I love meditation. But this post is not about meditation; I’ll get to that later.

This post is a cautionary tale and a case for comparison.

I will never volunteer this story to my son… And I do NOT recommend that you try this.

I studied architecture in university. Instead of whining about it, I’ll just say this: it proved challenging for a budding Type-A Personality.

At the end of first year, when the last student had presented, the last critique had been rendered, and the enthralling opiate of sleep deprivation had kicked in, some friends and I piled into a vehicle (the more anonymous the better…).

We had swimsuits and beer. One of the party (not the driver) said, “I know where the highest cliff on the Anonymous River is.” Cool. We had all been teetering on edge for weeks in studio anyway… Jumping-off sounded like the thing to do.

So we drove.

Later: vehicle parked, swimsuits on… add beer. Don’t forget about the sleep deprivation. Scramble through the woods to the clearing.

There lay the river? No. There lay rocks, an edge, and sky.

My friends busied themselves opening beers. I’d already had a couple so I walked over to The Edge. I looked down.

(A contractor told me once that I have “calibrated eyeballs”. I had judged the distance between two objects from 40 feet away, and had been off by only 1/8”. Yes, I’m bragging, but it’s also true.)

I looked down at the water, and guessed 75 feet. There were rocks, too.

I looked up at the sky, and I thought of the previous year… and all the years before that, when I had so carefully avoided unreasonable risk.

I muttered to myself, “Well, if I don’t do it now, I never will.” I leapt – eyes wide open.

Have you ever fallen so far that you had a moment to think to yourself, “Man, this is really far!” before you hit? Your arms and legs start to flap uncontrollably from the air resistance.

I landed in a pike position. It felt like dissolving into concrete. I survived.

Exhilarated, I climbed back up the cliff, and did it again. This time I landed on my side, with arms and legs flailing… (Did I mention the beer?)

Twice was enough.

A week later, I found myself still trying to hide the bruises on my legs from my parents, and starting to feel back pain at work. Finally, I went for an x-ray.

The physician called me to look at the film, and as I wondered what those tiny bits of gravel were doing around my cervical spine in the x-ray – where bones should have been – I distantly heard him say: “Frankly, I don’t know why you’re standing here. You should be dead.”

My Mom, who happened to work for the doctor in question, shot me a look that could have finished the job… if I’d made eye contact.

Thus began six weeks of physical therapy, a budding romance with a home traction device, and an introduction to a variety of meds that put the beer to shame. That’s how I spent my summer.

It was about 12 years before I began to call myself “pain-free”, and even now, 30 years later, I dare not water-slide, bungee-jump, or ski… Mountain biking is probably out of the question, too. All for about 10 minutes of fun.

So maybe it suffices to say, “Kids, don’t try this”. But for years I carried a guilty secret that I sometimes whispered to my friends when I offered to tell their teenagers the scary story.

That leap thrilled me more than anything else I had ever done in my entire life.

I hoped that I would never actually be asked to sit down with a tween or teen to talk about it, because I didn’t want to lie. Now the dilemma’s resolved because I can end the story like this:

Plummeting through 75 feet of free fall might sound fun… but if you meditate, you can get the same thrill, minus the pain and the look of death from your Mom.

It does take a little longer, though… unless you’re a Dzogchen natural. You never know unless you try.

Please don’t go cliff-jumping, unless it’s into the Great Unknown.