Guy on a Unicycle

a Study of Balance

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Driving home from the gym today I came upon a guy on a unicycle, launching himself into an uphill turn, heading my way. It looked like a giant mono-wheel version of a mountain bike, upon which he sat tall—even as he made speed (so bad-assed!). Clad in winter gear, he took the corners with precision and apparent ease. Oh, he was smiling the whole time—smiling! What swag.

Watching him, my eyes wide and my jaw descending (with just a twinge of jealousy), I thought to myself, “what incredible balance!”

But I knew from my own athletic adventures that as graceful and at ease as he appeared, there was full-on engagement of strength and focus to keep him upright as he flew around those corners and took those hills.

The sight of him made me ponder the dynamic nature of balance. That rather than balance, per se, he was constantly resisting imbalance through his improbable efforts on that precarious single-wheeled vehicle.

Balance—an idea we circle around constantly—that we strive for. But never a place to land for long.

While in truth, we make constant adjustments—stepping in, pulling back, applying effort, letting go. A continuous rhythm of effort and ease. Like breath. Never static.

But that smile… His smile said it all and reminded me so beautifully.

It’s hard. It’s work. It takes practice. But it gets easier to stay upright, to turn those corners at full speed and go up those hills, knowing that at the end we get to glide sometimes… and smile.

Further Reading:

Karyn Shanks, MD. Learning to Practice “Slow.” 2017.

Karyn Shanks, MD. Practice is a Superpower. 2017.

Originally published at

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