Slacklining and Buddhism don’t often surface in the same conversation. Unless you’re speaking to Second Gear sales associate Jesse Goldman. 

As a teenager Goldman formed an interest in the principles of Buddhism and the practice of mindfulness and meditation. By chance, as a freshman at UNC Asheville in 2012, Goldman enrolled in a “metamorphosis” themed first-year seminar taught by a faculty dedicated to the practice of mindfulness and meditation.

At the same time Goldman discovered his joy in slacklining on the campus quad.  The sport was innovated by rock climbers several decades ago by spanning rope or webbing between two points to hone their balance.

But getting from one end of the line to the other isn’t necessarily the end-game of slacklining. 

“I realized there’s a lot of mindfulness in the physical practice of slacklining,” he says. “It was really similar to what I was learning in class.” The lesson, according to Goldman, is that mindfulness is a particular way of perceiving the world that requires living in the moment.

Slacklining, explains Goldman, forces an awareness of every decision and potential outcome and demands practitioners focus on the incremental actions of staying aloft: each breath, each movement, each step ahead.  “The way I view life is that you have a limited amount of time, but an infinite number of things you can focus on or pay attention to. Slacklining forces you to use each moment effectively,” he says. 

The excitement of linking slacklining to mindfulness inspired Goldman to form a mindfulness club at the college and his own slacklining enterprise: Slack-Librium. In addition to supplying slackline inventory to Second Gear, Goldman and a partner began to offer slackline programming to middle school students that grew from a classroom service learning project in 2013.

Now, in addition to his day job at Second Gear, Goldman delivers programs at corporate events, schools, and festivals. His vision is to ultimately embed slacklining and mindfulness into physical education curriculums across the nation.

“I love slacklining, but it’s never been about being the best,” he says. Instead, the activity reminds him to focus on every stride from point A to B, whether on a one-inch wide strip of nylon webbing or on life’s precarious path. “The more of those moments that you are bringing intention to, the more control you have over your life.”

Jack Igelman