What do you want, but are afraid to pursue? Perhaps it is a new career. Or the ability to speak your heart and mind, and not apologize. Perhaps you want to end a relationship to something or someone. Or you are afraid of change in general, yet desire it in your life—that taste of novelty and freshness that comes from openness—and courage. It takes courage to risk, because putting yourself out there may mean letting go of what you currently have. But even if you do want to let it go, you’d still like it more than having nothing at all. It can feel very scary to risk in this sense.
The paradox is that by not pursuing what you really want, you are also taking a risk. There is great risk in ignoring one’s intuition for a better life, for not pursuing one’s passions, for taking the ‘safe route.’ Perhaps it is the ‘safe route’ that is the riskiest of all. You could be risking your greatest potential and the expression of your deepest and richest creativity.
It seems, then, life is risk(y) either way. Albert Camus said that the most serious philosophical question is whether or not to commit suicide. Thus, paradoxically, through choosing to live we are also choosing a life of risk. Consider Friedrich Nietzsche’s tightrope walker in Thus Spoke Zarathusatra, whose very act is to affirm life through triumphantly denying death in each moment. Choosing life is choosing to risk everything, because once it’s gone there’s no risk anymore.
So the question is, “What do you really want? What do you really want to risk? Pursuing a new career may mean you lose your current one. And what if you don’t succeed? What if it doesn’t work out? This can be devastating. The bright side, however, is that because life is a journey much satisfaction comes from simply pursuing out in the world what is already a seed in your heart. Sometimes seeds do not grow, but the container of your spirit is fertile. Through honoring yourself by practicing the alignment of what you feel, say, and do, there is nothing left to do but surrender.
In surrender, the paradox deepens, as Joseph Campbell reminds us that in many ways “we must give up the life we have planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” And you may be thinking that this is a lot to hold. It is. But do not underestimate your power and resilience. For you to be here, in this moment, you must have overcame great obstacles. In thanking yourself for making it here today, what is your next move? What do you really want? What do you really want to risk?
Matthew Campeau, M.A. graduated from the Transpersonal Counseling Psychology program at Naropa University, and is an intern therapist at Maria Droste Counseling Center. With a mindfulness-based approach, he works with children and adults to help facilitate their free and responsible development. Matthew will be starting a part-time private practice this June in Boulder, CO.