a question of balance
"I'm seeking more balance in my life."
It's a common desire expressed these days.
Of course, when hearing it, I immediately become curious about what that means - specifically - to the person who is expressing it, and what are they perceiving about their lives that makes them feel unbalanced.
I agree it's a very real concern - having to do with feeling caught up in a lot of things that present themselves as urgent priorities, while neglecting what matters, what nourishes our hearts and souls.
The problem I've seen (or been judgmental enough about to think it's a problem) is that a lot of the solutions offered are too complicated, too superficial or too vague, or maybe not clear about how we're defining balance.
For example, there's a certain high -profile qigong teacher who presents a lot of videos on YouTube. I was following along with one ('cause I actually like his routines), when he - all the while perched on some rocks overlooking a waterfall - prompted the viewer, "... okay, now, close your eyes and bring in a sense of balance and inner harmony."
Uhhmmm... huh? What does that even mean? Bring it in from where, and to where - my head, my hips, my chakras, whaaat?
On the other end is the (in)famous "Wheel of Life®" - a pie chart divided into segments representing areas of your life, or roles and relationships you're immersed in.
Charting the attention you give to each area on a scale from 1 to 10, you would place a dot closer to the center (1) for less attention, or the edge (10) for more. And, then by connecting the dots, you get a lovely visual of how screwed up and imbalanced your life is.
The idea is then to look at each area - and, taking into account that this chart would change depending on what's going on in your life at the time (ya think?) - you would assign your ideal number to each slice, and come up with some action steps that would allow you to hit your target.
Perhaps this works for some folks. For me, I don't know if could define my 'ideal level of attention' by a number.
"Hey honey - ya know, my life wheel says my attention to you is about a 3, when I'd really like it be closer to an 8. Here's a list of stuff I'm scheduling in so I can beef up my 'relationship' slice...."
The compartmentalization would trip me up, too. The anal-retentive part of me would divide it up into so many pieces (representing my many facets, of course) that the labels would be illegible. (A quick glance at my home budget spreadsheet, you'd think I was the accountant for a multi-national corporation.)
Maybe part of the problem is that there's just too many things we're trying to balance.
Or maybe the life chart needs to be categorized a little more realistically:
In the quest to simplify our lives, we often overcomplicate the matter, God bless us, and intellectualize it to the point of missing the sense of fulfillment we were seeking to begin with, no matter how well it works out on paper.
Because balance is as much (if not more) a sensory experience as it is a goal-oriented one. (...oh my goodness, did I just create a tweetable...?)
So, I ask you, what would balance FEEL like to you? What does imbalance feel like to you?
Sabbath - the ultimate work/life balance.
My partner and I are were discussing this during our nightly 'decompression time' out on the deck. He noted that God set the precedent for the ultimate work-life balance. Whether it literally took six days or not, the point was even He sat back from his creation of the universe to note that 'it was good' and enjoy what He came up with.
The beauty is in its simplicity. Work six days. Rest one day.
As I once wrote in this post, reaaalllllly rest - as in, putting aside all activities that define the small self, and take one day to remember (or explore) Who You Really Are.. .. in the absence of all the doing and being and rat racing.
How much harder does it have to be? And yet, not so easy, I know.
A client/friend of mine (Hi H. F. !!) recently shared another simple formula that he had once heard from a philosopher: "To have a full life, you should have a healthy balance of love, play, work and worship."
I really enjoy that. But the questions would still nag at me, "So, what's a 'healthy balance'?", and, "How would I define each of those areas, because some would overlap at times."
A recent Katy Bowman article addresses this as well, noting that in a more natural human setting our various 'obligations' would not be in separate circles to be balanced. For example, combining her objectives of movement, time with her little ones, community participation and food gathering, she took them to volunteer picking strawberries in a local organic garden.
Done, done, and DONE.
But maybe more to the point, perhaps the closer we are to nature, the less we have to worry about this whole 'balancing' thing.
I am grateful to say that my life is becoming more reflective of that kind of merging and flow.
A lot of why that is is because the core questions of balance came down to more clear and conscious 'nos' and 'yeses', based on asking 'What do I want my life - down to each day - to feel like?' and, 'What qualities of life are most dear to me, to my heart, and what I think my purpose here is?'
This was not an overnight shift. It's been a lifetime (so far) of turning a really big ship around whose early course was largely set by what I thought I should be doing, or what would please others.
As a result of the answers that arose, like creativity, intellectual challenge, loving support, enthusiasm in my work, and living closer to nature, I pretty much can show up fully in everything I do. (The imbalance I am probably most guilty of is not getting enough bodywork myself... )
I really don't think these challenges about balance are unique to us in the 21st century.
Looking at some of the practices and proverbs from antiquity, it seems long a part of the human struggle to resist getting so caught up in our own creations and drama - mistaking them for essential - that we get distracted further and further away from our core selves, from nature and from our soul's needs.
Therein, perhaps, is what defines the basic elements we are longing to find balance between - what nourishes us and what extracts from us. I truly believe the nourishment requirements for humans are pretty simple, timeless, and universal.
Maybe we need charts and algorithms because we've lost touch with the ability to sense that we're starving. Or tired. Or that we're not breathing very deeply.
In fact, try that now. An instantaneous restoration of balance. Stop here. And just breathe. In. Then out. In equal amounts. Viola! Balance.
It's a good place to start, perhaps.
As well as this. Feel free to print out and work with my official life balance chart:
I have a feeling I'll be addressing this topic more in the future.
*PS... If you're wondering about the title, yes, it is a reference. I'm a big fan from way back.