really flying. It’s the only way I can describe it. If you’re falling in belly-to-earth position, with your arms stretched out in front and your legs stretched out behind, you’ll reach a speed of around 125 mph. But you can skydive in many different positions a nd a ngles. Once you jump, you pay attention to everything. How attentive you are directly relates to if you sur vive the jump or not. You have to look at the people around you. When you’re coming together for maneuvers, you have to pay attention to how you fly your body. When you open the parachute and do turns toward the landing area, you have to keep your eye out for fellow skydivers or potential obstacles, like birds. You look all around you until you’re on the ground, for your safety and for others. And when you land, you want to go right back up again! Even after 151 jumps, I’m an absolute beginner at this. With every single jump I realize I have so much more to learn. ● October 2014 mindful 25