As we arrive at the spring equinox, we are hovering in momentary balance between day and night, light and dark. These two forces of opposition come together as equals before the darkness bows to the light for the next six months.
The theme of balance is potent to explore at this time. Balance is a huge subject with may facets, many ways of interpreting. Throughout history balance has been a hot topic for philosophers. It is something humans are continuously striving for, and it can be such an interesting and rich conversation to engage in.
If we take from various philosophies of the ages, there is a thread of “balance” in how one should live a healthy life: the “Middle Path” of Buddhism, the “Golden Mean” taught by the Greek philosophers like Aristotle, the Yin/Yang philosophy in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Taoism. And yet balance also feels so elusive at times. What does it look like to have your life be truly in balance? I think many of us hope there’s going to be a moment of arrival, or a plaque at the top of a mountain that states “Congratulations! You have finally achieved this sought after pinnacle!”
Yet the only thing constant in life is change. Balance then, is no different. The place of balance is in constant flux, not necessarily a midpoint to achieve, but a fluidity of movements that affect a larger feeling or experience of balance.
Maybe balance looks like getting sick in order for you to slow down. Maybe balance looks like going outside and screaming at the top of your lungs. Maybe it looks like saying “no” to something you truly want to do but know your body isn’t up for it. Maybe it looks like saying yes to something intimidating and challenging. Maybe it looks like jumping off a cliff into a deep pool of water to enliven your being with thrill. Maybe it looks like binge watching Game of Thrones. Maybe it looks like taking a bath or treating yourself to a nice night out.
Balance appears with many faces. And all to often we throw our palm in its face because we feel we shouldn’t do something too radical, too indulgent, too restrained, too selfish, too scary. We judge that if we were truly living a “balanced” life, then we wouldn’t go off in the territory of the “highs and lows” of life.
I think we feel this way because there is so much talk of what it means to live a balanced life, which often feels like a demand to be something we are not, or a pressure to have it all together. It can bring up anxiety or feelings of shame. You may feel you are not enough, that you are not ok where you are, that you need to be different. You may shame yourself for swaying too far off the center point of your life, for having a strong emotional experience, or if you just want to let loose and party.
What I hear far too often from friends and clients is that they “shouldn’t” be so angry or sad or joyous. It’s “too extreme” or “not balanced.” I hear them say that they are not ok with their experience because they aren’t just calmly cruising through life unaffected and placid. We feel we need to always react just right to a situation. That we shouldn’t be so bothered, or hurt, or impacted.
Emotion, though, is a benefit of being alive and to perceive them as wrong or bad isn’t productive or supportive. What I have seen time and time again, is that this attitude ends up suppressing us. This in turn stifles our experience of life. It stifles pleasure and sensation.
What I’ve been learning from my own exploration of my emotions, is that the only way to gain balance is to go into and through an emotion. I have resisted feeling certain emotions my entire life, creating a false sense of balance from the calm layers of ice covering the surface of a suppressed wild sea. I know this is true for many of us. So when one of these feared emotions come up, particularly anger, I have been habituated to override it. To not fully feel it, to talk myself out of it, to delegitimize it. This ultimately ends up hurting me, as I may act it out in more subtle or subversive ways. Energy is always looking to move. And if it’s not allowed to in the moment, it will find another way.
When I allow myself to dive into an uncomfortable emotion, rather than push it away what happens is magical. It expands briefly and then my entire energy body shifts very quickly. It’s as if the anger simply needs to be fully seen and felt, so that it can be released. I can then move into a deeper sense of clarity, peace and balance in an organic way, without force.
This is so crucial. We all want to run away from pain or dis-ease. It’s just not comfortable. Yet when we can move into and through the waves of emotion, we really open to so much more comfort and joy than would be available otherwise. And more balance.
The same lesson has come to me through my bodywork practice. I’ve been diving deep into the world of Craniosacral Therapy, which uses key points on the skull and sacrum to tap into the moving, breathing, craniosacral system that bathes the brain and spinal cord. There are often restrictions or adhesions within this system that the body will point out, and guide me on a path towards how to release them. What is so fascinating is that the majority of the time a restriction is released in a very round about way.
Let’s say I feel a block on someone’s left side - a bone will not move that way. The body often guides me towards the right side as far as it can go. Once there, something may open on the left side wherein making it possible to move left. It tends to work its way from right to left until it there is more liberation in the movement, and it can come to a place of ease and centeredness.
By following the path of the body’s unwinding, I allow its wisdom to show me that the most effective way is not always a straight line towards what is off balance. The point being that if something is out of balance, it often must go further “out of balance” in order to bring things into alignment again.
You know the saying, “sometimes things have to get worse before they get better?” This is another life lesson that points to a key of balance.
Balance dances between these ebbs and flows of experience. We can learn to embrace the ups and downs as part of a meandering, winding road that is actually the road called balance. We learn that a state of balance is not necessarily a coveted solid place, but a constant and dynamic dance.
To me, balance is being able to truly listen to what my body and my spirit are asking for; having a continual conversation with my needs. What experience, medicine or remedy would serve me best right now? I may be surprised, and my mind may have a different idea. But the body does not lie. And I must have a conscious and growing relationship myself and my body in order for this to happen. By following the path of sincerely listening to yourself, balance is inevitable.
What does balance mean to you? How can you learn switch perspective away from a forward march that seeks a balance point, and towards recreating the idea of a meandering path that is itself balance?