Yes, it's more than a metaphor!
Juggling has delighted people for centuries, and in recent years it's also served as a handy synonym for "doing more than one thing at the same time." This is a little ironic, because juggling doesn't involve multi-tasking skills--it's really just doing a single thing repeatedly, albeit with enough speed to create the illusion of confusing complexity. That single thing is the simple act of throwing a ball in such a way as to leave your hand open to catch another. If you can do that, you can juggle...with a little patience.
We're talking the basic three-item juggle here: four items requires a lot more practice, and five demands the speed and skill that comes from real dedication. But if you want to enchant children and gain a reputation as a paragon of dexterity, this lesson will show you how to know the basic juggling.
Warning: when learning to juggle, you will look silly. Don't let this discourage you. Just like the beginning horn player makes not music but funny rude noises, the beginning juggler looks like the comic antithesis of a juggler. When you get the hang of it you'll probably never forget how, but until then it's probably a good idea to do your practicing alone, in a derision-free zone.
You can learn to juggle in any room with a minimum of breakable objects, but we recommend making use of a table as well, preferably of a height between your kneecaps and your waist (your kitchen table will probably do fine).
When learning to juggle, the last thing you want to toss around is anything spherical and bouncy: you'll spend more time hunting for it (and picking it up off the ground) than actually learning. For that reason, your juggling "balls" shouldn't actually be balls of any variety. You want something that'll stay in one place when it gets dropped--bean bags are ideal, but not everyone has three bean bags of equal size hanging around the house.
You can easily create a good starter set by raiding your spare change jar. Lay out three old socks on a table, then place a mound of change into each of them--about enough change to fill your cupped hand. Try to get the mounds as even as possible. Then knot them as shown in the illustration.
These balls (we're still going to call them that) may not look like much, but they'll do the job. Try to make the knots good and tight, and retighten them when they start to loosen: you don't want a shower of change ending your practice session. If loose knots become a problem, you can get them even tighter by wetting the socks beforehand.
As your practice develops, you'll get a sense of how the balls "fit" in your hand: they should land in your palms solidly (not bouncing out), and not require a lot of effort to toss. If you find yourself throwing rather than tossing them--or if they just flop about in the air rather than tracing a neat arc--try adding some more coins.
Just toss a ball around : Now that you've made three juggling balls, the next step is to lay two of them aside and concentrate on playing with just one. That's right, playing. Pick it up and do what you did thousands of times when you were a kid: toss it up in the air, and then catch it (with the same hand) as it comes down. Do it with your palm up and only lightly cupped, and only toss it hard enough to send it only a few inches higher than your head. While you keep this up, pause from time to time to read each of the following observations. Perform the exercises prescribed in them...but by all means, keep tossing! You should spend at least half an hour on this step alone. This is the basic of juggling.