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!


monica wood said...

Loanne, your writing just gets more and more elegant. Thank you.

Loanne Marie said...

Elegant? That is quite the adjective! Thank you so much!!!

Rose said...

Thank you for this fascinating article about the high wire fellow's extraordinary accomplishment, and the stunning way that you relate it to all of our own efforts to get along in our own situations in life. It is a great analogy.


Loanne Marie said...

He is amazing~~as are so many of our fellow humans who keep moving forward as they are called to do, no matter the challenge. I hope everyone clicks on the link to the animated short. There was a wonderful line in it that was the inspiration for this essay, though I never actually quoted it. It went something like, "He knew that, as long as he stayed on the wire, he was free." Indeed! It is freeing to accept, to really believe, that we need to just keep walking our path, doing what we're called to do. Sometimes so difficult to do, but really, what other choice feels right?

Thanks, Rose, for reading and for writing.

Claire said...

Loanne, I so loved this essay. What a perfect metaphor for walking in Light. It gives me goosebumps! I've forwarded the link to the animated film to several folks, as well as the link to your essay. Brilliant! Keep shining!

Loanne Marie said...

Thanks, Claire. It is a great metaphor, isn't it? It really has all stayed with me~~the look of Petit, with face still and completely focused; the wire crossing the space between those Towers; the profound beauty of the knee salute. It's been a pleasure to share those images with you all.

Speaking of which, it really is true that you who read what I write, you who comment on it and add your own twist, ARE part of my balancing pole. Your very existence steadies me when I start to wobble. Thank you each for being there!

Anonymous said...

Your analogies are so true to life! It really does feel like a person is on a narrow path of life sometimes; I like the idea of Christ being the balancing rod- He is helping us but we still have to do our part in going forth with courage and utilizing His strength. Thank you for all your wonderful inspirations!

Loanne Marie said...

You are very welcome! As far as analogies and metaphors seems to me that, if we believe that Spirit imbues all of life, then evidence of that would be omnipresent as well. Sometimes that Essence bleeds through and we have a transcendent experience; sometimes a metaphor hops out to speak volumes to us, to capture our imaginations. I think we need to practice seeing what's right here in front of us with new, clear eyes.

And I agree totally. We need to do our part, going forth with courage, enacting who we are and the piece of the whole that is ours. Then we become fitting expressions of the many gifts held within our individual balancing poles.

Thanks for writing!

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Leia Marie