Engage the core.

Last year, my husband and kids bought me a slackline for Mother’s Day.

Basically, it’s a 2-inch wide tightrope strung between two trees. You can balance on it, walk along it, perform tricks, or even practice yoga on it.

When I first set the line up in our backyard, I couldn’t even stand up on it. But over the past 9 months, I’ve learnt to get up on the line, stand on the line, walk along the line (forwards and backwards!) and occasionally find enough mental and physical agility to strike a simple yoga pose on the line.

All of this has taken balance and practice and headspace.

But I have come to realise something as I perch 30cm off the grass, trying not to wobble:

Balance is exhausting.

Every muscle is taut, trying desperately not to over- or under-compensate, lest I fall. My mind needs to be focused and singular in its attention, lest I fall. My sights need to be set on a specific spot and not shift around, lest I fall.

10 minutes spent trying to remain balanced on a length of rope, and I’m head-tired.

If balancing on a line for just 10 minutes is so exhausting when there’s nothing more important than ego up for grabs, why do we think we can manage to keep a busy, full life perfectly balanced and not struggle under the pressure?

Undoubtedly, balance is necessary when trying to stand still on a length of nylon suspended off the ground, but I’m convinced that in life, balance isn’t a goal we should be pursuing.

BUT.

But it’s undeniable that life requires a certain level of agility. We spring from mum to wife to friend to co-worker to daughter to chauffeur to chef to umpire to woman and back again dozens of times a day. And we try to strike a balance. We try to evenly distribute our weight (our selves) across all areas of life. Try not to lean too far one way, lest we fall.

But I’ve discovered, if I may take the slackline analogy a little further, it’s not merely balance that keeps me on the line. In fact, the majority of my staying power comes from my core.

The muscles at my centre, that keep everything pulled in and solid.

When I’m able to engage those muscles (and after two kids, it’s not as easy as it used to be), I can relax the rest of me just a little. Balancing on the line doesn’t feel nearly as exhausting when I manage to engage my core. It’s still hard work, but it’s coming from a solid place, rather than a frantic, tiring, wobbling attempt to stay up.

So the question is, in trying to find a realistic approach to living a balanced life, what is your core?

What is at the centre of your life? What makes you feel solid and strong? When it’s engaged, what makes you feel relaxed?

Is it family? Faith? Friends?

I can almost assure you that the peripheral stuff – the clothes you wear, the car you drive, the football team you support – none of this makes up your core. None of that stuff will help you to feel more balanced.

In fact, if you throw too much weight behind those things that don’t matter, you might find yourself struggling to retain any kind of balance at all.

But if you focus on the core – on the things that really are important – and relegate the peripheral stuff to where it belongs, you might find the struggle to maintain balance just a little less exhausting.

So next time you feel strung out, worn out, spread thin, try engaging your core.

Reading Time:

3 minutes

 

 

 

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25 Comments

  1. Amanda Villagómez

    My OLW for 2015 is core and this post resonates so much with how I arrived at that word. I appreciated seeing your thoughts related to this and the link to a physical core (since I had not thought about that connotation). This post helps me to have a more vivid image of what I intended with core. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

    • Brooke McAlary

      Thanks, Amanda! So glad it helped to bring clarity to an already powerful intention for the year. 🙂

      • Kd

        well well well written! beautiful analogy! getting back to your ‘core’ is always what grounds a soul! thanks for the beautiful reminder today!

  2. Joyce

    This post is so on point! And what a great analogy. Everyone should read this. I plan on reposting on facebook when I get the chance. Great article. Congrats on your wisdom!

    • Brooke McAlary

      Thank you so much, Joyce. 🙂

  3. Sarah M

    I loved this analogy and totally agree. Thanks for this post–one of my favorites here lately.
    Sarah M

    • Brooke McAlary

      So happy to hear that, Sarah. x

  4. Kelty

    wow. truth and a perfect analogy.

