Have you ever played with a top? Most of us have. It’s a simple, common toy, yet brilliantly complex. How is it that a pointy-ended item which falls over at a standstill balances so gracefully in motion?
I wondered that this morning and a quick search led me to this fascinating description of the science behind Spinning Tops, Gyroscopes & Rattlebacks written by Rod Cross, a physicist with the University of Sydney, Australia. (Hint: it’s even better read with an Aussie accent.) The last physics class I took was more than 25 years ago, so I don’t understand all of it, but one thing caught my attention. As they are spinning, tops are, in fact, falling just as much as when you’ve set them on end at a standstill and they topple down. It’s just that the spin changes the direction of their fall from down to sideways, so instead of the top tipping over, it stays upright.
Once upon a time, I read a similar description of walking. I’ll leave it to you to Google that yourself, but from what I remember, walking is basically a series of falls forward. Each footfall causes you to catch yourself before you are laid out flat.
Since I’m not a physicist or an engineer, the mechanics of all this interests me not so much for its own sake as for the opportunity to make a clever analogy. Most frequently when I use the term “balance,” I’m not talking about staying physically upright, but emotionally even.
I haven’t shared it in this space before, but right now, in my own life journey, I’m traveling some rough terrain. Six months ago my husband, Adam, was diagnosed with an aggressive, malignant brain tumor. There is no class, no training program, no webinar to prepare yourself for a disease that’s trying to end the life of someone you love sooner rather than later. It feels like everything that is knowable and understandable begins to move, and continues moving until it’s become a constant, wobbly tornado.
A few days ago, I asked myself, “How can I continue to live in a constant state of crisis? How can I keep managing all this without losing my mind?” It’s really, really hard. Today, reading about the forces involved in motion, I see the glimmer of the beginning of an answer.
I need to learn to spin.
To spin, I must hold fast to that point of connection on which everything balances and simply give in to the momentum. I have to give in, to let myself fall, trusting that, even when it feels like I’m unable to stop, I will not fall over.
I’m sharing this post as part of Spiritual Journey First Thursday. Visit this month’s host Doraine Bennett at Yoga Inspired to find more thoughts on balance.