The Sense of Balance
Balance is the third sense among the twelve that Rudolf Steiner, founder of Waldorf Education, developed and introduced about 100 years ago. On his website, van Gelder indicated Balance was the fourth sense, but Steiner identified it as the third sense in his book, Spiritual Science as a Foundation for Social Forms.
The sense of balance is the third of the lower senses, classified as physical, inner, or a sense of the will. These senses are helpful with perception of one’s own body. This is your proprioceptive system at work!
The sense of balance begins before birth and develops through the critical activities of rolling, crawling, and struggling to learn to walk.
According to van Gelder, “We use our sense of balance to orient ourselves in the world. Observations made with this sense let you know what is up and down, left and right, in front and behind, above and below. The sense of balance perceives the smallest changes in your vertical position. Your body has a dynamic equilibrium. You maintain your balance by making very small adjustments in muscle tension in muscles all over your body. Every time you stand up you have to rediscover your balance, by using this sense.
Your organ of balance is not the only organ that you use to maintain your balance. Your eyes are at least as important to orient yourself in your surroundings. Your eyes see vertical and horizontal objects which confirm the information given by your organ of balance. Try walking in a room where everything is at odd angles. Your balance could be so distorted, that the surface of the water in a bucket (which is in fact always horizontal) would appear to be sloping downhill.
When you observe other objects, you are using your organ of balance in different ways. First, to determine the position of the object in the surroundings, taking the horizon as your orientation. Secondly, to observe whether something is standing straight up, or leaning, and whether something is actually horizontal or only seems to be. You can detect how far something is out of true. Finally, using your organ of balance you can detect whether something is out of proportion, e.g. whether length is in proportion with height (van Gelder, 2015).
How does this relate to Unitarian Universalism and Religious Exploration?
The Seven Principles of Unitarian Universalism are the ideas which we affirm to “hold as strong values and moral guides.”
I identified twelve key concepts that appear throughout them. These are:
When we make a conscious effort to fortify the sense of balance, we will in turn be developing awareness of justice, compassion, acceptance, freedom, and connectiveness.
What can you do to fortify this sense?
- Recreational Gymnastics, and ANY activity that rotates the inner ear in space (e.g. rolling down a hill) or depends on balance (e.g. blindfold games) will provide a terrific benefit.
- Spin someone around a few times while holding them and observe their eye movements. Keep holding them after you stop spinning. What is their balance like after having been spun around? What observations can you make, and what observations did the subject make during and after spinning? How do they perceive their surroundings?
- Do this exercise again with another subject, but this time let the subject go after spinning. What observations can you make now?
- Blindfold yourself and then try to balance while standing on one leg. Then do it without a blindfold. What is the difference?
- by Amy Huntereece, PhD ABD, M. Ed.
- March 4, 2021
- Steiner, R. (1986). In A. Howard (Ed.), Spiritual science as a foundation for social forms [Geisteswissenschaft als erkenntnis der grundimpulse sozialer gestaltung] (M. St. Goar, Trans.). Anthroposophic Press. (Original work published in 1920).
- Tunkey, J. (2011). Working with the 12 senses: Touch, health, movement and balance as a foundation for academic progress.
- UUA. (2018). The seven principles. https://www.uua.org/beliefs/what-we-believe/principles
- van Gelder, T. (2015). Sense of balance. http://tomvangelder.antrovista.com/sense-of-balance-127m54.html