The Story of Speed and Balance

By: Anchita Nidhindra, Juanita Nidhindra.

 

While the wizards at Moterum are working tirelessly to demystify walking “speed” and “balance”, I am going to tell you another story – a story that unveils the secrets of “speed” and “balance” in life. It is such a precious yet ubiquitous concept, that it appears and unfolds in many ways as we look around in our everyday lives.

In this unusual time of crisis and uncertainty, it can be a worthwhile undertaking to learn from the most resilient of human beings. Children are one such group — they are amazing people and very interesting to observe. As they work toward mastery over their ever-changing and growing bodies, balance games are a favorite challenge for them.

There is a particular five year old who comes to mind. Like most children, when balancing on a beam or a narrow path of rocks, he would always try to rush through as quickly as possible — his aim being to cross the surface without falling. He could be very competitive and took extra pride in how fast he could go. Nimble as a cat!

Something interesting happened one day, when I invited him to see if he could cross that rocky path “as slow as a snail” instead. He looked at me with puzzled eyes, but took up the challenge. It wasn’t long before he realized that slow and careful steps were much, much harder to take! With speed out of the equation (or dramatically reduced), dynamic balance ceded to static balance. There weren’t as many points of contact between the foot and the surface at any given time; and what was, needed to be carefully preserved. All the work — the movement, the tension and the focus had to be now be redirected inwards. His sensory-motor feedback was changing from moment to moment, and his stance needed to shift accordingly. Nerves and muscle cells had to learn to communicate with each other in new ways. While in the past he could have breezed through the path, chattering or singing, maybe even looking around, he was now quiet, his gaze directed downwards, the tip of his tongue protruding from his lips. A picture of focus and attention as you’ve never seen before! 

 

In the moments that followed, he tried his best, but couldn’t keep himself up there for very long. He started to fall, caught himself, then ran off to play somewhere else. The year went on… He loved playing outdoors and would return to balance on that rock from time to time. Days, weeks and months went by. One day, I saw him try again, and this time he stayed! He stood on one foot, arms no longer flailing, with a proud gaze and a well-earned smile. I could see that his body was still making minor adjustments, but he was no longer out of his element. The joy in my heart mirrored the triumph in his eyes. “I see you found a way to stay on there,” I acknowledged. “I could still fall,” he said, exaggerating his movements, and with an impish smile. “You could, but you could also just try again, now that you know you can do it,” I replied. I watched him with satisfaction as he sped off to play another game.

In these times filled with fear and forced isolation, when I look around, I find myself — ourselves — on that rock in the middle of the narrow path, forced to stand nearly frozen, but barely managing to. The rhythm, even the rush, of our routines that used to carry us forward through the days has vanished. Now we’re stranded, made to stop, but we’re still being asked to keep our balance, be productive, care for our families. It is much harder. There just aren’t as many points of contact or safety nets. Many of the familiar, reassuring, challenging touch-points of our work environment, our life environment, have disappeared. This isolation of space and stasis of time is telling us — yelling to us — that we can no longer depend on external elements to find balance. 

In these kind of moments, I see the 5-year-old gazing at me. “What will you do?” he seems to ask. “What will I do?” I echo and wonder. Something tells me I should quieten down and focus inwards, so that I can begin to listen to myself. But how? There is so much chaos, uncertainty, danger… basic necessities no longer a given, health under constant threat — it is a dark time for humanity. How am I supposed to find my balance? He reminds me that perhaps I just do what I’m made to do. Part re-focusing, part letting go, but mostly instinct. I try, and some days I find moments of inner quiet, peace and joy. Other days, I try, but teeter and need to step down, or even fall, from that rock. I try again, another day, another way. I remember that we are in this together, even though we are NOT together. I learn from others around me in new ways. Maybe I can find fresh connections, forge different relationships between what and who I knew before. Maybe those relationships can even be deeper and more meaningful than they were before. Above all, I give deeply heartfelt thanks for the privileges and certainties that I DO have, for now… 

If I begin to lose myself in the strange needs and uncomfortable expectations of these days, I close my eyes and evoke that five year old balancing on the tippy rock on one foot. I thank him. He is the light that shows me it is possible to find my balance and place in the world without the breakneck speed of normalized life to propel me forward. It shines on me inwards when all I see outside are the dark shadows of missing familiar safety nets that once used to support me. This is a new kind of balance: uncomfortable, alien, fleeting. Some days — dare I say, most days — I fall. I question if it is a futile endeavor. “But you can always try again, now that you know you can do it,” his voice whispers to me. Filled with gratitude for the wisdom that only a young child can offer, I nod, listen and believe…

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