On Walking on Wires

(TIGHTROPE Walking) It's also called funambulism—though I wouldn't call it fun and I wouldn't call it ambling. (Original image sourced from stellanova.it.)

(TIGHTROPE Walking) It’s also called funambulism—though I wouldn’t call it fun and I wouldn’t call it ambling. (Original image sourced from stellanova.it.)

And just like that, January’s almost gone.

It’s been a good month (mostly)—good in a quiet, placid and plodding way (mostly). Against all expectations, the daily practices and rituals have held: the reading, the sitting, the swimming, the writing, the cooking, the washing, the cleaning and the stretching. On some days, the practices and rituals have had to assume abbreviated and modified forms (in earlier days, these abbreviated and modified forms would have been impermissible), especially when the teaching began hitting frequencies of four to five classes per day. Then life became a tightrope from sunrise to sunset, one foot ever so carefully and deliberately placed before the other, eyes cast down on the vicinity of the toes with only the quickest, occasional peeks towards the horizon.

It’s been a month of tightrope days (mostly).

This carefully cultivated chronal myopia—my rendering of the Buddhist practice of abiding in the present—has paid off (at least whenever the practice succeeds, which isn’t all that often). There’s room to admire the view on either side of the tightrope, without the customary agitation, rush and vertigo. Instead of feeling the instants recede into a distressingly irretrievable past (eating away into an increasingly finite future), there’s just this sense of inhabiting an eternal moment. There’s just now, and now, and now, and now…

Again, I’m still not used to this practice, and I’m far from being adept. Which is why looking at my overpopulated February calendar manages to trigger the occasional twinge of anxiety. But I really get (from two years of teetering on the rope) that one way or another I’ve managed to stay on this most tenuous of paths, often with neither pole nor net. If I can continue to look earnestly at the no-ground beneath my feet (rather than what lies behind or what lies ahead), it’s because I now trust my ability to walk the rope indefinitely—and my capacity to heal should I actually fall.

Here’s to living life one literal step at a time.

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