Flying Like A Puffin

Not many people know what a puffin is. I, for one, had never heard of them before I decided to travel to Iceland earlier this year.

A puffin is a seabird of northern and Arctic waters with large heads and massive brightly colored triangular beaks. An incredibly cute little bird that reminds me of a miniature penguin. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland, drawing tons of photo enthusiasts. Probably the most photographed bird in that country.

Of course, we wanted to meet puffins in their natural surroundings when we arrived. We drove out to the grass-covered cliffs hovering perilously over the Atlantic Ocean and climbed towards the top. Hit by an unpleasantly strong wind, that was penetrating all the layers of my clothes like a hot knife cutting through butter and leaving me shivering with cold.

And there they were. Groups of puffins stand idly on the grass or try to hide in their nests, which are holes they dig in the ground. Their gait was quite peculiar. I found it fascinating.  When on land, they waddle like a penguin, teetering slightly from side to side. They looked a bit helpless. A bit lost. Cute. You just can´t help smiling and falling in love with them when you see them out there. These birds use their brightly colored feet to run clumsily across the surface of the water before take-off. And their landings are anything but graceful, typically ending in a belly-flop or comedic tumble and roll across the water’s surface. You can´t believe how clumsy the whole thing looks.

To see puffins flying was one of the most peculiar experiences in Iceland. The first time I saw a puffin take off from the cliff and dive steeply down toward the surface of the water, I was almost certain that it would not survive. The whole scene looked so hopelessly comical. My first thought was that this poor little bird would crash against the rocks on the way down, way before it reaches the water. With those wings sitting not quite in the right place, flapping frantically, its little body leaning clumsily from side to side and making strange maneuvers in mid-air riding that strong wind. I did not think it could make it alive and in one piece.

And yet, it did.

And then another puffin flew from the cliff. And then another. And then a whole flock of puffins, frantically flapping their wings and stumbling downwards in a totally uncoordinated fashion. I watched with increased fascination, not quite getting it.

How could those clumsy small creatures survive this chaotic free fall into the abyss? Because they obviously did.

The answer is: that they are equipped for it. They are birds. They just know how to do this. They know how to fly. It is programmed in their DNA. No matter if we believe they can fly or not. They simply can. Deep down inside, they know they can fly. No matter how it looks for us. They have been doing it for ages.

This inspired to me to coin a new term: “Flying like a puffin”. 

How many times in your own life have you felt scared and pulled down into a deep abyss of threatening circumstances you could not control? Or facing a difficult situation that you did not feel equipped to deal with, yet you had to go through it anyway? Just having to jump off that cliff into the unknown? Feeling alone, inadequate, clumsy, lost, not supported, misunderstood, left on your own, laughed at…? Flapping your wings frantically in mid-air trying to maintain balance, hoping you will survive the ride and find a place to land?

How many times have you had others looking at you, not believing that you could fly and would make it through this situation? How often did they withdraw their support when you most needed it?

And yet you kept on bashing your wings frantically in the middle of all that, falling down towards some sort of solid surface. Perhaps ending in a belly-flop or comedic tumble and roll. Or with a hard crash and some physical and emotional bruises. With people around you laughing or disapproving or looking the other way.

It might have looked comical. Or sad. Or tragic. Or scary. But in the end, you succeeded. You made it. And that´s all that matters. Plus all the learning you got from that situation.

You see, you were made for this. It´s in your DNA. You were meant to go through these experiences. You are meant to fly through life like a puffin. This is how you learn about Life and perfect yourself.  This is how you develop. When you face the downward fall all alone and frantically try to navigate in the strong wind with your small wings. You don´t have to be perfect or strong. You don´t have to live up to somebody else´s ideals about how to fly elegantly and be in control. Control is an illusion, anyway. You just have to be you. Do your best in every situation. No matter how inadequate it might feel. Believe me, you are a great puffin, and you are learning something important with each new flight. No matter how it looks from the outside. You are enough. That´s all you need to know. 

Allowing yourself to fly freely like a puffin is a great step towards self-acceptance and inner freedom.


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Flying Like A Puffin

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