To Balance or Not to Balance
The following piece is reprinted from the most recent issue of the Creative Times. If you’ve already read this piece, skip to the end for a terrific follow-on post sent in by a reader. Enjoy!
For years, we’ve been hearing about this thing called “balance” and how we need to find it. The entire Western world seems to be in constant pursuit of this mythical state of equilibrium. For a sense of how dominant this paradigm is, go to amazon.com and search on “balance” in just the self-help nonfiction category. Nearly 700 books come up.
I invite you to let go of any aspirations of balance. Unless you’re on a yoga mat in a challenging posture, balance isn’t actually relevant. In fact, one could argue that it’s beside the point — or perhaps even impossible. Everything in your life is in a constant state of change. Life is fluid, and balance is an illusion. Even if you’re able to devise the perfect, balanced schedule, two weeks later someone gets strep throat or school lets out for summer or you have another baby. Your spouse starts traveling extensively for business, or stops traveling extensively for business. You gain creative traction and find that you need to really apply yourself for a week in order to meet a deadline, to the exclusion of everything else. The only guarantee is that something is going to happen, and whatever balance you may have achieved is thrown out the window. And that’s OK. That’s just how it is.
Berit Strong is a classical guitarist who lives in Acton, Mass. I interviewed Berit several years ago while working on my nonfiction book. I love what she said about balance: “When people used to ask me how I balanced my life, I would say ‘You must be kidding!’ There is no such thing as balance. The ancient Chinese didn’t believe in balance; you have to be really intense about your life. When I was preparing for a major concerto performance, balance was a ridiculous concept. I didn’t see anybody, I didn’t socialize. I was getting ready for a concerto. I was happy to sacrifice anything else. No time for jogging, I didn’t promote my career, this was the chance of a lifetime. I once lived in Italy for two years. They think that Americans are laughable in the concept of balance. You can’t have both — it’s really hard to have everything the way you want it.”
So, instead of a desperate attempt to hit all of the cylinders all of the time, let’s reframe our ultimate goals as awareness, intention, and flow. We need to start with knowing what’s most important. From there, through awareness, we know what needs our attention most at any given time. This, rather than balance, is what leads us to presence and peace.
“Balance is overrated.”
By Emmanuelle Lambert, reposted from Plans On a Comet
When I take vrksasana (tree pose) on the right leg, I am strongly rooted and grounded, foundations are solid, and I can reach up and out. When I take vrksasana on the left leg, my tree is wobbly and I struggle not to grip the mat with my toes. “Balance on four corners of the foot” YEAH RIGHT WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?
This week, our birthday hombre Adan wrote a great post about yoga and balance, which led me to ask in the comments “is there such a thing as balance?”
We are all on this quest for the ever-elusive and sacred balance. Well, after much consideration, here it goes: “life balance” looks like me in tree pose on the left leg.
You struggle, you thrive, you stop, you pause, you laugh, and then it starts all over again. Lather rinse repeat. There are only ebbs and flows, because that’s the way life is.
When we seek balance, we are only struggling to find something that is not attainable as is. We resist life. We fight, when the real mind soother is active letting go. Letting go of stuff that doesn’t serve.Taking care of ourselves in difficult times, and even not so difficult times. Learn to appreciate what is from a place of gratitude.
This morning, I was supposed to go to a yoga class with a new teacher in town. This morning I hit the snooze button and decided to stay in bed instead. My initial plan was to go to that place at least once a month, show up and make my face known because, who knows, one day they might call me to cover.
But there was a catch: in the situation I am in right now, Saturdays are my only rest days. The only day when I can have a lie in and do whatever I want to do. What if I got called to teach? I would have to say no, because I am by no means available, in body and spirit, on Saturday mornings.
So I didn’t go. Instead, I decided to let go of that big plan, because it’s not the right time.
Balance is difficult to achieve, unless you are willing to let go of the unbearable pressure you put on your shoulders. Balance doesn’t mean juggling a gazillion activities in a day. And remember: let go of what doesn’t serve you, that doesn’t make you less brilliant. You are enough