Slack Line, Beginner’s Mind

After 22 out 24 days of rain in St. John’s, the sun finally graced our presence for the Canada Day long weekend.  After a month of waiting, we could finally try out our new slack line.  Slack lining involves learning to walk (and eventually) do tricks on a slack line of webbing.  It was invented in the Yosemite valley by climbers who needed something to do while waiting for fingertips to heal between climbs.

I’m not sure when or where I first got the idea that I wanted to slack line but I do know that my interest was honed by a semester of Kundalini yoga practice.  Our teacher, Kliger, emphasized breathing and balance poses.  Over the course of the 12 weeks, I could feel my balance becoming stronger and more dynamic and have been looking for opportunities to push my practice.

From what I hear, balance is one of those “use it or lose it” things.  It’s also something I’ve been graced with and I’m totally enjoying pushing my balance further.  It started with a bongo board, the slack line and now a unicycle (my birthday present from Marian).  Each has had/still has a steep learning curve which reminds me of watching children learn to walk.  Small progress.  Lots of falling on my face.  And then eureka, a breakthrough to a few steps (or pedal strokes) before falling on my face again.

We have a slack line on our deck beside the container garden.  I love being able to go out and practice in small doses.  I can quit when fatigue stomps in and then head out again when energy and focus has returned.  Learning to use all of the balance trainers is very mindful and fully engaging.  The task of staying on is so tasking that there it no room for other thoughts.  It’s me and the line.

I’m enjoying the sensation/perception of “beginner’s mind” and I know it is fleeting.  Suzuki Roshi is quoted as saying,

In Japan we have the phrase shoshin, which means “beginner’s mind.” The goal of practice is always to keep our beginner’s mind. Suppose you recite the Prajna Paramita Sutra only once. It might be a very good recitation. But what would happen to you if you recited it twice, three times, four times, or more? You might easily lose your original attitude towards it. The same thing will happen in your other Zen practices. For a while you will keep your beginner’s mind, but if you continue to practice one, two, three years or more, although you may improve some, you are liable to lose the limitless meaning of original mind.

I had a small slack line breakthrough this weekend where I went from being able to barely get four steps on the line to going end to end.  Here’s a look at when it all came together:

I’m off to Europe for two weeks but already I’m eager to get home to keep practicing on the line and on one wheel.  It will be a lifetime before I can ride the one wheel on the line but heck, might as well have lofty goals.

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