Monday, March 14, 2011

Still On My Tristram Shandy Hobby Horse…

…yes, balance; perhaps because it is so elusive, there one moment and gone the next.

A couple of weeks ago, after a gorgeous run on the coastal trail of the Marin headlands across the bridge from San Francisco, I returned to childhood for an exhilarating half hour—my first time on a slackline. That is, a tightrope-like piece of webbing, easily secured around two nicely spaced trees; and, in my case, low to the soft, grassy ground. To even place my first foot on the slackline the initial few times caused uncontrollable shaking. At first I thought, this is impossible. Never happening for me. Only by dint of extreme presence, concerted focus, and, of course, relaxed letting go (and there’s the rub, of course), was I able to still my foot on the line and even, for a moment, bring my other foot to the line, for a tentative first step.

I felt like I was on the verge of total combustion. To be so there, in that moment of balance, was exquisite…and completely unsustainable…for now.

Because if you’re like me, once we get beyond those first delirious moments of learning something new, and being 100% present to the learning experience, our inner critic comes knocking again. Hey, let me in. Don’t leave me standing on the stoop. Wearily, we open the door. And in bustles Agnes (that’s the new name I’ve given my inner critic), just bristling like the village gossip, dying to tell us how things really are. You can’t…that’s waaay over your head…

Makes a girl want to put her fingers in her ears and chant, blah, blah, blah, I’m not listening. Practice self-compassion. First step—close the door in Agnes’ face (you don’t even have to be polite about it, because I know how much we all like to be polite). Letting Agnes horn in on our fun is not balanced.

I’ve been slacklining a couple more times so far. Once on a grey and rainy Sunday morning alone, in a near-empty park; and the world looked rosier afterward. Once with my partner, which reminded me of what a treat it is to just play with a friend, no agenda. Agnes isn’t allowed to come. And as a consequence, I enjoy slacklining enormously. The dance of finding balance in my physical being is a rush—I took five whole steps on Saturday—and I find that I carry the feeling with me for at least the rest of the day; the feeling that everything is more balanced in life in general. Not to mention the feeling that there are so many new things out there to explore.

Balance can be acquired—through patience and practice, in our bodies and in our minds. How fortunate!