This is a picture of my husband, Trevor, walking the slackline.
It’s basically a horizontal bungee cord, upon which he somehow maintains some semblance of balance in spite of the fact that it bends and sways in response to the slightest breeze, much less his weight or movement!
People see him walking on it in the park, and either assume they could never do it, or that it’s easy.
But it’s actually neither. Most people (although sadly not me) could walk a slackline if they were willing to put in enough time and dedication and willingness-to-fall-off effort. Trevor spent weeks just trying to stand up on it, and then months more mastering the art of walking, turning, crouching and walking backwards on it. And there are others that have taken the art to the level of impressive, and can even do tricks on the slackline or cross deep canyons on a high rope!
And I think that slacklining is a useful metaphor for us as we think about what it means to begin to live life over our centre.
On Thursday we talked about how we figure out our values, and for the purposes of this metaphor, I want you to assume that our values are the slackline.
Now, for many of us, we haven’t spent a lot of time living out of our values. The messages and pressures and expectations and pains of life are like a gale-force wind that has made it almost impossible for us to even mount the slackline.
We scoff at people who tell us that we should ‘stay calm’ – as if such a thing was humanly possible.
We beat ourselves up when we ‘lose it’ again on our kids or our partner – as if we did it on purpose.
And we coat ourselves in shame when we feel we have fallen off one too many times – as if that disqualified us from taking another go at it.
But none of us wants to spend the rest of our lives experiencing failure, so what do we do to change the outcome?
I think that the next step after figuring out what our values are, is beginning to turn down the wind around us.
We do this by beginning to sort through all of the stressors and unwritten rules that we’ve internalized – when we hold each one up to our values, and ask, ‘which way am I going to live?’
You see, I can have a value of playfulness (for example), but a message that says that I have to be perfect at everything I do. I can’t conform to both this value and this message at the same time. So I’m going to have to pick one.
Interestingly enough, this is where we discover that we can’t do this process alone.
Just like beginning to walk on the slackline should be done with a partner, working through the conflicts between our values and our messages is something we can only do in community.
So if you feel the need to turn the wind down, who will you be able to trust, to feel safe enough with, to do this process with?
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