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Slacklining as a Mindfulness Practice

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Hey there, I'm Eleanor, AKA "El," and this is my blog...dedicated to exploring embodiment practices, being in a body, being conscious, Depth Psychology topics and so much more...

So here goes my first post--why slacklining as a mindfulness practice? How exactly did I stumble upon this gem of a 'sport?'

One day after work back in 2015, my brother Michael invited me to try out slacklining. At the time I maintained a regular home yoga practice, however had only heard of slacklining through him and his good friend, Corbin Kunst. Although I was apprehensive and nervous (Michael had invited me several times previously and I declined), I showed up, took off my shoes, stretch, and followed his instruction:

"Let's start with your dominant leg. And I'll hold your hand for the first few times."

I placed my right foot on the line, toes facing the tree, the ball of my foot and heel centered on this 2 inch wide, red, flat piece of material that swayed and vibrated in the breeze...and even more so when I started to sink my weight into my leg. The line started to shake like crazy! My stomach dropped, I let go of his hand as I stepped my leg down:

"No way, man. This is scary, crazy how much its moving. There is no way I am going to be able to do this."

...I can still feel that self-doubt and bewilderment for this practice in my gut as I recollect this now. I can taste the fear, the resistance, the eagerness to gain this skill, to be that in tune with my body and my mind.

I struggled for a few more moments with the fear of falling, and failing, and being super uncoordinated and imbalanced, which is the narrative I had been telling myself my whole life: I was disembodied, disconnected, and although I tried for years with exercising and controlling my weight with food restriction (I am a recovered bulimic/anorexic), I never truly knew myself. So, engaging in an activity that required me to be completely in my body was daunting. But that fear didn't stop me.

I held out my hand to my brother and he coached me through stepping up onto the line, and guided me as I took my first steps on the slackline. I wobbled, and expressed my instability, through every step I attempted to take.

"The shakiness will go away eventually, with practice," he said. "That's just your micro muscles waking up."

We walked all the way to one end of the line, roughly 20 ft, and I hopped down.

My whole body vibrated. I was experiencing muscles activated that I had fell out of awareness of, corners of my being that had become dormant over the years, and years of mistreatment and abuse by my own hand. At that moment I stepped through a portal to a whole other way of being, one that demanded presence, patience, and mindfulness.

I watched as my brother gracefully hopped up on the line and took a few steps with ease. I was stunned and awestruck that he could move in such a way that reflected the complete opposite of what I had just endured not seconds ago. His posture was stacked, feet and legs strong and stable; his core seemed unwavering as his arms moved fluidly back and forth, helping him come back to center, as he explained later. I observed how the slackline responded to his movements, in which he was required to re calibrate movements to find equilibrium, like a dance with himself that reflected the present moment.

"Ok, I'm in," I said. "Tell me where to start, I want to be able to do what you are doing."

I could tell by the look on his face that he knew I was going to enjoy this. I don't think at the time though he knew just how much this activity, this unfolding mindfulness practice would so immensely change my life.

"Start with just getting comfortable with stepping up on to the line," he demonstrated.

So I took followed his lead and mimicked just what he showed me and practiced just that, stepping up...which eventually led to taking one step, and one more after that. After weeks of practice, including days of straight hours just stepping up, falling off (A LOT), I managed to walk across my first slackline, which felt like such a victory in my own body. For the first time, in maybe even decades, I felt in tune with my body. I managed to step further into my Self rather than the usual outside of my self, which was a reality I lived in for years. Slacklining, as well as many aspects of yoga, helped me to truly come into my body with openness and honesty, with all of my messiness and humanity, and have since taught me how to engage in the present moment and go with the flow.

...AND, most importantly, to love my body, my mind, my heart, and my soul in this current state of embodiment.

And so, here we are today, 2019 and 4 years since I received my first slackline, and I couldn't be more grateful to those who came before me in this practice, as well as those who will choose to embark in this amazing mindfulness and self-exploration journey with me.

...Once we start to wake up to our true selves, it's almost impossible to go back and live in the shadow. Instead, let the shadow live through you, in all of its lightness and darkness, and welcome the ever flowing unfolding.

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