    It’s funny, I came to a similar conclusion when my brain was overweighed and shooting in a million different directions in January about what my goals for this year should be. So many crucial things needed to be improved, right away and I had no idea where to start. It left me discouraged and scattered. Finally, I came back to my core and have been focusing my efforts there. It’s amazing how many things sort themselves out naturally as a byproduct of working on your “core.” This article was like a little high-five,”you got it, keep going!”

    Now, this is also a good reminder about my physical core. I need to be working on that too. Thanks! 🙂

    • Brooke McAlary

      So much yes here, Kelty! “It’s amazing how many things sort themselves out naturally as a byproduct of working on your “core.”” You’re so on point.

      Also: you got it, keep going! 😉

      • Kelty

        🙂

  5. Jaci

    Gat post, Brooke! Thanks for sharing/inspiring!

    • Brooke McAlary

      Thanks so much, Jaci. 🙂

  6. Rachel Cunliffe

    Thanks Brooke for a great post! I had never heard of slack lining until I read this today and have been looking it up online, looks like a fun simple activity that my kids would enjoy too. We don’t have two trees to string it between but I saw it can be set up between posts/poles etc (and even at the beach with the right anchors set up).

    I’ve been doing yoga for a while now and love it – some of the balancing poses which look very simple really aren’t. Or you can be good at them one week, then the next it’s not there. So true that balance is a lot of hard work with everything working together. If one side is weak or tired or sore, then balance is even harder to achieve.

    A great way to start my day reading this – thank you!

    • Brooke McAlary

      Rachel, slacklining is SO much fun. We actually set up an anchor in our backyard to allow the line to be longer, and it’s not a difficult process. There’s a tonne of tutorials on youtube that show the best/safest way to create a ground-level anchor.

      Also, I love your comment that “if one side is weak or tired or sore, than balance is even harder to achieve.” So true.

  7. Angela @ Settingmyintention.com

    Faith and family are definitely at the core for me. I am learning how to keep them at the center and not get distracted! Thanks Brooke for your usual wisdom.

  8. Alissa

    Wonderful analogy! Though, I’m most impressed by your description of what you have been able to accomplish on your slack line in the last year. Strong mama! I’ve never gotten past the “wobble and fall” stage. But even that seems to fit the analogy. Engaging the core and getting into balance takes hard work and persistence. At first, it’s much easier to wobble, fall, and then give up and return to my hectic “octopus style” life management, where I’m overly concerned with too many things on the edges and not focused on what’s at the center.

    I’m guessing that you got to this place on your slackline by returning to it day after day, relearning the lessons, re-setting your intention, and practicing. And now, the act of just standing on the line probably doesn’t take all the mind power because you have your muscle memory (and strong core) to do it for you. Perhaps that’s the same with our life – if we can return to our center, daily setting our intention on the core things… then over time, it’s not so hard to stand at the center and engage what’s important, letting the peripheral thing be where they should be.

    • Lindsey W

      Nice addition to a great article. Your comment is definitely going to stick in my mind as I, too, try to figure out this life/blance thing.

    • Brooke McAlary

      “if we can return to our center, daily setting our intention on the core things… then over time, it’s not so hard to stand at the center and engage what’s important, letting the peripheral thing be where they should be.”

      NAILED IT. 🙂

  9. Liz P

    All I saw was the brief preview on Facebook and I knew it was you writing Brooke. 🙂

    Lovely analogy and food for thought as I reassess my expectations for this year (which is dramatically different for us than years past).

    • Brooke McAlary

      Hey Liz! Was thinking of you the other day and hope you’re all well. Thanks for the kind words!

  10. Mandi

    What a great analogy and reminder! Thanks for sharing!

    • Brooke McAlary

      Thanks Mandi. So glad you enjoyed it!

  11. Carmella

    Just right, beautiful words, Brooke

    • Brooke McAlary

      Why thank you, Carmella. 🙂

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