Balance – deep diving

Posted: September 6, 2019 in Movement
Tags: , ,

It isn’t balance that’s static, but rather the mind that perceives it.

WARNING:  This will be technical!
Imagine if you will a person standing in line at the store. They are balanced, seemingly static and unmoving. Compare that to the balance of a parkour athlete who has just completed a jump of 8ft, to a handrail, that is only a few inches wide, 3ft above the ground. These two examples of balance are on the extreme sides of the spectrum, to be sure.

From the outside looking in one is fixed and simple while the other is dynamic and difficult.  I would like to argue, however, that the balance is the same.  The difference is that we practice one more than the other.  What you practice, you are capable of doing.

When we are balanced we are constantly in motion.  Whether we notice it or not.  Balance as an activity, is a never ending practice of minor and seemingly insignificant adjustments that the body makes to keep its center of gravity over an object.  Wait, what? Did I lose you?  Did you read it twice?  I did say it would get technical.

In the fitness paradigm called MovNat, developed by Erwan Le Corre, balance is defined this way: “Physical balance is the ability to control the placement of the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base. “

I’m guessing that the above definition wasn’t  much more clear than what I wrote before it, but bear with me.  First, we have two key pieces of information, both of which are abstract in nature.

  1. Center of gravity which is the invisible vertical line from the body to the ground
  2. Base of support which is an abstract area between all of the body parts in contact with the ground.

— i.e. If you are standing on one foot the base of support is the space directly underneath that single foot (Figure A).  However, if you are on all fours (crawling) the base of support would be an imaginary area within the rectangle shape created by your hands and feet which are touching the ground (Figure B)

BoS 1                                     BoS 4


Referring back to the MovNat description on physical balance we can now discuss how a person has the ability to control the placement of their body.

There are three primary systems that are in charge of balance. First and foremost is the vestibular system, located in the inner ear. This system not only coordinates the spatial awareness and equilibrium of linear and rotational movements (i.e. moving and turning), in a sense, acting like a level for the body. It also works with our vision to keep our focus clear while moving and turning. GoPro has nothing on the vestibular system. Best stabilizer ever! The next system in the body is the proprioceptive system, which allows the body to know where each of its parts are in space. A finger can locate the mouth even when the eyes are closed thanks to this system. Lastly we have the visual system that takes in our external environment. When these systems are in harmony and functioning at a high level balance can be maintained in both static and dynamic situations.

Visual system– knowing our place in the external world
Vestibular system– located in the inner ear which coordinates spacial awareness and movement.
Proprioceptive system – awareness of where each part of the body is relative to the rest of the body.

When looking at the person standing in line at the store, the practice of balance looks, from the outside, like a very static thing. The body seems still. The person’s body weight is distributed between two feet which gives them a strong base. What has the effect of looking static, however, is actually an extremely complex interaction of  the three systems listed above.  These systems are making constant assessments and micro adjustments to keep the person balanced over their feet.

Need proof? Give this exercise a try.

Stand up, find your balance and then close your eyes and notice your feet and ankles twitching to keep your position. It’s not much but if you pay close attention you will feel it.  With your eyes closed turn your head or lift an arm. The systems inside the body are doing work to keep you centered on your feet.

Now, balance on one foot.

Notice, if you will, how well – or not – the vestibular and proprioceptive systems are working now that you have added a bit of complexity to the system.

Are you able to keep the same micro movements that balanced you over two feet, or are you now making bigger and bigger movements to maintain balance? How long before you fall? Open your eyes again and with your new awareness stand on one foot. How is your balance now? Using all 3 systems together makes for better balance.

Fine-tuning these systems requires that the body learn to negotiate more complex situations. Once the body is familiar with itself – knows where it’s center-of-gravity is in relations to a foot, feet, feet and hands, etc. over the ground – the body can adapt and adjust to any situation it comes in contact with. I was once at a park and I saw a boulder that I decided to run up to, jump on and then jump off of while continuing my run. This fluid balance has been a normal practice and my body is well aware and capable of the movements required. However, as I landed on the rock it moved in an unexpected way because it wasn’t actually a rock. It was a plastic, hollow, faux rock. Luckily, this object still supported my weight and I was able to instantly adjust to the unintended movement of the rock because my balance systems took over and corrected my movement to maintain center-of-gravity.

While physical balance can become a very complicated thing the systems that run it are simple and consistent. This consistency is what allows us to move though, an often, chaotic world.

That said, we can short-circuit our balance systems if we don’t allow them, to do their job on a regular basis. It’s very much an “if you don’t use it, you lose it” scenario. Much like a piano needs to be tuned so that it sounds good when played.  The systems that control balance need to be challenged to allow them to function optimally.

