Saturday, January 22, 2011

Walkin' the High Wire

Recently, my husband and I watched the documentary Man on Wire, which recounts the true story of Philippe Petit’s 1974 feat~~walking the space between the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers on a high wire.

Much of the film focuses on the details of Petit and his ragtag crew of accomplices developing and carrying through their plot to sneak nearly a ton of equipment and themselves onto the buildings’ rooftops. However, the movie soars when Petit begins his walk.

Petit’s personality~~driven, self-absorbed, at times abrasive~~completely disappears. His face transforms as he stands erect at roof’s edge, dressed entirely in black, holding his 26~foot balancing pole. Slowly, Petit extends a leg. His foot, enveloped in thin ballet shoes, reaches out, feels for the wire. Tentatively, some weight is given. And then, Petit commits. Back foot joins front upon the narrow wire, and he walks.

Looking straight ahead, fully absorbed, completely focused, he is a study in intentionality. He walks one quarter of a mile above concrete, balanced on a cable 7/8 of an inch thick that sways and bounces in the wind. Talk about your one~pointed meditation!

Petit walks forward. He walks backward. He turns, kneels, lies down. And as he moves with grace and an astonishing inner stillness, the wind continues to whip between the Towers, blowing hair, buffeting that small wire that holds him.

The immediacy of the filming captivated me. I was there with him, mesmerized, sharing a bit of his experience.

The image of this narrow cable reaching across a chasm has stayed with me. When my day is more hectic than usual, I see this wire and know it is mine to walk. Though the wind howls and seems intent on knocking me off, if I can muster just the smallest fragment of Petit’s concentrated energy, I too can maintain my balance, a balance that appropriately shifts as conditions change.

Petit uses a balancing pole. We have ours as well. Our poles are made of the spiritual teachings of Christ and Buddha, of saints and sages, of earth~based religions. They are imbued with all the love and all the harm we’ve ever received, the loveliest of gifts and the hardest of lessons.

Woven through these poles, too, are all those committed to their own wire~walking. We steady one another and our very existence is a hand up when one of us falls.

And our poles carry, too, the memories of all our mishaps~~the ones in which we fell flat on our faces and the ones in which we managed to hook a foot or finger over the wire just in the nick of time, narrowly avoiding a crash. These experiences continue to teach us to find and better hold our center.

Learning to maintain balance, on days calm or blustery, is our task. Leaning neither too far right or left, forward or backward, we increase our harmonious movements in this wire~walking life of ours.

One of Petit’s signature moves is the knee salute. Gracefully, one knee bends while the other sinks to touch the wire. As back arches slightly, an arm sweeps toward to the sky. Face tilts upward. What a tribute~~body, mind, heart and spirit shining forth, reverently, as one! Such beauty! Such joy!

We each walk our own wire. We fall often, for through falling we learn to better hold a dynamic balance. And by bringing grace, joy, and clear intention to our individual walks, we too salute the heavens.

Walk with grace!

Loanne Marie

P.S. You can watch a lovely animated short about Petit's high wire walk here~~ The Man Who Walked Between The Towers.

P.P.S. I'm putting the final touches on a 2~CD offering, Seeds For Your Garden. This CD set is intended for beginning meditators and offers information, addresses myths and misconceptions about meditation, and contains several short guided meditations from a variety of traditions. I'll post more about it on this page when it's ready for sale, hopefully sometime in the next 4~6 weeks. Stay tuned!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Return to the Still Point

Whew! We’ve made it through another December, and the frenzy has finally come to an end.

Religious observances have drawn to a close. Another solstice has come and gone, as has the meteor shower and lunar eclipse which made this last one so spectacular. The advertising blitz is done. Potlucks and family gatherings are back to accustomed frequencies. Wrapping paper has gone to the recycling bin, and the hoopla of New Year’s eve is behind us.

It’s January, the month that comes after. Dark and often bitterly cold, January seems to encourage us to turn inward, to quiet ourselves after so much ado.

Let us return, then, to the still point, right here, right now. As you read these words~~
~~Feel the rise of chest or belly as your lungs fill with sweet air. Just as attentively, note the sensations as the breath releases on the exhale.
~~Observe the quality of light streaming through the window or radiating from an electric bulb. Become aware of gradations of color in the objects occupying your field of vision.
~~Notice the sounds that come your way as vibrations funnel into your ear canal, setting in motion the delicate apparatus of the inner ear.
~~Become attuned to your body in space. Notice skin brushing against clothing, resting on furniture.
~~Take a moment, as life~giving oxygen travels throughout your body and as carbon dioxide is gathered up and released, to marvel at a process as amazing as all this.
~~And notice, too, that you are settling into the still point.

Activities come and they go. Emotions and thoughts rise up and drift away. The still point, though, remains always. It exists independent of our awareness. Yet, when we consciously turn toward it, settle into it, it feels like coming home. For where else would home be? Certainly not in the hubbub that usually claims our attention. No, our true home is within this still center.

The world’s religions offer techniques to help us return here. Meditation, prayer, sacred dance, yoga and ritual are all designed for just this purpose. It is here, as we let go of all our mental and emotional machinations, that we can most easily, most fully, open to the Infinite. As author Alan Cohen puts it, “If you want to find God, hang out in the space between your thoughts.”

While the Divine permeates every facet of existence, the still point within us is the clearest access point, our doorway. When we enter there, we are poised for deep communion with that which transcends and infuses, that which endures. Engaged in such contact, we become steeped in an energized restfulness. We can then return to our lives renewed, able to joyfully do what’s ours to do.

T. S. Elliot wrote, “Except for the point, the still point, there would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” Our lives and the world itself are expressions of that glorious ballet. But as any dancer will tell you, the beauty of our individual dance rests on an ability to hold the still point. As we return to stillness again and again, we become more adept at maintaining a vibrant balance. We can then delight in gracefully and creatively dancing the steps that are uniquely ours.

Still point and dance, Yin and Yang~~complementary forces enunciating the whole.

The midpoint ever awaits. It’s right here, as you breath in, right here as you breathe out. Now, from this still point, dance the rest of your day. In the dark and cold of January, dance! Throughout the coming year, dance! Hold the still point~~and dance, dance, dance!!!

Loanne Marie