My Daughter Was Hanging Off a Cliff & I Didn’t Pull Her Up: Here’s Why

After everything that happened that day what I remember most is the feeling of peace. What could have been the worst day of my life was transformed into my best.

Pinnacles National Park is just outside of San Jose, California. The mountainous area is a popular place for camping and hiking. But that hot summer afternoon no one was there except me, my wife and four children. It was as if the rest of the world was quiet and still; like all the elements – earth, water, metal, wood and fire – were balanced and singing in silent harmony.

My family, on the other hand, was loud and active. We were celebrating my daughter Sabreena’s last few days at home before she left for college. She was 18, happy and dressed like the rest of us – t-shirt, shorts, flip-flops. None of us had water or a flashlight as we walked along the hiking path leading to the park’s most famous cave.

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As we left the bright clearing of the picnic area into the cool shade of the ancient oaks, California condors, a kind of vulture, soared above us. I remember the sound of my children’s laughter bouncing off the trees and rocks as they raced ahead, my wife chasing after them.

And then Sabreena vanished.

A scream and the sounds of rock falling into space.

My baby girl, my eldest daughter, had somehow slipped into a talus cave, an opening between two giant boulders. Each boulder was as tall as a 10-storey building!

With my wife and other children out of sight and no longer within earshot, it was just me and my daughter and the gnawing anxiety that what was happening was about to get much, much worse.

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Sabreena was sobbing and begging that I not leave her. Pebbles and gravel rolled out from under her. I never heard one of those rocks hit the cave floor.

If Sabreena fell, how far would she fall?

I anchored my feet and body so I could pull her up with all my might. I’m a strong guy and pulling my 110-lb daughter to safety was not going to be a problem.

“If you pull her, she will fall.”

A crystal clear voice from within guided me to choose peaceful intuition over brute-force instinct.

“If you pull her, she will fall.

Let Sabreena find her footing.”

Imagine your most joyful moment, best meditation, prettiest sunset. Now imagine feeling those positive emotions while watching your child dangle from a cliff’s edge. Seems wrong, doesn’t it? Yet in the moment my daughter needed me most – she needed me to save her life – I was fully present and peaceful.

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I knew that if Sabreena fell, I would fall with her. There was no way my daughter was going to fall from that height alone.

Crawling along that jagged ledge with vultures above me and Sabreena’s whimpered cries below me, I was in the most peaceful place I could ever imagine. Dying—or living—didn’t matter; I could accept whatever happened. From that pure peaceful place came the wisdom to act effectively and without panic.

I reached down, Sabreena grabbed my arm and started regaining her footing. She was literally walking up the side of the boulder.

Every time I was tempted to rush the process and pull her up, my inner voice warned, “This looks like the way, but it is not the way.”

“If you pull her, she will fall.”

After what seemed like an eternity, Sabreena was safe and above ground.

“I almost died down there, didn’t I?” she asked in a quiet, startled voice.

A day that started out as a celebration of Sabreena’s new life at college ended as a near-death experience for both of us.

What could have been a tragic and brutal accident was in fact a blessing that continues to enrich and shape my life. My relationship with my daughter was transformed; today we both know what unconditional love feels like.

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The indescribable peace of pure surrender, pure acceptance has stayed with me. I believe that peacefulness is Universal Intelligence, God, Source – whatever word you use to describe the sweet mystery of life.

Happily, you don’t have to fall off a cliff and into a cave to achieve enlightenment!

Today my commitment to Qigong, self-healing through gentle breaths and gentle movements – think “yoga” but easier and more powerful – is richer and deeper. When clients leave my practice free from pain and fear, I believe they’ve accessed their own inner healing, their own inner voice that knows the way back to perfect safety, well-being and joy.

The voice that saved me and my daughter is within you.

Listen deeply, move mindfully, breathe lovingly.

You’ll pull yourself out of the crevice and off the ledge.

When you tune in to your inner wisdom, you do fall… you fall in love with life.

{Image credit: Pixabay}


About the Author

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Chris Shelton is a certified practitioner and teacher with 15 years of clinical experience in Qigong, an ancient holistic health modality that combines traditional Chinese medicine with movement, breath and visualization. He’s helped thousands of people across the United States and around the world reclaim their health and enjoy lives free from chronic pain. Chris has worked with Special Olympics teams, professional martial artists, weight lifters and celebrities looking for deeper meaning in their lives. Chris’ belief in the healing powers of Qigong is rooted in first-hand experience. As a teenager he suffered from a devastating back injury that left him in constant pain and partially paralyzed. He attributes his full recovery to Qigong, a holistic approach perfect for people who want non-invasive, affordable and empowering healthcare.Chris’ work has appeared in newspapers and magazines and been featured on radio and television. He is founder of Morning Crane Healing Arts Center in San Jose, California, and the author of Qigong for Self-Refinement. Chris is often found chasing after his favorite herd of turtles: his wife, four kids and one grandkid. His second book, Ancient Medicine, Modern Miracles: Tools for Healing, Eliminating and Preventing Disease, is currently being read by publishers.

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