#64. Learn to juggle

IDEA #64. Learn to juggle. You’ve always wanted to, anyhow. Now’s the time. Practice until you are good enough to juggle in a public place.

Like the balancing activity suggested in #56, learning to juggle—an art that is just plain fun to watch as well as fun to perform—is another way into a whole host of parts of the brain: juggling requires close observation, timing, balance, and spatial perception, all at once. Even those with limited dexterity can master basic juggling moves, and there are even juggling kits with instructions intended for “klutzes.”

Getting the skills of juggling down requires practice, practice, practice, and along the way the learner must control impatience or a tendency to give up. The motivation must come from within, and perhaps the learner may find that his or her desire to learn is not commensurate with the time and effort required to succeed; a person cannot be forced to learn to juggle (or to do much else).

But the persistent student will suddenly begin to make two-object and then three-object sequences, and then all the hard work and frustration will pay off. An act that at first requires immense concentration will become almost automatic, with the juggler able to “switch on” the juggling brain more or less at will.

While juggling may please the juggler, he or she will soon learn that the sight of cascading balls or other objects is enormously entertaining to others. If the impetus is there, there are infinite ways in which the art of juggling can be expressed, in the number of objects in the air, say, or the kinds of objects. Street jugglers usually have a patter that they can perform while juggling, even interacting with members of the audience, and then there are always the high-risk juggling objects—knives and torches—that always seem to thrill watchers. (We emphatically do NOT recommend the juggling of dangerous or fragile objects; we are just making an observation on one aspect of the art.) If your municipality allows it, the ambitious young juggler can even try at street performing, under supervision of course. What better way to develop some “street smarts”?

#56. Practice an amazing (but safe) feat of balance, like standing on one foot for a long time or carrying something on your head

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.

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