Zen and the art of... Juggling?



Over Christmas break, I decided to start practicing juggling. I'd love to say I'm an expert at it, but here we are a month later, and I'm not sure I ever will be. That's not to say I haven't learned a lot. I certainly have learned a ton. Let me share, and encourage you to find your juggling center. Yes, this will get metaphorical. Bear with me.

Lesson one, get ready to pick up a lot of balls, and whatever else the balls knock over. I eventually learned to practice over the bed. When I drop, I don't have to pick things up from the floor very often anymore. This increased my rate of improvement, or at least my rate of trying again. When I think about it, learning can be a messy business. Learning juggling, or cooking, or changing your own oil will all make messes. Just consider it part of the price of "picking up" new knowledge.

Lesson two, focus. My high school band director had a sign in his office that read "The main thing about the main thing is to keep it the main thing." I often try to figure out what the main thing is and focus on that, but in juggling, there is no one main thing. If you take your focus off one of the balls, you're going to be headed back to lesson one. Sometimes there will be more than one issue that require your focus at the same time. Learn to deal with that idea. Learn to embrace it.

Lesson three, predict. I tend to focus visually on an area near the top of the balls' flights when juggling. By watching the top of the arc, I can predict where the ball will fall. It's not possible to keep your eye on the ball all the way to your hand... well, I guess it is, but you're not going to make the next catch. Sometimes when switching your focus between main things, you have to check in on them mid-flight, and just trust they will end up where you project. Of course, you have to take a brief moment to double check that it actually landed where you thought it would. Don't spend too long with that. Once it lands, its time to launch into something else.

Lesson four, keep your center. I noticed that while juggling, my heart rate increases. When I first started, it would hover around 120, but now that I've been at it for a month, it only heads up to about 100. When I first started, I would often get tense. High heart rates and tension are not a recipe for smooth, controlled motions. In fact, at first, I would have to consciously think to myself "Calm down amygdala. We have no use for your antics right now." Acknowledging when the wrong part of my brain was coming online was key in being able to retain my "juggling center" and not lose my ability to predict and focus without getting aggravated about picking up balls. When you've got multiple points of focus, remember to keep your center.

There are tons of other things I've picked up by trying to pick up juggling, but I feel like that is enough for today. Juggling for five minutes each day has helped me to expect things to go awry every day, focus on multiple main things, predict when things will land right where they should and when they will miss. When things do miss (and they will, often) juggling has helped me keep my center, pick things back up, and keep moving forward.

What is your "juggling"? When you are struggling, is there something you draw on to keep you moving forward? Feel free to share in the comments.

Don't forget to take time to make the world better each day.

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