The Power of the Mind: Walking Your Way To Conquering Fear
This is an interview with Toti Hoyos, a Chilean highliner who now calls Australia home.
His passion for this adrenaline-filled sport forces him to understand and embrace the true meaning of the power of the mind to feel the fear and do it anyway.
We drove from Cronulla train station to Kamay Botany Bay National Park. Toti and Diego unloaded their equipment from the car; a bunch of colorful and tangled-looking ropes, harnesses and climbing hooks. As we arrived at the cliff edge, fast winds and angry ocean waves made it seem unlikely that walking on a rope at approximately 20 meters off the hard, rocky ground was a good idea.
But for someone like Toti, this was an electrifying challenge he looked forward to overcome.
What is highlining?
Some would define it as slacklining taken to the next level. Rather than walking along a suspended tightrope rope a few feet off the ground, you are meant to walk hundreds of feet over water, cliff edges or between two mountains. Walkers are of course secured with a harness that prevents them from falling fatally into thin air, but the feeling is exhilarating.
I asked Toti about his background in highlining:
Q: How long have you been highlining for?
A: I started getting interested in slacklining first, in Chile. At the start, it was very difficult for me to get the hang of it, but there was something that motivated me to keep going until I was able to do it. I don’t know what it was.
But I discovered highlining in Australia, three years ago. In Manley, actually. I was terrified. I thought everybody was crazy for getting on the rope. But then my girlfriend Becky did it and looked very relaxed.
So then I asked myself why I was afraid, and tried again. I didn't stop until I I managed to stand up, but I didn’t start walking for a while. First, had to get over my fear of standing up which took the longest.
Q: Fear seems to be a main theme in your journey, or for anyone who starts involving themselves in highlining. How do you manage it?
A: To summarize, it’s all in the power of the mind. It’s very important that you become conscious of the fears that you have, and try to reason with them logically.
Of course, the most common fear people have is that they will fall off and get hurt. But in highlining, it's impossible for you to fall and die since you're attached to the main tightrope with a harness and additional safety rope. There's no way you can fall all the way to the ground. So that’s what you have to keep telling yourself.
Managing fear is all in the power of the mind. When you mentally suppress the idea that you’ll die (because you literally can’t) you’re able to stand up. It makes it a lot easier to start walking.
Toti talks about overcoming fear within the context of highline. But this can be done under any other circumstances in life as well.
How many of us have a fear of failure phobia? How many times do we encounter fear of making a decision? Many times, this fear of failure can end up in us not taking or any decisions.
And what happens next?
Well, we already know. Everything stays as it was before. But what we could have accomplished, seen or experienced if we had taken the leap remains in the unknown. This is because we let our fear control us, instead of controlling it.
Q: Can you talk more about what it is you do to actually suppress the feeling of fear and do it anyway?
It would ultimately come down to gaining and building mental strength. The main things you need are consistent practice, the self-control of fear, and concentration. It’s very important that you set yourself a goal, and that you don't get demotivated on the way uphill to achieve it.
Here is where the power of the mind comes into place. You first come into terms with the situation you’re actually in. Suspended by a rope, safe, yet around 30 meters off the ground. Your objective is to walk along the line. You have to constantly talk and remind yourself to trust the equipment. That you are safe, and that if you fall, under no circumstance you will fall into nothing.
In terms of self-control, you need to strengthen the connections between your body, mind, and nature. Feel the wind, listen to the sounds of the ocean and control how it’s affecting your ability to walk on the line. Listening to nature and uniting with it to become one are also great ways to create a moment of mindfulness.
Take control and trust your body's movements. Be aware of how your body is able to move, learn what works to keep and improve your balance. Most importantly, gain the mental strength to overcome fear by using rationality. Talk to yourself constantly, and remind yourself that you are safe. Even if you fail, you will not find yourself in a fatal situation.
In order to be able to walk across the line, there is no time, space or sense in thinking about anything else but on what your body is doing, and the natural elements around you.
"...Put it simply", Toti says, breathe deeply, count to three, feel the fear and do it anyway.
How can we relate these ideas to other issues we encounter throughout life?
Sometimes we fear that taking a certain decision or going down a certain path might have consequences we might not be able to come back from. They can be as big as entering a job interview or travelling solo for the first time; or as small as deciding to join a club or class at the gym.
As long as what you are doing is a goal you want to achieve, embrace the power of the mind and search for calmness and reassurance - even if the outcome is not what you hoped for, it’s no reason to stay down. There is always a way for you to rise and start again.
Perhaps one of the biggest lessons we can take from Toti is how the power of the mind can help you symbolically (and physically, if you find yourself highlining) figure out how to improve balance. Living a balanced lifestyle in the context of fear means does not mean that you learn how to fearless completely. On the contrary, finding out how to improve balance with mental strength helps you acknowledge fears you may have, but helps you manage them in a healthy way so that eventually, even if you are fearful, there is nevertheless nothing that stops you from achieving your goals.
As a result, a balanced lifestyle in that sense develops your wellbeing, and sense of realisation.
Q: Before you started walking, I noticed you used an Oleu Life product...does it help you get across the line?
A: Yes, I use the roll-on natural perfume Mental Clarity. I particularly like it for its scent; I tend to roll it behind my ears and neck, and on my wrists. It’s great because when I’m walking on the line and the wind blows, I get to smell it and it brings me back.
Q: What has highlining brought into your life?
A: It’s become my own form of therapy. I call it a “forced meditation”.While you’re up there, you could say you’re in a complete state of mindfulness meditation headspace. Confusingly enough, highlining teaches you to both disconnect and connect at the same time.
It obliges you to disconnect from everything that worries you, blocks you, and stresses you, and forces you to focus solely on one task, and one task only. The power of the mind, as well as your mental strength, goes into accomplishing this one goal; which you can only accomplish by suppressing fear, being mindful of your surroundings and your body bringing you to the “here and now”.
You become entirely connected to the present and on what you are doing at that very moment...you have no choice but to do so.
Through highlining, Toti has talked and shown how you are entirely in control of how you manage fear. The power of the mind is incredibly underestimated, yet crucial to understand in order to take charge of our lives. Finding a mindful meditation headspace, learning to trust your body, mind and soul are key to building mental strength and a balanced lifestyle.
Soon enough, you’ll find that the constant practice of mindfulness and personal insight is an efficient and organic way of how to improve balance and overcome the fear that may hold you back from achieving goals.
Look forward to gaining new insights from future interviews with people and members of the community that represent the same values and philosophies that Oleu Life products re founded on. We believe that finding your inner balance, and taking care of your internal discourse is key to living a fulfilled and mindful life.