My name is Michael Grab and I am a rock balance artist.
With little or no awareness of its existence, I began balancing during a spell of boredom one summer afternoon in Boulder Creek about five years ago.
Since then, curiosity has evolved into a kind of therapeutic obsession.
In short, I use meditation to set rocks into balance with one another in various arrangements and designs I find to be visually appealing.
As far as I have come to understand, rock balance is an ancient practice that has appeared all over the world among countless cultures and for a variety of reasons—despite isolated geography.
Arguably a manifestation of Jung’s “collective unconscious.”
The artistic process is very much influenced by my surroundings. Often I will sit and absorb the sounds and feelings in the given space for quite some time before beginning to balance.
The way I have come to conceptualize the process is that the balancer is somewhat of a conductor of an orchestra, while the rocks, trees, water, sounds and colors are all instruments.
Depending on how they are arranged in relation to one another, a type of symphony of energetic interaction starts to emerge.
The most fundamental element of balancing in a physical sense is finding some kind of “tripod” for the rock to stand on.
Every rock is covered in a variety of tiny to large indentations that can act as a tripod for the rock to stand upright or in most orientations I can think of in combination with other rocks.
By paying close attention to the feeling of the rocks, I will start to feel even the smallest vibrations as the notches of the rocks move against one another. In the finer point balances, these vibrations can be felt on a scale smaller than millimeters.
Some point balances will give the illusion of weightlessness as the rocks look to be barely touching.
Parallel to the physical element of finding tripods, the most fundamental non-physical element is harder to explain through words.
In a nutshell, I am referring to meditation or finding an inner silence.
The moment at which the balance is realized is a very energetic experience which I like to call the “zero point.” It is at this moment when I can feel my energy become the energy of the rocks and vice-versa.
We, in essence, become one.
Some balances can apply significant pressure on mind and body. The challenge is overcoming any doubt and physical stress that may arise and making it happen.
Once I find the right notch on a rock I am using, there is no doubt.
“Try not, there is no try…only do.” ~ Yoda
The learning process is extremely personal for everyone and it helps to conceptualize the rocks as teachers.
Achieving a challenging balance requires contemplation of both mental and physical elements simultaneously.
I must “get to know” the rocks I am working with.
Some rock characters will coordinate better with other characters of rocks and vice versa back and forth right, left, up or down. The trick I’ve found is to play and experiment. There is no right or wrong way.
If you keep at it, a balance will be inevitable if you make yourself present in the moment.
Rock balance is practiced for many different reasons, which can vary from culture to culture, place to place, and time.
Through my own research, recent travels and discussions with many I consider to be masters of the art, there is an amazing amount of common experience that overlaps for many of us.
In my own case, I practice this art as a form of meditative expression, connecting with nature and spiritual development.
One thing that binds all of us with one another and the entirety of existence is birth and death. The impermanence of the balances encourages contemplation, acceptance and appreciation of this truth.
They are glimpses into our own nature; a momentary non-duality of strength and fragility, perfect in their imperfection.
For me this realization is infinitely inspiring. It has pushed me to think about my life in a different, more transient way. I balance to give thanks and show appreciation for nature, to celebrate cycles of things such as life, death, seasons, new/full moons, eclipses, etc.
Sharing many elements with yoga, rock balance has become a daily spiritual practice that not only heals, but maintains and exercises a mindful sharpness, which can be applied in everyday life.
Another very important element that has developed in my own experience over the years is the aspect of performance balancing. There is an overwhelmingly strong and positive response when people have seen me perform this art first-hand.
It is one thing to see pictures and another thing to see the balance in three dimensions, but also another thing to actually see the building process.
The most common experience people have shared with me is that they feel pulled into the act of balancing. Many say that watching the process slows them down to a much welcomed sense of calm.
It is always a very energetic experience to perform this art for people.
Where and what I build next will often be dictated by the ambient energy of the context, including people.
I find it fascinating that so many people from every demographic I can imagine make a very deep connection to the balance, possibly due to the seemingly impossibility of much of it, but perhaps also another relation to the collective unconscious which we all share.
For me this is quite a profound contemplation. Over the years i have begun to document many of my creations in order to share them with others via the internet.
I grow increasingly inspired that so many make a connection to this art form, which in turn helps feed the creative flow.
I absolutely love doing this and can see myself as a balancer for life.
Michael Grab was born in Edmonton, Canada in 1984 and relocated to Boulder, Colorado in 2002 to attend University. It was not until after graduating from CU that Michael “accidentally” discovered his interest in stone balance. Since then he has gained a local reputation for designing balanced rock gardens up and down Boulder Creek, which flows through the heart of Boulder. Over the years Michael has attracted repeated visitors and sometimes small crowds while he balances and photographs creek rocks during his free time. Aspiring to be a professional designer and balance artist/performer, Michael continues to play with and share this contemplative art form on a daily basis with an international audience anywhere with rocks and gravity.
Editor: Jamie Morgan
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