Where Does Your Wanderlust Take You? "Life on the Edge"
~ By Jeff Liffmann
I was 4 or 5 years old and irrationally obsessed with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Obsessed to the point of thinking that I too was a Ninja Turtle despite being a decade away from being teenage and many evolutions past being reptilian. Nonetheless, I had the confidence and sense of adventure of those cool, pizza-eating heroes in a half shell. On this eventful day, I had a friend over for a playdate and we were, of course, pretending to be ninja turtles. This entailed climbing on the stone wall that at its highest point was probably 10 feet above my steep driveway. I had no fear because I knew that if I were to fall, my hard shell would protect me. Well, I stepped on one loose stone, fell to the driveway, and came to the sad realization that I was, in fact, not a Ninja Turtle. The stitch count in my head reach the teens.
I like telling this story for many reasons - self-deprecating humor, nostalgia - but mostly because it shows that my fascination with heights goes back a long time. And it didn’t diminish after that potentially traumatic experience.
In the summer of 2008, I was living in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I had moved there that winter to live the life of a ski bum, teaching skiing and working in a restaurant, all to be able to afford myself the experience of getting to the top of the mountain every day. Summers in Colorado are absolutely majestic and allow even the most amateur outdoorsman the opportunity to hike to unimaginable heights. I had heard of a hike called Devil’s Causeway, a hike about an hour out of town in an area called the Flat Top Mountains. I decided to take my first hike to the Causeway alone. I took all the necessary precautions, letting people know where I was going, signing into the National Forest registry when I began hiking, and bringing appropriate clothes, water, and food. The hike itself isn’t that long, but by the end it is pretty grueling. A long set of switchbacks finally culminate on top of one of these flat topped mountains and leads you to a natural rock bridge, Devil’s Causeway. The bridge is made of massive, uneven boulders, and at its narrowest point it is just 4 feet wide. On either side of the bridge is a 1,000 foot drop straight down. I had heard these facts before and worried that I wouldn’t be brave enough to cross when I came to it in person. When that moment came, all fear left me. I set my digital camera to video mode, put it down on a rock, and more or less ran across the bridge. I came back, picked up the camera, and did it again while snapping photos along the way. I walked to one of the edges, set my camera down again, put on a timer, and snapped one of my favorite photos of me sitting with my legs dangling over the 1,000 foot edge. In the back of my mind, I knew that a sudden gust of wind or a wrong step could be the end of me. But I felt invincible, free, and totally in control of my destiny while staring into a deep valley of Colorado beauty.
Later that summer, my grandparents came to visit me. I had been complaining that my back was hurting from long double work shifts that started at 6AM at Steamboat Lake Marina and ended at midnight after a shift at a sushi restaurant. At the end of the trip, my grandparents left me $200 to treat myself to a nice massage (I hadn’t discovered yoga yet). A few days after they left, I decided that instead of getting a massage, I would use the money to treat my body to an experience I had always dreamed of, jumping out of a plane. My friend and sushi co-worker, Joseph, and I finished our shift one night and drove to Denver. We tried to sleep for a few hours, but our excitement wouldn’t let us. We drove to Longmont the next morning, showed up at the jump school without an appointment, and an hour or so later we were in the plane. Just like at Devil’s Causeway, I had always wondered whether I would have the courage to make the jump when the door opened. But when that moment came, I nearly dragged my tandem partner out the hatch. The following minute of freefall was unlike anything I had ever experienced. True bliss, true freedom, flying 10,000 feet above ground. When I landed, my back pain was a thing of the past. I had the jump videotaped and had the DVD mailed to my Grandparents to say thanks. They had no idea I had done this until the package arrived at their house.
My life over the past 3 months has embodied that spirit and brought me to some of the highest highs of my life. I hiked to the Fisherman’s Tower in Moab, UT and had a stranger snap a photo of me doing some one-legged balance next to the edge. I stopped and talked to two random motorcyclists on the side of the road, high above the Oregon Coast. And I spent a beautiful morning in Miami on the 40th floor balcony belonging to a new friend named Brian who let me stay with him only hours after meeting me at a yoga party.
Each time I reach this high vantage point, it’s as if my normal brain turns off and a fantasy brain turns on. I have trouble truly describing what happens to me at these moments, but it’s a combination of accomplishment, amazement, wonder, and beautiful uncertainty. I like to live my life this way, on the edge, not quite sure of how I got there or what lies ahead, in the moment, and free.
~ Jeff Liffmann is a musician who focuses on creating a unique and improvised atmosphere for the yoga studio. Using various keyboards, drums, and guitar, Jeff creates a completely live musical soundscape weaves seamlessly with the energy and flow of the yoga studio. He is on the road indefinitely and committed bringing his practice to yogis far and wide. You can check him out at www.jeffliffmann.com and at two exciting events with Wanderlust Austin this weekend! Saturday and Sunday with Gioconda at her Revive Yourself class.