So while balance is an internal set of systems, the skill comes from using these systems in complex and unique environments, as often as possible.

Takeaway: if you want to minimize your chance of falling as you age, practice balancing EVERYWHERE, EVERYDAY!

I watch these two women
best friends all their lives
always there for one another
both happy and bright

Their children more like siblings than anything else
their energy tied together so well, these women of Celts
their friendship so full they need not even speak
the bond is abundant, special and quite unique

Both took their own roads along in this life
one making sure she was doing things good and upright
seeing the best path she directed those around
knowing the best way that would lead to things profound

The other sister strong and independent and free
lived a life more reckless where nothings guaranteed
powerful and brave she could foresee possible hard times
her wonderful insight and preparing, she so cares for her tribes

Both powerful and capable well rounded by life
coming together over and over to play and hold each other tight

Both supports for the other, until their sage years arrived
forgetting their will and power to thrive
it seems their insecurities run amuck and took over
fearful of what they might lose as they feel great exposure
they forgot how to enjoy and find possibility in the upcoming years
each exaggerating the others greatest fears

One becoming critical and impatient as she perceives what is right
feeling heavier resentment creeping into the light
the idealistic views compromising how much she cares
her body not responding the right moves just aren’t there

The other so concerned about being safe and prepared
it comes off as fearful instead of aware
worst case scenarios run in her head, yes they race
yet holding back opinions not showing her grace

Now the sisters unknowing their impact, they are
exacerbating the others fears of themselves, they actually mar
instead of allowing each other to stand tall
each worries the other will slip up and fall

The solution it seems is to own their own grace
both living great lives that they each can embrace

Step into the sage, they both deserve to hold
for one self-acceptance and serenity is told
can offer discernment and profound dignity
the other a deep sense of inner knowing and gifting clarity

Wonderful they can be
powerful and wise
let go of the fears hid deeply inside.
blossom together in years beautiful and strong
sisters forever
forever and on

leaving routine and wandering in the leprechaun’s land

Routine can make one blind
becoming unconscious to everyday finds
useful for getting jobs done and feeling safe
but destructive in seeing magnificence and grace

This must be the pull to embark upon adventures and vacate
to experience the world fresh and free without the known we create

Eight of us there were
the grandparents, and two next generation families join.
the youngest of the group a pair of smart and lovely boys
their birthdays fall on either side of the trip
leaving them 9 and almost 11 so perfectly equipped

Grace of the children was easiest to spy
as they aren’t held yet by habit and pride
both blew my mind by their openness to what came
and the true kindness within their hearts
something we all could strive to attain

My nephew a bright light to behold
his wit and unique ideas unfold
his powerful grit, leadership and smile so bright
I watched his confidence and persistence with delight

My own son a Zen traveling master it would seem
I watched as he bloomed as if in a dream
jumping and climbing as he never had done
growing both in knowledge and also embracing playful fun

The grace of adults often harder to see
as we cling to our habits still mysteries we be
we get wrapped up in our unconscious beliefs
we create conflict and discord
where we need not disagree

Still, in this beautiful land
I see the magnificence from all on hand
a gift for sure as we play in Ireland

The grandparents are the ones who initiate
their hearts so open as they invite us all to participate
a week in the emerald isle, a place so fully grand
magnificent and kind, sharing the heights at which they stand
they inspire us all with a life that is full
in their 8th decade they still travel the world

My brother-in-law a mystery at times
and yet very much intensely alive
he’s a quiet one who sees with his very keen eye
his smile is bright and I wonder his thoughts as he sits on the side
I watch him sit back in his calm in-the-moment way
always makes the plan where his family gets adventure each day

My Sister-in-law the most lovely of all
thoughtful and warmhearted her warmth like a well loved shawl
a presence even when she’s not around and seen
when she comes out and participates on this great stage
one feels her deep compassion outpouring in spades

My husband so wonderful to travel with
we pal around it’s what makes life magnificent
often correct in his thinking as he is wise and discerning
at times I so love it and yet it can be so unnerving
his responsibility for all and his principles abound
I love when he smiles and I want to be close when he is around

An honorable mention I must add to this list
my mother at home taking care of life during our trip
Kind and keen on the top of her game
everything handled, cared for; such a wonderful dame
I have not a worry while we fly through the air
I know my mother is taking superlative care

As for me, I find myself very hard to see
more often than not I’m wrapped in melancholy
and inadequacy
my hope is that I bring unique and playful energy
looking at the world just a bit differently
I bring a trail to hike and a tree to climb
nature in abundance I find it sublime

Grace in all, it’s present every day
all we need is to remember to look underfoot
don’t let routine distract us from all of the good20190623_153603

You can check out the Survival cycle and Fulfillment cycles here.

