Archive for April 20th, 2013

Cairn - Bald Mountain Adirondacks

A cairn marking the peak of Bald Mountain, Adirondacks

Do you feel a little off-balance today? I have and it is an uncomfortable feeling. For me today, it is a little off-balance emotionally instead of physically, but it’s still enough to throw my gait off.

However, I was lucky enough to have had my body work massage already scheduled for today and that has me feeling much better at this later time in the day.

My physical body is undergoing a slow,  long-term weight loss pattern too so there is actually a constant rebalancing going on. Yoga and Poolates helps a lot with that.

Last Saturday, I invited my Yoga Class and Poolates class over for a little open-house gathering and I told them to bring a rock! And we were going to be talking about balance – the grace of it and the lack of it.

Tom and I collected rocks from around our property and washed them off to get them ready for the party.

We were going to experience balance through building cairns.

The attendees brought their rocks too.

Cairn  - Switzerland

A cairn to mark the summit of a mountain in Switzerland

A cairn is a man-made pile (or stack) of stones. It comes from the Scottish Gaelic càrn (plural càirn). Cairns are found all over the world  particularly on mountaintops, near waterways, and on sea cliffs. They also appear in barren desert and tundra areas. They also mark graves.

Cairn British mass grave South Africa

One of many cairns marking British mass graves in South Africa

They vary in size from small stone markers to entire artificial hills, and in complexity from loose, conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering. Cairns may be painted or otherwise decorated, e.g. for increased visibility or for religious reasons.

So on Saturday afternoon, we were not shy at trying our “magalithic engineering” skills right in the middle of our living room.


Julius goes first and gets it going. Wife, Leslie holds the vibration for the growing tower.


The rocks are the star of the party and soon many creations build upwards into the stilled, quieted room filled with concentration and focus.


Chris builds the beginning base strength of her cairn.


Sandy builds several cairns of fascinating and balanced structure. They soared high before reaching the collapsing addition of “just one more rock will fit right in here” challenge.

I was working with a new camera and sometimes just missed the best height of a cairn before it crumbled. But some stood too.


Sharon approached her champion cairn with the utmost of respect and “due diligence”.


Also note that the cracker plate “cairn” is nicely balancing as long as the stone cairn stands!

“So,” someone asked me, “what does this have to do with balance and calm and becoming serene when we are just hoping like heck, the next rock doesn’t topple our cairn?”

“Good question,” I reply.  “How do you keep balance in your life, what helps it, what goes against it, what makes you become unbalanced, and what happens when you are out of balance, ” thinking this would be the start of a rewarding introspective conversation.

“When I’m out of balance, I fall down,” comes the plain and simple answer, and not much more discussion beyond that. Only laughter and agreement. They go back to building their cairn.

I found that joyful. And I know that a committed practice to both Yoga and Poolates helps me immensely to staying more balanced in my daily life with only a few stumbles here and there.

That’s encouraging. The afternoon came, it seemed, to a quick end and guests were soon on their way. It was a balancing afternoon of friendship and good will…..adding a little more balance to a world rocked with unbalancing acts like the one that would two days later occur at the Boston Marathon.

Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.” Albert Einstein.

So divinely is the world organized that every one of us, in our place and time, is in balance with everything else.” Adam Acone.

Note: Photos of worldwide cairns were Wikipedia photos released to the public domain.

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