A couple of years ago I was enjoying alumni privileges in one of the expansive, well-equipped fitness centers at my college alma mater. On the mats over in the corner usually reserved for stretching and similar activities, I noticed a guy, around 30ish and in good shape, doing something else. 

At first, I wasn’t sure quite what he was doing. He had a smooth four-inch square wood block in each hand, and he was doing handstands on the blocks. Pretty good! But then he started picking up one hand a few inches for a second or two before putting it back down to resume his two-handed position. 

I watched him for a few minutes as he repeated his moves, working slowly and methodically.

Finally, I had to ask him. “So, are you a gymnast or in the circus?”

Not surprisingly, neither, as it turned out.

He was working on his one-handed handstands. His goal was to be able to hold the move for ten seconds. 

“I’m up to four seconds.”

“When do you hope to reach ten seconds?”

“If I work on it every day for about a half hour, maybe in four or five months.”

I asked him The Mountain Climbing Question – Why do you do it? – though the classic Mountain Climbing Answer – because it’s there – didn’t really fit here.

He told me his capoeira instructor (Brazilian martial art form combining dance, acrobatics and music) suggested it as a challenge requiring a blend of several physical, emotional and mental elements: strength, balance, calm centering, perseverance, patience, quiet confidence, relaxed attentiveness.  He was looking forward, upon reaching the 10 second mark, to what others described as an almost unmatched experience of consciousness, awareness, achievement and possibility.

Yeah, but every day for half an hour for six months, and it’s just 10 seconds?

“The experience of the journey is the benefit,” he said. “And the ten second mark isn’t the goal, it’s just a waypoint.”


But for my two rotator cuff surgeries, that would be going on my Bucket List.