Learning to unicycle is nothing like learning to ride a bike regardless of whether you have feet or fins. Helping a 6year old learn to ride one is like a nexus of vicarious emotional and physical pain and joy. There is also only one way to learn – and that is to get on and FALL OFF…lots. It’s ugly and uncomfortable and I can speak from experience. No amount of verbal feedback or understanding the biomechanics and physics of unicycling will do anything to improve your riding of one. Experiential learning is powerful but is often overlooked as it side steps the expert knowledge of the teacher. It requires a back down of ego and having been a teacher for a number of years I can put my hand on my heart and say I have struggled with this.
Aside from the obvious physical challenge of learning to unicycle there is the grappling with the inner workings of the mind – particularly fear and doubt, they camp out rather comfortably for quite some time. Then friends of fear and doubt – frustration, annoyance and irritation join the party. Just getting on one without gravity giving you an ass kicking requires enough perseverance to solve a rubik’s cube (and I’m not talking about those insanely talented people who complete them in less than a minute!).
While all this is going on there is still the issue of moving. You see you cannot fake unicycling – it is a fully authentic experience. Perhaps one of the more curious effects is the perception of movement and time. People who have given it a go will probably understand what I mean when I say a few inches or centimetres feels like miles and whilst that might seem an exaggeration the joy and sensation of moving are exhilarating. I suppose it could fall into the realm of altered states of consciousness.
The compression of time is more intriguing. The pendulum can swing in the blink of an eye from an ecstasy to agony, screams of delight to tears of pain. Mind, body, spirit and life compete to imprint the meaning of that moment and this is where resilience emerges. If courage, determination, patience and acceptance are allowed to speak into that moment then no amount of skin loss, bruising of bodies or ego will get in the way of getting back on.
This isn’t just learning it is ‘know-ledge’ as unicycling itself is a beautiful metaphor for life. The only way to go forward is to be in a constant state of falling and balancing this with peddling. Even trying to stay in one spot still involves constant movement.
At the end of the day, it’s just the best leveller in the world. It truly does not matter who you are or how good you are at ANYTHING before attempting to ride one – it counts for nothing. You will be chewed up and spat out.
That is the grav-ity of the situation – this clowning around is quite serious business.