Getting parkour right: A conversation from Bali

What might a traveler be moving toward?

Light Chaser Life recognizes that as we travel, we are also journeying within. Our journey is not only a vacation away from stress; it is also a movement toward balance and wellbeing.

In our travels, we meet other travelers similar to ourselves, people who use motion from place to place to represent a parallel motion within, as they travel to a better version of themselves. One of these travelers we’ve met shares her thoughts with us.

“When I first disrupted my life and came here [to Bali] to rest, I would spend time during the day flitting from task to screen to task and back again, like a bad imitation of parkour—you know that sport where someone moves through a section of urban landscape? I got it all wrong.”

Parkour, fundamentally, is a philosophy, and a way a life. It’s a way of looking at any environment and believing in your heart that there is no obstacle in life that cannot be overcome.

World Running Parkour Foundation

Another parkour website, The Nerd Fitness Guide to Parkour defines the sport as “natural, effective movement.”

Laeta tells me, “My misunderstanding of this philosophical sport was a consistent feature of my previous life three months ago.”

We caught up with Laeta Gaude in Bali, where she shares a flashback to her old self, “I often started the day by jumping up from waking to a mental task then leap immediately to a physical task, after which I hop sideways to a digital task, while thinking about the several items on a to-do list.”

Carp at holy springs, Bali.

It is only movement.

It doesn’t feel natural or effective.

“I was left exhausted with the quick transitions between things to do, and by afternoon, I was running on fumes, forcing the next set of tasks by sheer will,” Laeta adds.

She had always prided herself in being efficient. A while back in her life, Laeta’s job description was literally three pages long and it was supposed to be a six-year action plan. She raced through it in three and used the remaining years to refine the work. The last few years, she had worked to reduce the time it took to make that happen in even less time.

But that sort of efficiency has a cost.

Alan Lightman, author of In Praise of Wasting Time, implores for us to pay attention to the cost of a mad race to fill our time as efficiently as we can.

Psychologists have long known that creativity thrives on unstructured time, on play, on “divergent thinking,” on unpurposed ramblings through the mansions of life.

I believe I have lost something of my inner self. By inner self, I mean that part of me that imagines, that dreams, that explores, that is constantly questioning who I am and what is important to me. My inner self is my true freedom.

Alan Lightman, In Praise of Wasting Time

Sitting across from me at the Fuzion Café, in Ubud, Laeta looks out at the field outside the window, silent for a moment. She turns to me and says quietly, “I am not proud of that old, singular push for efficiency, now. Those years of playing mental parkour—and badly— leave me with an overwhelming sense of loss.”

She is here in Ubud, to “take a moment of time to gather pieces of myself. I find in all these bits of me that creativity, dreams, and freedom have been scabbed over, the crusty layers crowding something that has become so small I can hardly feel it.”

Offerings in Bali.

Finding the natural

Laeta has never played parkour, the sport that is misunderstood as a high-speed acrobatic crossing of a space, usually urban. Parkour athletes jump, scale, leap, tumble, slide, but that is not the intent of the sport. Its definition implies a natural movement.

The Nerd Fitness Guide to Parkour expands this definition to its philosophy.

In French, we use the term passement for overcoming any obstacle. You pass or traverse a barrier in whatever way suits you and the moment; there’s no one prescribed method for anything.

Parkour is a lens of efficiency applied to every aspect of your movement through life.

What is the least effort and stuff you need in order to live the most meaningful and happy life you can make for yourself?

Nerd Fitness Guide to Parkour for Beginners

“I had been playing mental parkour,” Laeta explains, “but with the concept all wrong. I moved quickly for the sake of efficiency, but without attention to the natural.”

She turns to Alan Lightman’s book that she’s been reading, and opens it to a page she’s marked and reads to me.

The urgency to make every moment count has affected all aspects of life. It permeates our thoughts, our daily routines, our meals, our vacations, our family time, our relationship with our children. It becomes the air we breathe. It puts walls around our mental and psychic space. It even affects our ability to enjoy pleasurable experiences.

 The impatience that results from placing a price on time impairs individuals’ ability to derive happiness from pleasurable experiences.

Alan Lightman, In Praise of Wasting Time

She finishes reading and sips from her pineapple smoothie. “That suffocation that he talks about, that’s the tension I am here to let go. I’d tried to constrict time by cramming as many tasks into it as I could, and I forgot my own relationship to time.”

The result of that choice to constrict time and stuff it to overflowing with tasks was for Laeta an absence of joy. She explains, “Joy in what I did, in the moment I did them, fled. Just – like that,” she snaps her fingers.

Her eyes widen as she grabs my eyes. “I’m far from well, but I can feel that this is the beginning of a more natural movement through life, being here, away from the environment that killed that joy. I’m not sure I will find it here, that part of me.”

“I think it’s a good start that I’ve chosen to slow down, to find it.”

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