IDEA #56. Practice an amazing (but safe) feat of balance, like standing on one foot for a long time or carrying something on your head. Start by practicing keeping a yardstick balanced on your finger, or your chin, or on top of your foot.
There are no easy ways to do this, and the practitioner probably learns more about patience than about balance. The art of balancing requires a Zen-like ability to place yourself, and your body in particular, deep in the moment and shutting off much of the conscious mind. This is indeed a subtle art.
So how does turning off the conscious mind help turn someone into a thinker? From earliest times wisdom has been seen as something arising from a level of consciousness that many people are unable to access easily. In this place of deep concentration and of deep insight there exist possibilities of thought that the normal preoccupations of even the child or adolescent mind tend to obscure. The kind of deep “unconscious” concentration required to balance an object, or to properly aim an arrow or throw a strike for that matter, can be a place of power for the young person. Learning to access this place—athletes who can do this easily call it “The Zone”—and the clear channels of thought within it can be a useful skill in many areas, from taking standardized tests to completing tasks requiring great concentration and patience to performing other physical acts; it is even the place from which artists and poets often draw inspiration and vision.
Balancing a yardstick on a big toe for 30 seconds may not turn a young person into Picasso or William Tell, but it will help him or her explore an important realm of consciousness while having fun—perhaps even amazing others—at the same time. And better yet, balancing wizardry can be performed based on senses other than sight.