Have you ever had problems focusing? Do you have a hard time running because you are distracted by the pain or meditating because you are too busy planning dinner (or some other trivial human affair)?
Well this is perfectly normal, these distractions throughout your daily lives are known as just that, distractions. They are also referred to as the “companions to obstacles” in an online document called Yoga Sutras 1.30-1.32 Obstacles and Solutions. These companions to obstacles undoubtedly originated from the obstacles themselves. In many branches of yoga it is believed that there are nine obstacles, those being: illness, negligence, misperceptions, dullness, laziness, failure, doubt, cravings, and instability. From these obstacles we develop mental and physical pain, unsteadiness of the body, sadness, frustration, and irregular breath. The idea is that the nine obstacles are present in every individual’s life and they are unavoidable but what makes all the difference is how you let them affect you personally. I find that this correlates to my personal perceptions of positive psychology, that things are what you think they are (to certain limitations presented by reality). Essentially you create your own reality, you choose how to react to stimuli around you, and you choose your emotions and perceptions. Gaining the belief that you have control along with the skill is difficult but doable. Some people are more adept than others and that is just fine, the process is the same for everyone. This awareness of one’s self and control leads to another yogi/yogini (yogi is a male yoga practitioner, yogini is a female yoga practitioner) belief and that is one-pointedness.
One-pointedness is what is believed to “cure” you of the “disturbance” that these distractions created from the nine obstacles. I did not mention disturbances above but, to explain the correlation, the nine obstacles create distractions which then create disturbances. Distractions surround us; inevitably disturbances are the repercussions from letting the distraction affect us. Disturbances are within our control to negate as long as we know how to do so; this is how one-pointedness can help us. To surpass disturbances it is commonly practiced to find a personal one-pointedness to focus on. This could be an object, a thought, an idea, an action. Something you repetitively think about to focus your mind on what is real, instead of the delusions that come from distractions. A quote from Yoga Sutras 1.30-1.32 Obstacles and Solutions, “If the mind is focused, then it is far less likely to get entangled and lost in the mire of delusion that can come from these obstacles.”
Now to make this about slacklining 🙂
Slacklining is in no way an easy sport. It takes balance, bent knees, chest up, arms up, drishti (gaze), patience, momentum, strength, tight core, control, and concentration. But what do you concentrate on when you are on a 200-400 foot longline slackline? What do you think about when you are on a highline 600 feet in the air (whether the line is 45 feet long or 200)?
Do you think about how you plan to line-catch in case of a gust of wind? Do you think about the whipper? Or where your landing will be? Here is some old farmer’s wisdom; the horse goes where the rider looks. So let us not think about falling or we may be more inclined to fall. In this case the sky, wind, exposure, canyon gorge, glaring sunlight, or maybe dark gray storm clouds are our distractions that we may or may not let manifest into disturbances. The disturbances are within our control the question is, do we create them, or can we overcome them? Some people may see highlining as a daredevil sport but I see it as a time to meditate, your mind must overcome all disturbances and distractions to focus, to walk, and to balance.
So do we think about holding our core tight? I know when I do that I overcompensate and forget to bend my knees. Do we focus only on keeping momentum? I tend to forget to be patience and to feel the line? Or should we be focus on being patient? I then over exerted myself standing in one spot for so long that now am too exhausted to take the next step? There are so many situations that I have found myself in, and these are just examples of a few.
I have struggled with these distractions and disturbances for a long time (but mainly when people were looking). I have tried counting my steps, counting “1, 2,1,2,1,2…” for each step, or counting to 4 and then repeating. There was a while I could only walk this 300 foot line if I concentrated on each step by saying in my head “left, right, left, right…” to keep momentum. I have tried singing songs in my head. I have tried listening to music, but I always manage to become distracted. It was really hard for me for a long time to walk bigger lines not only because of the physical endurance that it requires but because of the mental challenge, the concentration. I couldn’t stand people watching me walk, I would always think that if I fell I let my audience down, I let my friends down, I let myself down. I had to relearn that what I do isn’t for the audience, it is for me.
Finally, to overcome these obstacles I learned that I must think about breathing. This is my One-Pointedness. For me this is relatable to several aspects of my life. If I think about my breath I can calm myself down, I can collect myself, I can relax and I can focus. This is the tool I use to slackline. It does not have to be yours but it has been a commonly used “one-pointedness” for many centuries. I think it is funny because I use to think yoga and breathing were stupid. I had a hard time with the idea of taking something slow (yoga stretching) and consciously thinking about something that I did everyday and something I seemingly did just fine without taking a class about it (breathing). In the end it was not a classroom that taught me the essentials of breathing; it was a Slacklining, rock climbing, and stretching, along with other life experiences; such as being pepper sprayed in the face at my own Christmas party (that took a lot of self control through breathing).
Breathing is the answer, I think about my breath, concentrate on it, control it, let my body move in flow with my it. This is how I slackline, this is how I highline, this is my one-pointedness. This is my one-pointedness that lets me defeat distraction and disturbances. It may or may not be yours but I encourage anyone who took the time to read this to find their one-pointedness that will help them defeat disturbances that come from distractions that come from the 9 obstacles. And remember that you may have a different one-pointedness for various activities, I spoke of my breath being my one-and-only but I believe that people may have different one-pointedness for anything that they do. Good luck finding your one-pointedness!