Balance - to keep or put something in a steady position so that it does not fall.
The concept of balance is something that continues to blow my mind each and every time I bring it to my attention, which is very much on a daily basis. The importance of it can almost be captured in the many different words that are often used to describe this state - balance, homeostasis, equilibrium.
You can call is whatever you like, the simple fact is that we aren't alone in our endeavours to achieve this state where happiness, wellbeing, contentment and joy come with ease.
On the microscopic level you can look at our human composition. Each and every one of us is made up of trillions of cells. Every one of those cells has a primary goal of maintaining balance, their ongoing health and survival depends on it. If the individual cell cannot regulate temperate and other necessary functions they will die, same goes for us. This is true for the cells making up all living creatures.
You could then consider the macroscopic level of earth. Everything living on earth is collectively grouped and often referred to as the biosphere. It's recognised that this biosphere regulates the amount of salt in the oceans, levels of carbon dioxide and oxygen in the air and the temperature on the earth's surface. Even balance is being sought here to keep the conditions on earth hospitable.
When you look at things from this perspective it can be quite humbling. Our task in finding balance doesn't seem that great, after all our cells are doing a lot of the work for us. Keeping our personal balance could almost be considered straightforward when you think of all the work that our poor biosphere has on her hands!!
If I've come to learn anything recently it's that finding personal balance is a not goal that can simply be achieved, not for any length of time anyway. Like everything, where we sit on the balance continuum is constantly changing. What brings us into balance one day might not work the next, this is what makes it such a great challenge.
For the last year while travelling I felt more balanced than I have for several years, it seemed that I pretty much had it worked out, perhaps because there were very few external pressures. In the years prior to this I'd over-committed myself to triathlon, work and numerous other things at the expense of relationships etc. It's all very easy to see in hindsight but not so much when you are actually caught it in.
Getting overly caught up in things seems to be inherent in my personality. I'm super passionate and driven by nature and can easily become so focused that everything else is temporarily blocked out. This is something that I recall being with me for years and it's still very much part me, I find it easy to slip into this state.
Through the practice of yoga (including meditation and mindfulness practices) the awareness of my current state of being has become one of my greatest tools and allies in keeping me balanced. I'm now acutely aware when I'm out of whack and can recognise when I need to sit back, re-evaluate and adapt. This isn't at all to say that I've worked out the balance equation...that's still a long way off.
Returning from a year of travel (with little to no responsibility) to a life where I'm establishing and running a business, working part time in the corporate world, dealing with more un-controllables than I can poke a stick at (esp. weather) while trying to find my feet again has certainly tested my ability to keep the peace and balance that I'd become so accustomed to. The absence of this balance/peace certainly explains why I've been fantasising about travel so much!
I am however confident that I can get myself much closer to that state of balance/peace back here in Australia, it's just going to take some work, like it did when I began travelling.
Over the last few months I've been experimenting with all sorts of factors that I feel really impact on my ability to feel centred. These include sleep, diet, the shape of my yoga practice, how much energy I can give and how much time I need for myself. There have been weeks where I got it really wrong and ended up as flat as a pancake and some that have gone great and had me feeling like I could take on the world, one thing I got at each end of the spectrum was valuable lessons.
One of the next factors for me to address is how much time I've been spending working (or thinking about work) I know it's been too much. I've been doing too much on my own and have wasted countless hours on things outside of my expertise which I could've paid somebody to do and saved myself the hassle.
I would love nothing more than to totally switch off at least one day in every two weeks, having 24 hours with no social media, internet or work, just time in nature enjoying the sunshine watching the world pass by. With that said though, I recognise that the coming months will be critical in determining the viability of my business going forward. The luxury of fully switching off probably isn't available (or a wise decision) at this time. I will however look for something in between - perhaps this will be along the lines of stricter guidelines for myself on the use of social media/email, working hours etc.
So far using this trial and error approach has helped me to get a handle on what does and doesn't work for me in this current environment. I've become aware of stress points and things I really need to watch out for - there are so many things in my control that can bring me down to a sub-optimal level (i.e. too much coffee, not enough sleep etc).
Why would I spend so much time on this?
For one, I now understand just how much of an impact being out of whack has on my general wellbeing, both physically and mentally. Secondly, my new business venture cannot succeed with a worn out sub-optimal Mandy, looking after myself and keeping things as balanced as possible will be a critical success factor.
I'll also ask one question of you - have you ever met somebody who has all their pillars aligned with a great sense of balance who was unhappy or wanted to change aspects of their life?
I've come to believe that balance is so critical to everything, not just us as a human species but to all things in nature, all matter. A friend provided a great example earlier today as we chatted, she gave the analogy of a tree with all the roots growing to one side, it has no resilience to external factors such as the wind and will easily fall down. Are we not very much the same? In a similar way when we are worn out from putting in too many hours at the office, how present are we when we get home and spend time with family/friends, is this really quality time?
My effort to seek balance is still a work in progress but as each little aspect becomes refined, everything seems to become more manageable, less overwhelming and the scales begin to tip more towards a balanced state of equilibrium. I'll keep working at it but will always remain conscious that everything changes and my approach must always be dynamic to account for this. I'm confident that with the tools of yoga, meditation and mindfulness in my pocket I'm in much better shape to consciously move myself towards a more harmonious life.