Balance: Are you moving towards or away from it?
By Sarah Denholm
The Chinese word for ‘busy’ consists of two symbols: one is the human heart - the other, death. I take this to mean that when one is excessively busy, the heart is insensible, frozen. In a world where busyness is held up almost as a virtue, especially in business, I’d like to take a look at coming back into balance. It’s a big topic, and one I’ll return to over time.
We hear a lot nowadays about work/lifestyle balance; today I’m asking, what does a balanced life look like to you? Balance: there are various definitions in dictionaries depending on context, but one that I particularly like describes it as "harmony and proportion". Perhaps these words resonate particularly with me given my original training as a musician, but with their overtones of unity and spaciousness I feel that these are virtues that most of us could do with more of in our lives. Balance is about feeling connected to ourselves and others, and a sense of rhythm and flow between mind, body and spirit. It’s about being flexible - having awareness about what’s going on for you at any given time, and equally important, having the ability to respond to the messages that you’re receiving, bringing you back into harmony.
If you think about it, when we balance on something, we’re always moving as we seek to remain in equilibrium: think of the tightrope walker, and how he adjusts his position on the rope continuously in order to remain upright.
Likewise in nature; the universe is always seeking equilibrium: think of our bodies and homeostasis, the means by which the internal systems of the body (e.g. blood pressure, body temperature) are maintained, despite possibly extreme variations in external conditions; also the way in which as cells die in a healthy person they are replaced by exactly the same number. We don’t have to think about these bodily processes, but constant awareness of our thoughts is required to create mental and physical balance.
Today I’m going to give you two very different time-frames in which to consider what balance means to you: one may feel more appropriate to you right now than the other.
There’s moment to moment mindfulness, where you might choose to observe your thought processes at various points during the day (perhaps using an external trigger such as when you put down the telephone after a call, or you hear the next door
neighbor’s dog barking; whatever it is, make the trigger something that occurs regularly during your day)....
as you observe your thoughts, see if you can let them go and become aware of what is happening within your own body; you might like to incorporate this with breathing in and out slowly a few times, and saying a statement to yourself that you find calming and centering: an example might be: "I am in control of my life" or "life flows easily for me".
Another suggestion for "in the moment" mindfulness is to choose an activity that you do on a regular basis and that you consider a chore, and see if you can, by coming into the present moment, alter your experience of it, as an active meditation. If you hate washing up, for example, see if you can become highly aware of the heat of the water, the sound that the dishes make as you clean them, how the plates shine after they’ve been buffed. Breathe, and feel the calm and balance that comes with mindful activity. The other method is to take the ‘big picture’ view. Balance doesn’t have to be about compartmentalizing the different areas of your life: indeed, trying to see these areas in terms of symmetry and allocation of percentage points (e.g. work life 22%, social time 15% etc) can cause more stress than it cures! There will always be times when we’re out of balance, if we’re dealing with a sick parent or child, or a deadline at work for example, but in general, some questions to ask yourself are these:
Am I feeling more contented with my life overall than I was one/two/ five years ago? Am I heading in the right direction? Are my talents being utilized? Do I feel a sense of fulfillment and contribution to the world? Do I have things in my life that I’m passionate about, and.. Do I have more flexibility of time for these things/people/activities than I used to?
Asking yourself these questions on a regular basis is a good way to check whether you’re moving towards balance or away from it.
Sarah is a business and life-design coach, working with individuals, entrepreneurs and independent professionals to support them to create more business and profitability, while designing a balanced, fulfilling and fun life.