A first-time skydiver learns to live in the moment, going from panic to peace | PostIndependent.com

A first-time skydiver learns to live in the moment, going from panic to peace

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times

"Your chances of dying are higher eating peanuts," Roaring Fork Skydivers owner Jeremy Divan assured me.

"Or sitting under a palm tree," Ronnie Shuman, the company's videographer, added.

"Peanuts, on average, kill 100 people per year," Divan said. "Coconuts kill 300. Skydiving kills 20."

But I wasn't afraid of dying. I was afraid of jumping.

Forty minutes later, I'm 8,000 feet above ground, 14,000 feet above sea level — higher than Mount Sopris and level with Capital Peak — freefalling 120 mph, and the first words I can scream are, "Can we go again?"

A simple piece of advice from Shuman brought me from my state of panic to peace.

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"Do you know what it means to be present?" he asked.

"Yes," I nodded.

"Good," Shuman said. "Because when you're up in the plane getting ready to jump, you're going to feel a million things you've never felt, all at once. … But if you can just let yourself be in the moment — and enjoy that moment — that's what it's about."

Shuman and Divan would know — Shuman's jumped out of a plane more than 250 times, while Divan's totaled over 8,000 jumps with more than 333 days of his life freefalling.

"I went once and that was it — I just couldn't stop. My first jump was March 18, 1999," Divan said.

"Since then, I've been around the world — Europe, Mexico, Australia for three years. Skydiving has taken me to some of the most beautiful places I've ever been. … The opposite of the Marine Corps, which has sent me to some of the armpits of the world," Divan said.

Divan said his second most thrilling experience, next to jumping out of planes, was being deployed and fighting in the first Gulf War.

"I was in Somalia when 'Black Hawk Down' happened. That's pretty intense stuff."

After hanging up his Marine uniform and skydiving for companies across the globe, Divan started his own business, Independent Skydive Co. in Boulder, where he jumped for three years prior to opening Roaring Fork Skydivers in Glenwood Springs last June.

"One of the most important parts of this job is learning how to calm people who are terrified," Divan said. In his 16 years of experience, Divan said he's only had five people refuse to jump once they reached the sky — Three of which were back when he was a rookie. "Now I know how to fool you guys and get you out of the airplane without you even noticing," he smiled, adding that he's "seen it all: kicking, crying, screaming and even urinating."

Fortunately, my fall involved none of the above, and though it was my first time skydiving, it will not be my last.

"It changes your life. … Once you get down from the sky, you realize all the little B.S. you worry and stress about really doesn't matter. You're here a short time, gone a long time," Divan said.

Shuman emphasized: "We're only here for a short time on Earth. Might as well enjoy it while you're here. And nothing else makes you feel more alive – that's for sure."