Crowds of onlookers with mouths agape stared toward the early morning sky. This was no ordinary morning in New York City because 24-year-old Philippe Petit had chosen this day—August 7, 1974—to walk a wire he had secretly strung between the Twin Towers. More than 1,300 feet above the ground, Petit took one step, and then another. He felt the building sway in the breeze as he stood on the 131-foot cable.
“After a few steps, I knew I was in my element and I knew the wire was not well rigged… but it was safe enough for me to carry on,” Petit said in an interview with Ric Burns, producer of the PBS history series American Experience. “And then, very slowly as I walked, I was overwhelmed by a sense of easiness, a sense of simplicity.”
Petit felt alive! He danced and ran on the 5/8-inch thick wire. He sat down and took in the muffled cheers from the ant-sized crowd below. He fully and intentionally experienced each moment. He heard police officers yelling commands, and yet he chose to focus on the wind, the wire, and the joy of remaining balanced.
Spiritual Wellness, Like Balance, Takes Practice
Pictures show Petit smiling broadly, but looking back to that moment he recalls feeling disbelief that it was so easy “after all those years and months of ups and downs and detours, victories, and disasters.” The journey toward spiritual wellness is a lot like that high-wire walk. There may be moments of anxiety, distress, doubt, despair, and disruption, but there are also times of pure joy, happiness, and discovery of who you are, what you value, and how you fit into your world view. To find balance, a spiritually well person embarks on the same process as a tightrope walker: “He discards the movements space will not support,” Petit writes, “and gathers up the others into a group that he will polish, refine, lighten, and bring closer and closer to himself.”
Finding balance—or as the National Wellness Institute says, harmony—between your inner “feelings and emotions and rugged stretches of your path” demands as much poise as walking near clouds. When asked how he copes with the 1992 death of his nine-year-old daughter, Petit replied, “Oh, I cope with joy….One has to find balance between joy and sorrow. I have immense sorrow over the loss of that child, but I also have immense joy when I think of her.” When faced with despair, a spiritually well person moves forward, step by step, exhibiting consistency and focus.
What would happen if your population engaged in a similar kind of balance and practiced focus?
Benefits of Mindfulness
Spiritual wellness follows these tenets:
- It is better to ponder the meaning of life for ourselves and to be tolerant of the beliefs of others than to close our minds and become intolerant.
- It is better to live each day in a way that is consistent with our values and beliefs than to do otherwise and feel untrue to ourselves.
Source: Hettler, B. The Six Dimensions of Wellness Model. National Wellness Institute.
The most common definition of mindfulness is “the state of being attentive to and aware of what is taking place in the present.” Being mindful requires a person to devote extra-focused attention on their thoughts, feelings, sensations, and environment. This hyper-attention to the “now” forces you to block out worry and stress. And that simple act has tremendous benefits:
- Reduces stress
- Enhances learning
- Helps with problem solving
- Lowers blood pressure
- Helps people be less judgmental and more accepting
- Reduces depressive symptoms and increases quality of life
- Lowers anxiety and improves sleep
- Reduces presenteeism
- Enhances working relationships
- Reduces job burnout
- Can lead to job satisfaction
Mindfulness is increasingly being promoted as a way to improve well-being, boost performance, and enhance working relationships.
But Is Mindfulness Hard?
Practicing mindfulness can be challenging at first—just like high-wire walking. But with enough practice, it is also “the simplest, the most beautiful, and the easiest” thing to do. “I shouldn’t say that, but why not?” says Petit. “It’s very easy to walk on a wire if you spend a whole lifetime practicing it.” For Petit, a lifetime of practice has made performing on a tightrope both the most difficult and the easiest art form on the earth.
Mindfulness—the focused path to spiritual wellness—gets easier over time. And the benefits make it worth the effort.
- Resource: The National Wellness Institute, November 25, 2019 *