Balance Beam

Just a few weeks ago my kids and I went to birthday party. The party was held at a gymnastics facility and had instructors on hand to help the kids play on all the equipment. As we walked in the gym, the kids grew warm with excitement. I was not as enthused.

My mind immediately took me to a place of worry. I imagined my kids falling off the bar, cracking their head open or breaking an ankle. Determined to keep it to myself, I took my seat and watched.

The kids all took their turns on the trampolines and bars. I kept my eye on the balance beam, 5 feet high above the gym floor tucked neatly in the corner of the gym. My mind retraced an accident when I was 8 years old. I fell off the balance beam at my school and needed stitches to repair my forehead. It seemed as the kids made their rounds through the gym the closer they got to the balance beam, the more nervous I became. My mind became a place of chaos. I became withdrawn, touched my hand to the place on my forehead where I hurt it so many years ago. I was starting to get a headache, and my body felt hot. The fear in my mind was physically manifesting itself to my body.

It seemed within seconds, the kids…my kids were lined up to take their turn on the beam. I panicked and wanted to shout and scream hysterically, but no words came from my throat. For a fleeting moment I allowed my mind to be hysterical. I started to manipulate the gym and make my way over to where the kids stood. In my mind, I vividly saw my kids falling off. I saw their blood and could taste their tears as they pressed up against me for support. My heart and hands ached in the way that only comes from knowing your child is suffering some sort of pain. The feelings, emotions were so real. If it hadn’t already happened, I knew it soon would.

My older children seemed embarrassed as I approached. My youngest seemed blissfully unaware of the danger before her. I wanted to warn her. Just in time I caught myself, and quickly tried to recapture the direction of my mind. I simply watched. Kid by kid walked across the beam. Some were unsure and staggered a bit, others looked woefully to the floor. Some just refused to go. Some kids ran without holding the instructors hand and showed no surprise that they made it. A few kids tried hand stands. One kid having just watched the Olympics gave a leap. My older kids were nervous. They had heard the story of my fall and I think I reinforced it on the car ride to the gym. They could sense my fear from across the room. Each foot was so carefully put one in front of the other. It was painful to watch the intense intention they were giving to not falling. They never considered making it, or enjoying the journey across. I realized that I alone had created their defeat. I had planted the seed in their mind that was growing into the tree of self doubt. As my youngest took her turn, she seemingly skipped across. She didn’t even look to see where her feet would land, and she never reached out once for the instructors hand. She reached the end, spun around quite elegantly and headed back almost in a gallop. Her spirit was free of ropes, her mind free of doubt. The three inches of wood beneath her feet supported her as fully as a strip of asphalt. It never occurred to her that she would fall, or perhaps even that falling was an option. Her concentration was simple and pure, motivated only by success as she walked by the beam.

As parents and humans we alone hold the key to our beliefs. What we perceive to be true always is. Passing on our misconceptions to a child who is naturally open to life’s bounty is a difficult thing to reverse. I realized then that it would take much time to convince my older kids that they too could make it across the beam unharmed. I wondered how many other seeds I unknowingly planted in their heads. Even as I reasoned that my caution was warranted by my own experience, I realized quite unequivocally that I had created the obstacle for them. My mind was hanging on to a powerful memory. The balance beam was simply another reminder that the set points within us are constantly being tested and tried. Our mind will always go back to the last point of memory, and it is up to us to decide what that memory is.

When we got home, we constructed a balance beam of our own. My older children and I walked the beam day after day. After some time, we all made it across. We never talked about falling from then on. It seemed that the work needed to replace a thought pattern is far more difficult than just believing in the best to begin with. The world is our oyster, and life energy is always seeking us out. It is our decisions, our mind that pinches us off from the source. Always. As a mother I find it is so important to remember that as we shape our own mind, we are also shaping the minds of those that we love the most. Our balance beams can easily become theirs if we allow it. It just depends on the mind.

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