On my drive to work this morning, I stopped for the red light at the 3-way intersection of Massachusetts, Michigan and Central, a busy crossing any time of the day. As I sipped my coffee, a man in ragged shorts and an olive green t-shirt moseyed across the street. His cigarette was burned down to the butt, but still he took a deep drag on it before reaching the other curb. He was unshaven, his hair unkempt and his clothes a little grimy. He was in no hurry, at all. In a flash, another man wearing yellow and blue cycling gear whizzed by. A woman in high heels and a skirt, coffee in hand, waited at the corner for the light to change. Everyone is so-o-o different, I thought, our choices, our preferences, and yet we need everyone. We need the variety to keep life interesting. Otherwise, my drive to work in the morning would be so-o-o boring.
I recently saw a quote collage, you know the kind that Lulu Lemon uses on all of their bags to inspire and encourage us to dream big and go for our goals? Right in the middle of the montage, there was a line, “Balance is a myth.” Among all the other upbeat and positive quips, this one seemed out of place. I couldn’t help but think, it just wasn’t true. I began to apply the idea to different areas of my life where I think I need balance: work/play, self/other, save/spend, strive/accept. etc. If balance was a myth, why did it seem so important? Granted, finding balance (in any area of life) can be challenging. But even though balance might be hard to obtain, does that mean it doesn’t exist? Or, that we should stop working toward balance in our lives?
In some ways, I can see why someone might think that balance is a myth. First of all, balance doesn’t look the same to everyone. It is a personal, rather than universal experience. Every one of us experiences balance in a unique way. I live in a quiet neighborhood 20 minutes out of town, yet I work in the city. I get a good mix of social time and quiet time, the best of both worlds. If I lived in the city full time, I’m not sure I would be as happy. Balance is about learning to make good choices for your life; not choosing based on what other people think or do, but on what feels right for you. Because what feels like a balanced life for you probably wouldn’t work for me at all, and vice-versa.
We all have to find our own pathway to learn balance. In my life, yoga, dance and Pilates are where I practice the concept of balance. To a dancer, balance is certainly NOT a myth. Balance is an essential element of technique. It consumes over half of our training. And the yogi spends an hour on the mat every day to find the perfect ratio of strength, flexibility and balance. When I am engaged in these activities I know that if I can attain balance with my body, then I can incorporate those tools and concepts into other areas of my life, the emotional and mental realms.
For example, I have a tendency in my work life to push myself too much and then get burnt out. When I run, I’m learning when I can push myself, and when to slow the pace in order to go farther, last longer. Transferring that awareness to my work life is the next step. I have to recognize when I’m trying to do too much, and what frustration feels like without the intense physical sensations I get when I’m running too hard. I have to learn to interpret the subtler emotional response that tells me slow down, take it easy.
When people talk about being “in the flow,” what they are really experiencing is balance; the perfect mix of passion and ability, the perfect mix of soul expression in physical form. Balance is what happens when we allow the Universe to have an equal hand in who we are. Those moments, when everything feels completely aligned are so-o-o sweet and exactly what keeps us coming back for more.
It’s true, that balance is only a concept, but so is love and we don’t call that a myth. We have a tendency to distrust or discount things we can’t get a handle on, the things that elude us. Certainly, balance is fleeting. It never lasts for long. But that’s also why we keep chasing after it. It’s part of the cosmic plan.
When I was seven, I learned to balance a bike without training wheels. One day riding down the neighbor’s driveway, I let go of the handle bars and lifted my hands in the air. Although I had seen other kids ride no-handed, I wasn’t that good at balancing my bike, not yet. I crashed to the concrete skinning my knee and ankle. Balance takes time and comes with confidence, and more freedom. At first we tend to seesaw in our lives, veering right and left, throwing our hands in the air, just because. We fall, often, and we get banged up. But then one day, we begin to find that middle place, the sweet spot where we can relax and glide along. Balance isn’t so much about give and take and push and pull. Balance comes from learning how to be calm in the middle.
I’d like to think that what we call purpose is our desire to find the middle ground in each area of our life, the points of balance that allow us to thrive rather than just survive, like the ballerina who finds perfection on the tips of her toes, a place of confidence, a place where she can just let go and dance. When it comes right down to it, balance is not a myth; balance is what we are doing here, day in and day out, trying to get it right, or at least come close.
Do you feel like balance is a myth or part of the plan to keep life flexible and interesting?
How do you find balance in your life?