Inspiring Stories

Meet the Member: The Art of Stone Balancing

Since Senior Planet Denver opened in October, it’s been earning kudos from members for its classes and activities.  For one member, however, mere thanks is not enough.

Tom O’Dwyer, (who joined with his wife, Carol), offered himself as a volunteer handyman for the Center.  Since then he’s been a familiar sight making sure things get done.  

That’s not all.  Tom, a native of Limerick, Ireland, is a retired stone mason whose passion is the art of gravity stone balancing – creating stone sculptures with or without glue.  He will be teaching a class here at the Denver center in January 2020 called The Art of Gravity Stone Balancing. Our members will learn four methods of stone balancing: tower, counterbalance, zig zag, and arch. We caught up with Tom to learn more.

Tom’s story in his own words



“Once I became a former stonemason (don’t like that word retire!) for a long time afterwards I was searching for something new to fill in all this time I had, not realizing that after 25+ years of being around stones. and masonry…that it was right under my nose! One day out in my backyard, I started balancing a few rocks and from there I was hooked.


The appeal of Gravity Stone Balancing

“There’s so much of it that appeals to me. Once I started with the basics, I found I wanted to challenge myself with what I can achieve with variations of stones and gravity. As I balanced, the appeal of being one to one with a bit of nature, the meditative awareness of it, the creativeness and how it makes me focus, was like a magnet — I wound up spending all day in the backyard!

“There are many challenges in balancing. The first is yourself! At first one might say “I can’t do that.” You never say can’t. When it comes to balancing, one first relaxes the mind. Look closely at the stone in your hand and see where the gravity will want to go.

“If it’s your base stone (which is always your first one), it must be free of movement. For example, if you were hiking in the mountains and decided to take a break and balance, you would make sure the base rock is semi-buried in the ground.  If you were taking a walk on the beach and decided to balance, the base stone would be semi-buried in sand. Sizes or color textures don’t matter as long as you can lift safely and realize where the gravity wants to take them. You must look very closely at your stone,  looking for either a crevice, indentation, pockets or a half pocket.

Outdoor vs. Indoor

“Outdoor balancing is somewhat different than indoors. Working indoors at Senior Planet, we’ll be using small stones (about the size of one’s hand) and smaller; these are sizes that anyone can work with. We will start with a very simple balance – straight up – which is called ‘towers.’ From there we’ll progress to counterbalance.  Once students are comfortable and have the basics down, I then let them create their own masterpiece. Seeing students let go of their creation and their sense of achievement is very rewarding both to them and me.

“We then move to stone arches, which are a wee bit more challenging, but give everyone a great sense of accomplishment once finished. Different people get so many different benefits. Some love the way the practice relieves them of everyday stress, just playing with forces of gravity and nature, how they can set their mind and harness their own artistic design.

Experience with Senior Planet

“As a Senior Planet member so far, the computer education from Abraham has been tremendously beneficial. Meeting others who had much the same issues as I, and being able to ask questions and get answers I could comprehend is great – and of course the staff is great.  These days it seems people don’t have time to crack a smile or are not happy in their job, but not at Senior Planet. Sometimes I’ll show up early for class just to converse with the staff and enjoy their company. They are a joy to be around.

“We’re all about the same age, and it seems we all learn something different from each other as we come from different walks of life. Having a sense of humor is a must that one can share with fellow students; we should not take things too seriously, especially as we age.

“It seems seniors are becoming more isolated with technology. Having computer classes with Senior Planet is a brilliant asset to seniors. Once they attend, not only do they learn, but to be able to sit, have a cuppa with fellow classmates after class, and make new friends, literally eliminates that feeling of isolation.

Learn more about Tom in this article