Could YOU walk on a wire across Niagara Falls? Nik Wallenda made it look pretty easy. He was so calm and looked to be always in control. In interviews with Wallenda on TV I heard two elements of a spiritual practice that helped him achieve this remarkable feat: praying and monitoring thought.
The closest I’ve come to this feat was probably when I walked across a wooden footbridge over the Royal Gorge in Colorado years ago. The bridge is suspended with large steel cables and it is wide enough for a car to drive over. So, this clearly was not in the same league as Wallenda’s amazing feat at Niagara Falls. But it was my own tightrope experience because I had long been afraid of heights.
That weekend, I had been praying and feeling close to God. I overcame my fear of heights, and with slow, deliberate footsteps walked across to the other side.
In 1859, in the days before television, Charles Blondin walked across the Niagara Gorge on a tightrope near where the Rainbow Bridge is now. He performed this feat a number of times, each time increasing the challenge. Since 1896 no one has repeated it until now, and Wallenda is the only one to ever walk directly over the falls.
“A lot of praying”
When ABC-TV’s Hannah Storm asked Wallenda how he stayed so calm, he replied, “A lot of praying, that’s for sure“.
The Bible gives insight on dealing with fear. It says, “There is no fear in love.” (1 John 4:18). Thought filled with love or filled with feelings of God’s love for us cannot at the same time be filled with fear. You can’t be loving and fearing at the same time. You can’t be feeling loved and be fearing at the same time. Praying is a way to fill thought with love, with a connection to the divine, and even a sense of God’s protection.
Wallenda added another insightful piece of information about how he prepares for these feats mentally. He said that many news reports leading up to this event focused on the risks involved and talked about how difficult and dangerous it was. He said that he had to monitor how much of this he takes into his mind so he can stay calm and focused. It’s a practice applicable to all aspects of our lives.
Citing Blondin’s experience in her major work on spirituality and health entitled Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy sheds more light on this, ”Had Blondin believed it impossible to walk the rope over Niagara’s abyss of waters, he could never have done it. His belief that he could do it gave his thought‐forces, called muscles, their flexibility and power which the unscientific might attribute to a lubricating oil. His fear must have disappeared before his power of putting resolve into action could appear.” (Page 199).
Keeping suggestions and reports that foster fear out and using prayer to let love in enable us to be fearless, calm and focused and to achieve what may even seem impossible.
I don’t think you’ll ever see me walking across Niagara Falls on a wire like Wallenda did. You probably won’t try it either. But the mental and spiritual tools he used can help us in lesser feats in our daily lives – as it did with my fear of heights.
Have you had a tightrope experience?