Now onward and upward!

The tool that turns a Survival cycle into a Fulfillment cycle is what I call the PLAY Mindset™. As stated in the last post on the Fulfillment cycle, the mindset isn’t about Leisure or recreation. It’s a set of skills that we are born with, and as children we used these tools to discover our world. Since a child’s work is called play,  at some point we started to believe that the mindset and skills of a child weren’t applicable for us as adults. I would like to argue that, if we refine them, they are applicable and they very much have the power to create a successful, fulfilling life.

So what are the tools and what do they look like?

Well, if you have seen a spark of yourself in either of the last two posts, you have taken the first step toward a PLAY Mindset™.

Awareness: Dr. Ellen Langer, a Play Mindsetsocial psychologist who studies mindlessness and mindfulness, states that all we need to do to become more mindful is to notice something new. Read more from Dr. Langer here
–>Auto-pilot to Present

Non-Judgment: The basic action of non-judgment is the act of removing “shoulds” from any awareness and then  move to critiquing the objective and not the personal.
–>Fear to Compassion

Accept: It is, what it is. As in, if you’re stuck in traffic, you’re stuck in traffic. If there are dirty dishes, there are dirty dishes. Wishing for something different doesn’t change the fact of what is. Can you take a deep breath and see it.
–>Blame to Balance

Personal Responsibility: This is my very favorite one! The only thing in this world you have control over is yourself. Start and finish here. What is your role in this play (the dirty dishes, the stuck in traffic) and how do you wish to change your part to change your world.
–>Victim to Power

Curiosity: the power of “what if”, and “what don’t I know here”, “what can I learn”, “how can I see this differently”
–>Closed-off to Possibility

Vision: “What do I want”, “What do I value”, “Who do I want to be”, “How do I want to grow”
–>Dwelling to Belief

Choice: This is all about taking action. “What steps WILL I take to get from this moment to where I want to be.”
–>Drifting to Decision/action

Unknown/Discomfort: How can this be a tool?  This is about the embrace or rejection of the unknown and discomfort. When you embrace these you build excitement. When you reject them you create anxiety. Why? Because, both discomfort and the unknown are universal in our lives, you can reject discomfort and the unknown but they are still there; much like gravity. How you use and embrace discomfort and the unknown determines your life as a whole.
–>Anxiety to Excitement

Want to learn more? Have any thoughts or questions so far?

Yesterday I wrote about the Survival Cycle, and if you’re human, you’ve been in this cycle. It’s a part of having a mind and living this life. Everyone steps into the Survival Cycle in some aspect of his or her life every now and again. The problems with the Survival Cycle happen when it’s the only cycle you know. If you stay in this cycle too long you can fall into hate and resentment or worse apathetic depression. If the past equals the future and you aren’t living in your life, what’s the point? This is a dangerous place to live and it’s important to recognize the cycle before apathy sets in.

So, what is on the other side of the Survival Cycle?

If the Survival cycle is habit driven and past focused then the counterpart, in my mind, is living each day while making your life and circumstances better and better. I call this the Fulfillment cycle.

So, what are the characteristics of the Fulfillment Cycle?fulfillment_Cycle

 Present -> This is the act of noticing what is happening in your life, right now. What do you feel, what are your senses telling you? Being present is the act of stepping out of the story in your head and seeing what is happening right this minute.

Compassion -> If you are fully engaged in your day, you are more capable of knowing what’s happening around you and being compassionate with yourself, your circumstances and others. You’re less likely to project a story and more likely to take in what is actually happening. “Oh, that kid is crying in the store and that mom is drawing a great boundary.”   “I didn’t get enough sleep last night and I’m being a bit forgetful and short tempered, I need to take care of myself.”

Balance -> By seeing the world around you more clearly and by breathing into compassion for yourself and others, there is a settling and relaxation that occurs. You see where you currently are in your day, your relationship, and your life. In this place you feel an openness and freedom.

Power -> When you are in the moment and feeling open, you feel the power to take control of your actions. “Yes, I’m tired AND I don’t have to react to other people negatively.” “I can create what I want for myself.” “I will tell people ‘no’ and be kind doing it.” “I can smile at that mother and child who are having a tough day.”

Possibility -> When you feel compassion and power, all of a sudden there are more possibilities you can grab a hold of, options you can take, and ways of being that can change your direction.

Belief -> All of these possibilities start to show you that you are not your past. You start to see your value, what you WANT to be, and where you can grow and build new things. Your beliefs become more forward thinking. You aren’t stuck; you are building your life.

