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Labyrinths, Balance, and the Whole in One

February 3, 2015

carrom balance boardHere’s a bit of “belly magic” for you.

The story begins years ago, when I sprained my left ankle, really badly.

The chiropractor suggested I go to the physical therapy supply store and buy a wobble board. The idea was to step side-to-side on this miniature see-saw, a wooden plank perched upon a cylinder, strengthening the tendons in the ankle I had damaged.

balanceboard-1Reluctant to pay the high-end price for this gizmo, I stepped into the nearest toy store and found a toy balance board brightly colored in blue and red, complete with a built-in maze game, actually a simple labyrinth.

The Woman’s Belly Book describes how labyrinths relate to the body’s center, the belly’s center:

The labyrinth defines a path into and out from center. As a sacred symbol, it maps a journey from the everyday world to the secret core of existence. It charts a path to the World Navel, the point through which the life force emerges to revitalize the world.

From ancient times, cultures throughout the world from the Arctic to Africa have made labyrinths in a variety of designs. The labyrinth appears on cave walls, stone slabs, grave markers, pottery, coins, and the bellies of clay figurines…. Although many associations accompany the design, in some traditions the labyrinth clearly signifies a woman’s belly. The path through the pattern traces the soul’s return to the womb and its emergence in rebirth.

I recently took my balance board out of its box to exercise my ankles and keep them flexible. Stepping side to side, I tried getting the game’s yellow ball from the labyrinth’s outer channel into the center. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t do it. Swishing as it spun, the ball swung around too fast for me to maneuver it through the narrow gateway into the next inner circle.

So I gave up and just played around with initiating the side-to-side motion with different parts of my body: feet, knees, hips, shoulders. Left, right; left, right.

Left, right; left, right: Initiating the movement with my hips made the motion smooth, almost effortless.

Eventually, I no longer heard the sound of the yellow ball circling around. I looked down and saw the sphere had come to rest in the labyrinth’s center. With absolutely no effort on my part.

A hole in one, so to speak. What are the chances?

Left hip, right hip: Marking the endpoints — the extremes, the opposites — locates the center.

For reasons I’ll tell you another time, I’ve been studying French. But for now, I’ll tell you this: The first meaning of balancer in French is “to swing.”

To swing between left and right. Between this and that. To be the and linking the extremes, to embrace the opposites as complements. To be the whole in one.

As Rainer Maria Rilke has written, translated by Robert Bly in The Winged Energy of Delight:

Take your well disciplined strengths
and stretch them between two
opposing poles. Because inside human beings
is where God learns.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2015 1:22 pm

    Oh, what a fun and interesting post! You inspire me to get out my indoor walking gadget.

    Like

  2. February 4, 2015 2:49 pm

    Thanks for your comment! Anything to keep moving, especially when the temperature outside is so cold!

    Like

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