There is nothing more relaxing to a harried mind than time spent walking along a tightrope in the summer air.
The two large trees on the front lawn of my parsonage provided an excellent spot to set up the rig, and the parishioners proved more than happy to explain their eccentric pastor to the neighbors. Besides, many of them had tried walking the rope themselves, including Jane, who was about seventy, and wore her bathing suit for the occasion. Of course the youth group loved it and found lots of good reasons for me to set it up for them..
Although it might not seem so, rope walking is easy. Step up on the rope with one foot. Find your balance by focusing on an eye-level spot in front of you, feel for the rope with your other foot and then shift your weight. That’s it. To move forward, you must keep your eyes on your destination and not on your feet, since you always move in the direction of your gaze. You must also clear your mind of all other thoughts, lest you fall off in a heap from the distraction, which makes this an excellent meditative practice for increasing focus and reducing stress.
I learned rope walking at a Phoenix Performing Arts Conference and after a year of practice became the instructor. Each summer at the end of our week-long gathering we would take our act out in public and entertain the locals. One year when I set up the rope in the public venue, a young girl asked if she could walk it like the other kids were doing. The aide pushing her wheelchair whispered, “She cannot walk at all.”
“Get in line and wait your turn,” I told the girl. The puzzled aide wheeled her to the back of the queue, likely hoping what I was planning would not embarrass her young charge. When the girl made it to the front of the line, I hopped up on the rope and walked a bit to attract an audience. Then I jumped down and my assistant and I helped the girl out of her chair. We lifted her on to the rope, just like we had done for every other child, and taking her outstretched arms, guided her down the length of the rope. The experience wasn’t much different with her than it had been with every other unbalanced child we had carried. When the walk was complete, and she received her applause, we returned her to the wheelchair. As I bent over to place her in her seat, she looked at me and smiling said, “I’m going to tell everyone I do all my best walking on tight ropes!”
Me, too, I thought, me too.
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