Decision -> With possibility and the belief that new things are possible, you feel empowered to make new (sometimes bold, sometimes baby step) decisions. These decisions slowly build, and you start to notice how the world and others show up for you differently. You are creating new circumstances!

Excitement -> Decisions don’t always work out. However, with the knowledge of possibility and your expanding belief in your growth, your excitement builds. Decisions aren’t right or wrong; they turn into learning experiences and stepping-stones to what you want and who you are becoming.

From excitement the cycle continues on again.

So how do you get into the Fulfillment Cycle?

For me, the Fulfillment Cycle is created by what I call the PLAY Mindset™…

I know, “play” can be a word that gives a motivated or stressed out person pause. I mean, who has time to play when there is so much that needs to be done?

Stick with me here. When I say PLAY I’m not talking about recreation or leisure, and I’m not talking directly about playful action. I’m talking about a set of skills we’ve always had, that as adults we abandon for stress and worry. I’m talking about a purposeful mindset that supports a person in creating success AND fulfillment. It’s my way of getting out of the Survival Cycle and into a purposeful, meaningful Fulfillment Cycle.

Stay tuned for more on the PLAY Mindset™ and the tools that help create Fulfillment…


Do you ever feel like you are in this cycle?Survival_cycle

Auto-pilot -> having the same thoughts, feelings and actions that have really become habitual. Some patterns you chose others are unconscious.

Fear -> a feeling that something is off and it’s unknown so you can’t do anything about it and no one else seems to be doing anything about it either… Is my relationship ok? Will I be fired or laid off from work? Am I a good parent?

Blame -> since you don’t know, it’s easy to move to blame. Blaming others, blaming circumstances, blaming your self for not being better or smarter.

Victim -> When you feel fear and start to blame, where else can you go but to a place of the victim. Why won’t someone help me? I have to do everything alone. I am alone. The world is against me.

Closed-off -> So when there isn’t anyone on your team it’s time to protect yourself and build walls for protection.

Dwell -> in a closed-off position, without any real feedback, but your own auto-pilot story, you dwell on what’s NOT working and who’s to blame, creating even more worry and stress

Drift -> since the focus is on the past and you are running on auto pilot you tend to drift through your days. Flowing on the current of your current circumstances whether they are good or bad.

Anxiety -> since you are focused on the past and drifting through your present circumstances, the future very much looks like the past or even worse than where you are currently. What if you lose that job? And then the cycle continues.

Can you see the cycle in an aspect of your life (big or small, one area or many areas)?

This is why we like Vacations… Auto-pilot must go offline and something shifts even if only for a moment or during vacation.

What if there were a tool, that each individual possesses and can cultivate, to break the cycle?

If this is a Survival cycle, what does a Fulfillment cycle look like?

stay tuned…


This piece is inspired by a story I read years ago.  It’s more a lecture, to me, than a story as it is speaking directly to the reader.  It speaks of a room you are in where all is known about the room.   A place you’ve lived in all your life and you’ve decorated and redecorated to suit your taste.  There is also a door.  A door that leads to a void.  There seems to be no floors and no walls.  Maybe there is sound, maybe something but it is unknown to you and no light shines within.  The room has become completely known and boring to you.  The excitement, curiosity and fear are focused at the door, and the void.  Will you step through?

I quite like this story and it has stuck with me for years and years.  What is beyond my room and in the void beyond?  Am I brave enough to step through to the unknown?  Below is me playing with the story, “The Room.


I jumped through to that void and what did I find?
The same damn room.
I was confused, did I miss something
this isn’t new, exciting, scary it’s just…
a room
I jumped again
This time… The same damn room!
I felt confusion
and from a confusion of expectation
an expectation of something new and different
came RAGE
Destruction of the room, fighting it all.
Throwing objects out into the void
The room in shambles and my energy wasted
I stepped into the void once more
…to the same room.

With no more rage to spend I collapse into a pile of tears.
What am I doing wrong?
Why this room, always?
I don’t want this room! I’m cursed
I cry until I can cry no longer and I look to the void again.
This time it will be different
 I step through and ….. same room….
despair and then apathy…
I lie for what seems like forever frozen in apathy
no will, no place, no movement
then to the void, the void that let me down so.
What did I fear?
Why did I fear?
What did I hope to find?
Why did I jump in the first place?
Why keep jumping?
What went wrong?
Sitting upright I take in the familiar
a room where nothing ever changes
Then to the void where change was once sought
and the fear of what that change could be and mean.
A deep breath and then another.
A thought arises and it goes by… and then another… and another
A smile, an energy, a creative surge.
Eyes closed and through the void once more
Everything has changed
there is a breeze and light and energy
focus and movement is everywhere
and yet…

What really changed?