Lately, I’ve been thinking about personal balance and what it means during this time of planetary crisis and political upheaval.
It would be fair to say that most of my working life has been about juggling and struggling. I’ve accepted many unhealthy (sometimes downright toxic) work situations because I believed that I needed to do this in order to get ahead.
Yet for the past few years now I’ve been asking myself some tough questions about why I need to live in discomfort–both physical, psychological, and emotional. And why am I consistently hemmed into doing things that don’t serve my higher purpose? That don’t serve the world and its inhabitants?
To create a life that exudes joy takes loads of work and conscious focus. Yet by peeling away the layers of what we thought was important, we’ll eventually get to the root cause of our blocks and our destructive narratives to restore the balance that’s been missing.
Yet how can I possibly think about my own needs, you might ask, when we’re far from having racial equality and justice, and when people are dying every day during this pandemic?
What I’m coming to realize, my friend is that the two aren’t distinct and separate.
The unbalance we sense in ourselves doesn’t stay within. This discordance with our higher purpose and with our pain and lack of self-acceptance spans outward and impacts those we love and society at large. When we’re feeling stuck and insecure we tend to blame others or project our negativity onto others, mostly without even realizing it.
Our dis-ease with our bodies and with our lives is absolutely connected to what’s going on in the rest of the world. The way we’ve lived pretty much since the Industrial Revolution, although before that as well, as though others don’t matter, as though women don’t matter; Mother Earth doesn’t matter, is causing us to become sicker and sadder as our planet worsens.
Let’s face it, our wealthy societies were built on the backs of slaves. Somebody paid for the abundance of wealth, yet it’s easier to turn a blind eye than to see this reality. Instead many of us, myself included, have felt entitled because that’s the legacy that’s been handed to us, and we haven’t questioned it.
To eradicate a culture of systemic racism requires not only political action but a level of inner awakening that brings us to terms with our personal and collective responsibility to each other. Our relationship with others who may be different than us, our relationship to the land–to our beloved planet Earth, starts with ourselves.
British author D.H. Lawrence wrote this in 1928, and yet he could’ve written it today.
“It is a question, practically of relationship. We must get back into relation, vivid and nourishing relation to the cosmos and the universe. . . . For the truth is, we are perishing for lack of fulfillment of our greater needs, we are cut off from the great sources of our inward nourishment and renewal, sources which flow eternally in the universe.”
Just as our planet is often experiencing droughts and a lack of nutrients due to toxic chemicals and climate change, we too are parched spiritually and in need of sustenance and an understanding of how we’re a part of, not separate from others and the rest of the world. When soil becomes devoid of nutrients then nothing will grow there, and so we humans are no different.
Yet if we care to listen to those in the streets demanding an end to violence against Black people and to systemic racism globally, and if we care to move ourselves from the center of our lives and see the bigger picture, we’ll discover that we’re being called to expand and enrich our lives, not to play small or to lessen our light.
This is a slow process that starts with identifying what gives us energy and learning how we can re-balance our bodies and our selves back to wholeness.
Here are some ways we can begin to create more balance in our lives:
1) Write down five things that bring you joy and give you energy. Try to do at least one of these per day. After a week, see if you can do two or three a day, and so on. It won’t be easy at the start, but gradually you’ll find more ways to adjust other things in your life to make room–even if only a little bit at the start.
2) Pay attention to how your energy wanes when you do a particular activity. Often we’ve no choice to do certain activities and it could be that a simple correction of our approach and perspective will allow us to do the said activity with more energy in the future.
3) Check-in with your body regularly when approaching a specific food. When we look at food as medicine that’s there to heal and nourish us, then we can learn to get clearer on what our body needs.
4) Each day, create positive experiences or pockets of joy that will see you through the challenges.
5) Accept that balance doesn’t have to look a certain way. Everyone is different and your life balance will be different than another person’s balance.
6) Connect to nature. Even planting seeds inside and listening to bird sounds on your phone can help to calm your nervous system.
7) When someone asks you to do something, check in with yourself to see how it feels in your body.
8) Start your day with a mindfulness-based practice such as yoga, dance, or meditation to ground yourself.
9) Ask your friends or family what they do to cultivate balance. Having discussions with others can give you new ideas about what balance means, and you can encourage each other to develop healthy habits that nurture you.
10) If you’re in a toxic job or dysfunctional relationship and feeling stuck, write a list of actions you can take to gradually change your situation.
And finally, look around you and engage in conversations with those outside of your habitual circle. Go with the intention of being open and learning, not judging.
When we begin to find balance in our own lives and to demand it, then we may discover that our true place is not as a bystander watching life unfold, but as a participant, engaging alongside others in a dance called Life.