Updated: Nov 10, 2020
WHAT SLACKERS KNOW
I’m guessing that you think you know what I mean by “Slackers”, but you are probably off the mark. I’m not talking about people who procrastinate or are lazy. Nor am I talking about the people who use the Slack app. I’m talking about people who know how to walk on a slackline. A slackline is a piece of flat woven fabric that you suspend just slightly above the ground between two points (normally trees trunks) and then tighten so you can walk on it for fun. Slacklining was typically used by rock climbers to teach themselves balance, focus and finding their center of gravity.
The interesting thing about slacklining is that someone who is good at it makes it look so easy. “I can probably do that,” you think to yourself when you first see it. Then you get up on the line, with the help of a friend, and find yourself back on the ground within a split second. Like anything else worth learning, it simply takes time, practice and failure.
What I find so instructive about learning to slackline is that the effort quickly transforms into a profound meditation practice. When you are learning the art of slacklining, the chattering mind is quickly pushed aside while the bodily sensation of swinging, swaying, and losing one’s balance occupy every bit of your thinking. Of course, there are all the usual thoughts like, “I’m never gonna get this.” “This is impossible.” “I’m such a klutz,” and the usual noise that goes through our heads when we try to do something new and difficult. But for those who persist, something quite magical starts to happen.
You start to notice that there is a mysterious place inside of your body that has an intelligence of its own about how to move and keep in balance. The genuinely spiritual part of this understanding is that it doesn’t come from the rational mind – it comes through a feeling. When you notice that feeling, you gradually learn to trust it and not the voice inside that tends to chatter so incessantly.
After even just a few tries, you start to get a physical sense of how to make adjustments to minimize the swaying, take a few steps forward, and find a rhythm in the energetic nature of that simple act of putting one foot in front of the other. For those moments, nothing else in your life matters. There is an evolution of learning about the dynamic nature of equilibrium, balance and centering. It points away from the idea that so many of us have that being centered, or awakened, or enlightened is about finding some place where there is no more active engagement; that it is simply a static place of peace and quiet.
I like to think that the state of awakening, like walking a slackline, is a very dynamic place, full of constant adjustments to deal with the vagaries and vicissitudes of life, where we instinctively adjust to the internal wisdom of our center of spiritual gravity, and stay in harmony.
When we first start to see that with less noise in our heads, less interference, then the energetic foundation of life starts to be more evident and life becomes a little bit easier. There are less of the dramatic ups and downs. But that ebb and flow never leaves us. The difference for the Slacker, is that they learn to play with that ebb and flow, with that back and forth of the line, with the loss and regain of balance in every dynamic action that is part of the game on the line.
What the Slacker knows is that everybody is on the line; every life is full of wobbles and uncertainties, but when you listen to the feeling inside that points you clearly in the right direction at every present moment, the walk across the line can be a dance, a game, a beautiful expression of the amazing intelligence of humans to find center in any circumstance. And when they fall off…they don’t judge or criticize themselves; they don’t think that somehow they are broken because they fell, and they don’t blame the web or the observers or the tree for their experience. They just get back up on the line and give it another go.
This is where the beauty of human mastery comes into play. As we learn to watch the sway of our own lives, the ways that we lose our balance and forget our center, and then jump back in again, the process gets easier, more fluid and life becomes more playful. There are some people who are so good at this on the slackline they can jump in the air, spin around, land on their bottom, fly back up, land on their feet again, and laugh at the joy in the play of such antics.
We all have that capability in our lives. Not necessarily to slackline, but to become ever more attuned to the ups and downs, the side to side sway of life, the ways in which, when we are completely present in the moment, we can instinctively adjust to those momentary shifts and come back to center. That is what the masters do, and that is the birthright of all human beings. The energetic foundation of life, when we get more and more attuned to it, will free us to experience its unbroken boundlessness.