Katherine practices balance

I’m always struggled with balance. Trying to fit exercise, work, family, marriage, friends, motherhood, housework, dogs, volunteer responsibilities, garden, and hobbies (to list but a few) into a twenty-four hour day feels more like a labour of Hercules than a task for an ordinary mortal, most days. (Of course, I’m guessing that Hercules also didn’t have to let the dog out or do laundry.)

Every day for the past two weeks, Katherine has been practicing standing on her head. Her friend Jasper can do it, so she was determined to master the skill. As it turns out, I have not forgotten how to stand on my head and was able to give her the basics:

  1. make a stable three-point base
  2. keep your centre of gravity centred
  3. stabilize your core
  4. reach upwards only after your foundations are solid

Yesterday she finally mastered the art of reaching legs to the sky. From watching her and remembering the process of learning this skill of head-standing,  I could not help but be metaphorically bludgeoned by the parallel between watching her and flailing around in my own life.

1. Form a stable base of whatever keeps you grounded and centred. Decide what things are your base. Mine are health/exercise, marriage/family and creativity. Yours are probably different.

2. Prioritize in favour of the things that keep you grounded and form your foundation.

3. Strengthen your foundations consistently and well.

4. Reach upward and outward from your foundations, but don’t let your underpinnings slip and if you feel things starting to fall, revert to the pillars that form your base.

But from watching Katherine, I realized that it is far too easy to assume that our foundations are simply there and don’t require adjustment or work. When she first started the head-standing, she had to spend large amounts of time finding the precise arrangement of hands and head on the mat that accorded her the right platform for stability. It wasn’t easy or immediate. It was frustrating and only her sheer stubbournness and bloody-minded determination made it happen after hours of practice.

As she stretched her legs upward, I watched and could see how all of her muscular stabilizers were working to keep her uprightly-inverted; once she was in a full head-stand, the work didn’t stop. Staying there took an incredible amount of strength and constant minute adjustments. It was much more work for her to remain in a full headstand than it was for her to hold a lower position.

Sometimes I forget that this “balance” that we talk about in life, in which all aspects of our life are synchronized into a smoothly-running machine, is not a place or a result, but a process. Even in those wonderful moments when everything feels perfectly balanced, it’s because you’re working to keep them there. Too often when a small part of life falls off-kilter, I chase after it and neglect the big things that keep me grounded and allow me to attempt the other aspects.

When you’re reaching for the sky and your extremities start to wobble, it’s so easy to pay attention to the wobbling bit and not to remember to return to the stable base, check and adjust your foundations (if necessary) and reach again.


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