Monday, May 24, 2010

Slacklining Epiphanies

As Scott and I were skinning up from Ophir the other day, we fell into a rhythm and stopped talking. My mind wandered, as it usually does, and I watched it land on a thought about slack-lining.

I had taken the slack-line to the park in Telluride the previous afternoon, and I found myself trying to explain to a 13 year old boy who had joined us, how to accept with his feet that he needed to accept that the line wanted to move if he wanted it to be quiet.

Back on Ophir, listening to my skis slide like a metronome, I looked up at the cornice we were skinning toward, and imagined having the grace and the confidence to launch off of it into the bowl below in a huge arcing air.

In my mind, I was flying in slow motion, feet pulled up under me, hands floating out in front. I watched the trajectory of my body be pulled by gravity to align with the slope below.

Freeze frame. Suddenly, these two thoughts lined up for me.

When I walk successfully on a slack-line, I feel like the line is like a cradle under my foot. I feel like I am replacing the one foot I am standing on with the next foot, into the cradle of support. I feel that I am rolling off of one foot and placing the other into this soft webbing, and the feel of the webbing is different than the feeling of the earth.

Reaching for the feeling of my foot swaying gently, feeling the air underneath it, feeling the webbing from toe to heel is the thing that makes me feel connected, solid and balanced.

Reaching for the feeling of trying to be in balance on this thin thing that is moving, and does not feel the way that I feel when I am in balance standing on one foot on the ground, makes me feel like I am constantly about to loose my balance. Wishing that standing on the line felt like standing on the earth pulls my focus away from the reality that standing on the line is DIFFERENT than standing on the earth.

I had chosen to stand on that line, because I wanted to be up there. Wanting to be up there needed to include loving all of the aspects of being up there. Not just the success of being able to balance on something that is moving, not just the idea of being in balance enough to walk across it, but in love with the actual whole experience of what it means to exist up in the air on this piece of webbing.

It means movement, of the line, of my body. It means that the world I am living in is transient, fluid, bounces and swings.

I thought about how it feels when I go off a jump on my skis when I feel great about the landing. I realized that in getting air on my skis, I need to incorporate some ideas of existing that I'm learning on the slack-line.

When I feel good in the air, I am happy to be in the air. I'm not in the air wishing I was already on the ground. I am in the air long enough to allow the force of gravity pulling me back to the earth to realign me with the angle of the slope that I'm going to land on.

I'm not reaching for the landing early, hoping that I'll come down to earth faster, because I'm accelerating in the air, and I don't want to be going this fast when I land.

I accept that the speed I gain in the air is a result of the size of the jump I've gone off of, and let the line draw itself, soft in my body, seeing the ground come up, and then meeting it, trusting that the turn will be there after contact is made, looking ahead.

For me, learning to go a little bigger needs to be about loving the time in the air, so much that I'm not afraid to stay there. So much that I'm willing to live there and feel all the sensations that are to be had on that line in between what I've jumped off and what I'm going to land on.

Just like the slack-line, just like standing up on it and honoring, in a way, what the slack-line requires in order to live up there, the jump is the same. You can't stand on the slack-line and wish it felt other than it does. You can't jump into the air and wish you were on the ground.

I feel something so simple here, I know it must sound silly, but there is this sort of acceptance piece I felt also when I was boot-packing and the wind was blowing and I was scared. That I was there, accepting, well, the wind is blowing and now you need to put your right foot higher. This is the feeling of climbing in the wind. No judgment, just presence, and curiosity, and suddenly, there is so much more time.

I'm curious if it will stick the next time I have an opportunity to jump off of something. But its been rattling around in my mind every day, and I've tested it on the line, feeling more at home, calm and walking further than I ever have, being more playful than I knew I could be, with less worry and fear. Is that because of practice or semantics or philosophy? I'll let you know when I get back from Big Air camp in June!


Juka Ribeiro said...

Awesome write up. That was very nice and I enjoyed reading your posts. I admire your strength and courage. More power to you and keep up the good work.

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Unknown said...

Thank you, Brian! I appreciate it, and thanks for reading.

Sorel said...

I like the comparison. I never thought of it that way and I am sure there are people who are fans of either or both sports, who will appreciate your analogy. We can't enjoy the moment, with something we intentionally set out to do, if we are wishing we are elsewhere.