Balance: A Journey, Not a Destination
When I chose the name for my website, wellbalanced.me, I was a little concerned about the word “balance.” Balance is something that so many of us are seeking. We can be deceived by an image of a healthy looking woman sitting in the lotus position and think that this is what it means to experience balance. When we compare our busy lives filled with carting around kids, managing stressful careers and handling financial responsibilities, to an image of a peaceful looking woman in lotus, balance can seem elusive and something of a moving target. And, guess what? It is.
But, if we look at balance more like a journey than a destination, then it becomes more relevant and possible. I always like to use the example of a tightrope walker. The tightrope walker may appear to be achieving perfect balance while on the tightrope, but if you look closely you’ll notice that she is constantly pulling herself in from one side to the other and never in a static state. She is highly attuned (hello, awareness!) to the subtle swings of the rope and takes action to counter it; moment to moment to moment. It may look easy, but I'm sure she'd tell you that it's anything but.
Balance requires these two things: Awareness and action. First, we must become aware of our present situation. Sometimes we can become so absorbed in a particular situation that we unconsciously swing widely out of balance. I can recall a time when I was working at a busy office, with an infant and toddler in daycare and was operating on very little sleep. I came down with a flu that seemed to drag on forever. When I finally went to the doctor, she tested me for all sorts of diseases I thought I had contracted. The results? A severe case of being wildly out of balance. With this awareness, I was able to make small changes to my routine that would bring me back into balance. Awareness is a critical factor in change. I have learned that the more I am able to be aware during these busy moments, the more quickly I can catch myself swinging too far to the left or the right (aka, falling out of balance).
Practicing awareness can be as simple as bringing yourself to your inner body. Can you just notice your breath or even the sensation of your inner body while you move through your day? During your daily routine can you practice awareness in the small moments: Making a cup of tea, washing the dishes, putting on your shoes? Use these small moments to practice awareness, so that when the busier, more stressful situations arise (as they do) you will remain present and, like the tightrope walker, able rein yourself back into balance.
Keep this in mind: Balance is not static. No matter how hard you try, you will not cross a bannered finish line that says, “Congratulations, you’ve achieved perfect balance.” Balance has a fluid quality. It is flexible and changeable. Balance is defined as: “An influence counteracting the effect of another.” When we understand that balance is not a static state, but an ever changing condition, it becomes conceivable. With this knowledge, we can also be a little more forgiving towards ourselves the next time we fall out of balance.
Albert Einstein summed it up nicely when he wrote, "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." The next time a stressful situation swings you too far out of balance, practice awareness and then take the necessary action to pull yourself back into it. With regular practice and the key element of awareness followed by action, you will more quickly be able bring yourself back to center.