Ahhhh balance -that elusive element that we’re pretty sure if we could find it, we’d be happier. When we think of balance we have this nice neat picture in our head -our day divided into equal parts -work, play, exercise, time for connecting with family and friends, eating and hopefully sleeping. We refer to balance quite a bit in our lives, balanced meals, work/home life, how much we take on and the activities we pursue. We hear it all the time -we need more balance in our lives. In fact our brain likes this kind of thinking -everything nice and neat!
But just where did this “balance” go? Perhaps it’s not as far away from you as you think. Maybe we’re just not asking the right question. Instead of where did it go, we could be looking at what does balance actually look like and what brings balance into our lives.
Balance in Nature
So let’s approach this first by looking at what balance really looks like in nature: Balance in nature is never nice and neat -it is alive and continually changing. Think of a tree. On your way to work take a good look at a few trees. They are not symmetrical -branches coming out in all directions, some heavy and bigger and some smaller but the tree does not fall over since it is stabilized and fed by it’s roots in the earth which we don’t even see.
Even our bodies are not symmetrical -as a massage therapist, clients often ask me why their right side is different from their left. Well, the answer can be a bit complicated and a good topic for another post but let’s just say that we are part of nature and our limbs grow in different ways and are used for different purposes. Our two sides are similar but I wouldn’t describe them as “balanced”. We grow like trees and for the most part develop based on the activities we pursue over our lives. A better question is what do I do with each side?
Now let’s take a quick look at all that we are involved in and what gets accomplished in any day -we have a lot to think about -driving, working, making food, family, colleagues, exercise, play and responsibilities. At different times in our lives we will have to devote exceptional amounts of time to specific areas and this of course rarely feels all that balanced.
The feeling of being unbalanced and how this affects us does not come from taking on more in one area or another -that’s part of nature. It’s rather that we don’t know when or why we’re devoting time in certain areas and what our bodies and minds need to nurture our capacity for these activities.
Now that we can accept that balance in nature does not mean equal parts of this or that -what exactly is it? When we look at balance- a lot of what we are looking for are external factors. We are looking at the things we’d like to balance instead of what brings balance. This is also a good indicator that we are out of balance -when we’re looking outside of ourselves for the solution.
Well the good news is that it’s much closer to us than we might think and we are often well aware of what this is. If we shift our perspective we can notice that it always comes from within and our sense of balance improves as we develop awareness for and move from our centre.
We are embodied beings:
We are embodied beings -body, mind, and our connections with the environment and others form our unique nature. Our intelligence, feelings, abilities -what we can contribute to world and what nurtures us all come from the centre of this.
Balance then comes from living in our bodies and centring becomes a practice of this awareness. This means that whatever crazy things are going on around us, we can be centred and balanced.
A simple practice of centring for balance:
Allow yourself to find a comfortable position -standing, sitting or laying down is fine and for the first part, you can close your eyes.
Internal awareness: begin to be aware of your breath -the feeling of movement in your body as you breathe. Chest rises and falls, abdomen expands or contracts or the feeling of air moving through your nostrils. You may even become aware of your heart beat. Take 5 or 6 breaths
External body awareness: Now direct your awareness to the outside of your body -does your skin feel warm or cold, what parts of your body are touching a surface -does this feel hard or soft, comfortable or not? Take 5 or 6 breaths
Awareness of feelings: Begin to open your awareness to how you’re feeling in this moment -are you feeling happy, worried, tense, pressed for time or calm? Take 5 or 6 breaths
Environment awareness: Now you can open your eyes and take in what is around you – what do you see, what do you hear, what smells can you be aware of. Are you in your office or home our outside? Now open your awareness to your breath again coming back to your centre and take 5 or 6 breaths.
Finally, open your awareness to one or two people in your life -perhaps your partner or friend or colleague at work or school. What is your connection with them? How are you feeling about them at this time? Perhaps you’re thinking I’d really like to see them or it’s time to call. Just be open to your relationship with them.
Finish with 5 or 6 breaths where you come back to awareness of your own breath and centre. This short practice can be done in a couple of minutes and develops our awareness of our centre and our connections and the balance that comes from this.