By Andi Pyatt
Special to the AFRO

“The Well” is a recurring column to remind us of the power we possess in mind, body and spirit.

As I reflect on recent world changes one word repeatedly comes to mind. That word is “balance”. It is a word with various definitions and understandings. We are constantly striving to achieve the idea of balance yet as soon as we achieve this state of being it eludes us once more. It’s like chasing a beautiful butterfly.  As we tip-toe upon it, it flies away keeping us skipping and hopping forward mesmerized by its delicate nature and bright colors.

Andi Pyatt is an educator, entrepreneur, wellness professional, and author. (Courtesy Photo)

This weekend I had an amazing experience with my youngest son. He will be ten years old this month. He is full of energy and brilliance. Being his parent teaches me a great deal about myself and the constant need of self-reflection. We had the opportunity to experience an obstacle course built in the trees.  Yes, an aerial tightrope obstacle course. My initial intention was to encourage him to complete the courses with his friends while I observed and cheered from the ground, however, it just so happened that I was afforded the opportunity to complete the course with him. He only had to look at me one time with the “please, mommy, come with me” eyes to get me to put on the harness and suspend myself over fifty feet in the air with nothing but two ropes attached to a line.  Once I got to the start of the course, the feeling that this may not have been the best idea began to cause my heart to race and flush my body with the warm sensation of dread. However, I had to stay focused and calm in front of my child, who seemed to need very little reinforcement. I remember calling out to him with a reminder to “take a deep belly breath and look forward”. He smiled and responded with “I got this ma.”  Indeed, he did have it. I watched him move steadily and controlled through each of the apparatus. Now it was my turn. As I took my own advice of breathing deep, I also remembered that I was prepared for this moment. I have been drinking my water, eating well, strengthening my body through movement, and centering my mind. I have been whipping this forty plus year old body into shape over the past few months. Unaware that I had chosen the longest intermediate course, I took the first step and imagined each subsequent step being just like the one before. My one goal was to get from the starting platform to the next without falling off. In order to achieve this goal, it required moment by moment evaluation and adjustment of myself and my surroundings. While traversing through the trees I was consistently engaged in the following:

  1. I had to focus on where I was going. – As a former dancer there is a technique that we use to perfect those mesmerizing twirls. It’s called spotting. You pick a point to focus your gaze and you maintain the focus on that one spot until it leaves your sight. You then quickly turn to find it again. I had to apply this similar principle of intense focus to reach the various platforms between the obstacles. I looked forward and set my intention on reaching that point. There were times when I would lose focus due to of noise around me, however when this occurred, I would find that one spot again. In life having a goal is critical for our success. That goal may change and become blurry, there are times when we lose track of the goal. The important number isn’t how often we fall, it’s the number of times we get up that is important.
  2. I kept moving forward. – No matter how challenging the course appeared, I maintained momentum. There was an obstacle that required consistent up and down movement while climbing around a slanted board so the safety harness would not become tangled. The mind and the body want to stop the first time you realize what it will take to get to the other side. However, the loss of momentum causes gravity to take over and falling is the outcome. Sometimes there are times when we become so overwhelmed that we feel like we can’t go any further. There is always a solution when we move forward. These solutions don’t also feel the most comfortable, however, those are the times when we learn the most.
  3. I leaned into the ropes around me. – Each obstacle had some type of supportive structure. This support varied from a solid taught rope at waist level to swing ropes suspended above your head. I realized that despite the type of help the various ropes offered, I was using them. Along our personal journey there will always be a source of support. That support may not be what we desire in that moment, however, it will give us something we need, no matter how small. It’s okay to accept the help.
  4. I rested. – In between each obstacle was a small platform. It was just large just enough to allow me to refocus my mind and body, yet not large enough to be too comfortable. Along our journey we will always have time to be still. These moments are the cool drinks on a hot summer day. Appreciate them and recharge.
  5. I appreciated the process. – The only time I looked back was after I completed each obstacle. Each time I made it to the next platform I gazed in gratitude at what I had accomplished. The expression of gratitude prepares our mind and spirit for the next process. The ability to laugh and smile during and after a challenge reminds the body and mind that you are safe and prepared to move to the next sequence.

After the final zip line that brought me to the end of the course, I glanced to my left to see my son running to give me a hug. He was so excited about his accomplishment. He made sure I knew that he had maintained his balance without falling once because he trusted himself while he was going through the course. I kissed him on his forehead and told him that I too kept my balance. From the ground we looked up into the tree canopy to fully absorb what we had both accomplished. This process revealed that achieving balance is fluid. Rather than a static state of being, it is an actual process that requires constant acceptance of ever changing focus, momentum, and support. When things seem to be the most “off” and you feel yourself teetering, remember success is treating every step as the first. Not every moment is perfect or pretty and that is quite alright because you are still standing.

Andi Pyatt is an educator, entrepreneur, wellness professional, and author (Julia Belle) of the new children’s book, Sunflower’s Breath.  She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology/Neuroscience from Williams College and a graduate degree in Health Science from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

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