Monday, July 7, 2008

Balance is a Dance

Spiral staircase at the Hotel Gerloczy in Budapest.

So many people are throwing out the term "work-life balance" these days, you may not even think much about what it means. Surely you know what balance is, and you know that it means that work and life should be split, and if you had to put a figure to the ratio, you would probably think of it as 50-50, right?

The trouble that most people have with this concept is that they see it in fixed terms, like a pie chart or an image of scales hanging in balance, motionless.

Why is this a problem? The moment you envision balance in your life as a fixed ideal is the moment you begin to get out of balance. Stand on one leg. Go ahead. Stand up right now and do it. If your balance is good, it shouldn't be much effort, though you'll probably feel your muscles making small adjustments to keep you upright. If a strong wind comes or someone brushes you on their way past, you will have to recalibrate to stay standing. You will waver a bit, maybe even sway, maybe even fall out of balance right before finding equilibrium again.

In this equilibrium, things appear motionless, fixed. But you know better--your muscles and body and brain are working in concert to keep you standing. Try to stand on one leg, but this time, close your eyes. Having trouble? It's very hard to stay balanced without the information from your eyes. Advanced yogis can do it, but it's not easy. In other words, real, intrinsic balance takes practice.

So, if things feel out of balance for you, don't despair if you're not living up to the pie chart of balance in your head that's 50% white and 50% black. Think of the symbol for yin and yang instead, and see the flowing lines and the bit of dark and white that dot the opposite halves. Observe the motion implicit in that symbol.

Realize that finding balance is not a fixed ideal, but a dance you practice. So you fall out of line a bit. That's OK. Dance back into balance, and don't worry too much about what you look like, or how perfectly your life is apportioned. Keep things moving. Feel the energy, gather information, keep dancing, and balance will follow.

And, for heaven's sake, don't mistake rigidity for balance.


Jen said...

All things are relative to one's personal experience. My admonition of you're email years ago is clearly incorrect. I apologize for my comment and I have deleted it and your name from my blog. No memory from that time in my life is good, and I tend to throw all of my experiences into one numb pile. As selfish as it sounds, I was very lonely at that time and wanted someone to help carry the load. That wasn't your's or anyone else's job. And, as you can tell, cancer is still affecting my mentality. It isn't fair for me to take that anger and fear out on anyone. I am sorry for that. The purpose of that post was to make contact as well as to explain my sense of loss. I was thoughtless enough to post my frustration. I don't want this exchange to damage possible reintroduction to your life. Congrats on getting married, by the way.

erzsebet said...

Balance is certainly a moving entity. It can change slowly or all at once, and it can be stressful to feel that the process is always one of 'finding' rather than 'maintaining.' What works at one time may be totally wrong for another point in your life: not only do circumstances change, but the balancer herself changes. I don't always find it easy to recognize when routine has gone unbalanced, but a sense of unease or general dissatisfaction is one give away. Then there is the task of figuring out how to adjust the situation or your perspective to return to a state of equilibrium, a task which can be complicated by difficulty in determining what is maladjusted.

Are there any particular methods you use to determine what is out of balance?

- erzsebet