Updated: Jan 3, 2021
...but trust me, you're better off for it!
At this point in my slacklining journey I have not had the opportunity to practice indoors, so my opinion on this matter is knowingly biased. With that said, I hope to one day soon have the opportunity to slackline indoors as I want to experience my intimate practice within the container of a studio (preferably a yoga studio or some place that feels sacred and home, like Renew in Petaluma).
Anyways, let’s get into this as most slackliners initial experience with slacklining is in the great outdoors...greatness ranging anywhere from a public park to a National Park, such as Yosemite, which is considered to be the birthplace of modern day slacklining.
I myself stepped up on my first slackline at McNear Park in Petaluma. I recall the fear and anxiety I experienced as I noticed the onlookers and curious folks in the park surrounding us. This was something I noticed for some time, and intentionally wove in this part of my experience into my Master’s research study; how practicing outdoors, in public, forced me to face my insecurities that arose with every time I fell. I felt vulnerable and inadequate and at times defeated and hopeless. I had battled with control over my body for years and this constant falling in the beginning, having to figure out how to flow and move in this new way, had me feeling out of control and messy. And how could I be all of that around strangers…
Well, first of all, I made a commitment to study my own experience with slacklining for my degree, and my only option for practice was outside, so it was either change my topic and give up, or carry on. And carry on I did…
As I said, I felt vulnerable at first. The first time I set up on my own I felt embarrassed, almost, because I was unsure about what I was doing, that I had to look up on Youtube to remind myself of what my brother taught me. I know there is nothing wrong with this; this was just my internal dialogue at the time..no matter how healed I am of my eating disorder, I accept that I will likely always have these moments of insecurity and self-doubt. What is important here is that I worked through the feelings of discomfort, and awareness of my self imposed thoughts that I was inadequate or less than because I didn’t really know what I was doing...I look back on that now and I can recall these feelings bubbling up several more times...and guess what, they still do, especially when I set up in new places or with more experienced slackliners. And I expect that I will continue to have moments where I feel this way, and I welcome them. Gritting my teeth and feeling resistant, I do my best to allow the inner neurotic chatter of my ego flow through me and not define my state of being.
Just today I was aware of these insecure waves of words forming into thoughts, bombarding my focus with overly concerned notions about the outside world...and suddenly I breathe in and I can focus completely on what's in front of me, in me, around me, energy generating through me and I’m ok holding it all. I spin around and see a man with his dog and wonder, “is that person staring, do they think I’m weird, where does he live......”
“There are so many cars on this road...is that the same lady that walked by earlier...I heard someone say ‘slackline.’”
I smile….and then back to my breath, my muscles flexing from my toes, up my legs, into my belly and out through my open chest; I am fluid and free and yet grounded and controlled. I can dance and breathe into resistance and notice my body guiding my next move. Not my mind, like the part of my mind that is chattering away; the intelligence and intuitive nature of my body is activated.
... Sometimes I will jump down and think “What the fuck did I just go through there...holding all of that and moving and dancing, and notcing the layers of my own consciousness unfold.” I had some out of body yet fully immersed experience. How did that happen?
In the beginning of my practice, and during times of high stress, I get stuck in my head and struggle to connect within. I remind myself that this is ok, and normal, and I need to allow the time to fully arrive into the practice and into the present. Practicing out in public where there is so much unpredictability and chaos, not knowing who might strike up a conversation, and what will pull my attention out of my body to my surroundings is important, and beneficial. The lack of silence and stillness is deafening at first, and just like other meditation practices, quieting your mind and finding moments of calm takes time, practice, persistence, and patience. I’ve found that training outside has provided me with the perfect recipe for equanimity and resilience. I like to compare to the eye of a storm; calm and still, going with the flow of course and connected to the exterior, yet the energy is different.
Excerpt from my Thesis - 2/06/16 I’m noticing how much the environment shapes my experience. As I spend more time here (at the park), I grow in relationship to my surroundings. Kids leave, more birds, less sun. My experience with the space grows with the changing relationship I’m developing with my body. Everything shifts. I find that I can be more present. The environment impacts my relationship to my body. The image of the center of a tornado comes to mind, be still even when chaos ensues. I know I can do this work and carry it within my being out into the world.
Practicing outside has strengthened my ability to quickly adapt and remain calm and collected under pressure. I am more adept at dealing with ambiguity and, although I still experience stress and anxiety, I have the skills to navigate how those stressors land in my body. Slacklining outside has made it so regardless of what I am stepping into, I know I can take the moments I need to center my Self in order to remain grounded and present. This is something that has served me in much of my life off the line, and for that I am forever grateful.
We cannot know peace without conflict.
We cannot know balance without imbalance.
We need the opposing forces in our life.
We need something to push up against.
Don’t avoid discomfort, embrace it, move through it. You will be a better person for it.
2/06/16 My Vessel
You carry me and I you
With each gentle step, I become aware of you
You beautiful decorated flesh
Take me where I fear to go
Show me where I fall
As I fall, I grow