Balance On The Rail Exercise

One of my favourite exercises during training, whether, solo or with a group, is balancing on the rail.

It’s a challenging task, it engages so many things at once, but what I love about it, is that it’s so simple. It’s not overly impressive to look at, flashy, there really isn’t anything in it for the ego, and everyone can do it.

Balance is in my opinion one of the pillar foundational skills and disciplines.

On the out side looking on, there’s just you up on the rail balancing.

One foot, then the other, forwards, backwards, teetering left,
teetering right. And yes, if you’ve seen the film “Man on wire”, taken to extremes can be absolutely awe inspiring, and profoundly life changing.

But do you know what’s really impressive, you know what I find mind blowing? It’s what’s going on on the inside, that to me is so amazing, and sometimes just how amazing it is, goes right over most people’s head.

Recently for my birthday some close friends conspired together to buy me a gift that would symbolise who I am and what I represent.
We met at my place before going out for drinks, and a small box was presented to me. I opened it and inside the clear perspex glass case was a gyroscope.

Though I was very appreciative of the gift, I was confused as to how this represented me and why they chose this for me. When I asked them why the gyroscope, they just said ‘Because its you man’. And that was that.

I let the thought spin in my mind, I didn’t press for an answer because my friends obviously felt that it needed no explanation. Soon after that we left my house and hit the town.

I admitted to being fascinated as kid with gyroscopes, the way they hovered seemingly weightless, poised on any surface they were placed on.

Spinning, rotating, flowing, with perfect balance, on angles that defied the laws of physics, even when placed on an impossible area the size of a needle point.

The obviousness of the the truth, that there were invisible forces at
play, perplexed me and challenged my beliefs on what I thought
possible, even though they were being illustrated right before my eyes.

After celebrating my birthday I began researching what gyroscopes were actually used for in a practical sense, what these forces were, and why they worked the way they did. They were used in missile guidance systems, navigational software and hardware, and the Hubble space telescope to name a few.

With out going into all that, and it’s worth a google,

It became evident that in order to do what we consider normal, like walking and just moving from one point in space to another, that we as human beings, must have some kind of device built within the body to carry out these everyday tasks.

Balance is something we all take for granted, we are so good at it that we don’t even think about it. It’s just normal.

One time free diving with friends, I got carried away with the beauty of the underwater world, and was diving a little too deep for a little to long. When surfacing my inner ear balance was distorted, and I felt like I was tumbling out of control, yet I wasn’t moving. It wasn’t until I lost my balance that I knew just how important it was.

Focus, a key component in balancing.

Going back to the rail now, imagine your self standing on top. The subtlest of movements have influence over wether you stay up on the rail or fall off.

Now this doesn’t just mean body movements although if we counted the muscles used to balance on the rail they would most definitely include every muscle you have. I’m also talking about movement on a mental, emotional and energetic level too.

Sometimes a simple thought can mean the difference between falling off and staying on. Sometimes another person observing you
can throw you off, especially if they are willing you to fall, unless of course your will to stand your ground is stronger, but
that’s another subject. For now this is about you and your balance.

Often I hear people talk about their lives and say. “My life is so out of balance, I work too hard and play too little, or I play too hard, and now I don’t work” so then they go rushing around making drastic changes hoping that, that will fix things. Like going cold turkey with a vice. Or working themselves into the ground to reach a goal.

Combing the mirror.

Spinning plates.

No matter how much you go about changing the external world around you, how much you push against yourself, resist, and manage your imbalances, there is only so long you can maintain before something tips you over the edge, and you go back to being your old self.

It’s all about subtle movements, balance is a process towards stillness, not about swinging between opposites. It’s really quite an invisible quality to observe in action, you can only see its effects, but the results of a balanced life are difficult to Ignore.

It’s these thousands of subtle movements through the body, millions of neurones firing off in the brain, the thousands of connections between neuronets are so subtle that you can’t see it, but they’re there happening, electrochemical signals traveling all
over the place and cycling back again in a constant feedback loop, creating consequences and outcomes.

The complexity of all this is staggering.

Imagine you’re a robotics engineer, how would you build and program a robot to do what you’ve been able to do, since you were a kid.

This is all automatic, an unconscious process, and one you don’t really ever think about.

So going back to these people who’s lives are our of balance. Instead of using up all your energy and will power to control your external world, to bring balance into your life.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to leave it as it was, and to cultivate a stronger sense of balance within, that ultimately will filter down the levels and outflow into your external world, by taking the time, daily or even weekly, by getting up on the rail and develop the process’ and hardware that is already within you, that governs your balance. The place where balance comes from.

It just waiting for you to cancel the auto pilot and take control.

A tangible result from developing your balance.

I was one of those kids who always got car sick, plane sick, sea sick, had to always be looking out the window, or where I was going, could never read in the car, and sleeping while travelling always came with a risk of turning grey or green, throwing up, and being out if sorts for hours afterwards.

As an adult I needed ‘travel calm’ to fly, and even then, the disorientation knocked me around making it hard to concentrate in meetings and conferences, which was often the reason for me traveling. I love travel but the act of traveling itself was a grind. I envied others who could read a book, carry a conversation with friends, nod off when tired, and let the pilot take care of ‘the getting there’.

It wasn’t until I started the discipline of balancing on the rail, that I noticed there were times when the motion sickness receded.

I was at a conference in Sydney and met an Ear Fitness Specialist. I had no idea what that meant, but after listening to her talk, my mind began to track all the balance training I was doing, the diving and clearing while free diving, and it wasn’t until she asked me a questions that it all clicked into place.

The question was ” do you know what the first sense is?” I didn’t know how to answer, I’d never thought about it before. She said that hearing was the first sense we develop, and that it happens in the womb.

Made sense because there was all that hype about talking to babies during pregnancy, and playing Mozart through head phones over the belly of expecting mothers to encourage brain development.

She also talked about the inner ear and the balance system, how it affects mental health as well as motor skills.

I thought back to my lectures in anatomy and physiology and had flash backs to how the mechanics of the ear had evolved from being part of the gills in fish and then into what we know it as in humans today, how it begins much the same way in embryos, and changes throughout the pregnancy to shape the common ear.

It hit me that this biological hard ware was ancient, and had been in
development for millions of years. The technology of what we are is so advanced, that it doesn’t even need our conscious thought to function anymore. In fact to think about it consciously is a difficult task, in and of itself.

This begged the question.

If this all happens on auto pilot, and its just working on idle, then what could it really do?

We all use computers, iPhones and the like, but like my Dad, who has an iPhone, he just uses the basic functions, although the capabilities far out reach his knowledge of how  to use them and the potential of them.

A good friend of mine runs his own business as an IT security advisor. The computer he uses for his work is the same as mine, and probably yours too. You can buy one in any computer store or on line.
But what he can do with it exceeds my understanding of what’s possible.

To me what he does seems like magic.

But to him it’s normal, it’s just what can be done based on the depth of understanding he has, what and how the system is built. He calls these ‘magic abilities’ exploits.

The forces, levers and controls that create the ‘real world’ are unseen. They don’t begin in the physical reality, they rest in the invisible. To the untrained they are unnoticeable, unimpressive, and boring. But to the initiated, the adept, the Master, they are profound, highly impressive, astounding and well worth investing yourself into.

So when you see someone like me, on the outside, training in the park, balancing on the rail. Just know, that its just the scratch on the scratch you’re seeing, the tip of the ice berg, and what’s really going on here, is not to balance on just the rail, but to be balanced everywhere.

Give me a place in which to stand, and I shall move the world

  • Archimedes.
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