Finding a sense or an experience of balance can seem very much like an unattainable goal. What does it actually mean to be ‘balanced’? What does it look like? Is it even possible?
Such ideas, in my experience, can sometimes initially be stressful to think about, and are frequently followed by a thought process or enunciated stream of ‘shoulds’. I should exercise more, I should eat better, I should eat less, I should go to bed earlier, I should drink less coffee.
The thing is, at least what I have found is, it’s unhelpful to apply ‘shoulds’, to most things we are thinking of changing or adding to our lives. Shoulds always come from an external source, something we have been told we should do, indirectly or otherwise. They all feel rather heavy. Without really looking in, tuning in, to what really means something to you personally, ‘should-ing’ yourself will never feel life-enhancing. It will never give you the freedom, and lightness you yearn for.
In order to expand ourselves into a world of greater possibility, towards attaining a higher level of wellbeing, it has been helpful for me to remember: we cannot hate (or at the very least criticize) ourselves into changing for the better. We can be more gentle with our vocabulary and still be successful in finding our own version of balance in a lasting and satisfying way.
We can consider it this way:
We all oscillate around a point of balance, like a natural, tidal ebb and flow. Life is dynamic, and ever changing, and we, as part life and nature itself, are too. The body continually strives towards equilibrium, that is, its essential nature, to regulate and balance. If we see ourselves and the body in this way, we can refine the concept of balance as the ease in which we transition between the ever-changing circumstances of life. This may be on a momentary, daily, or more long-term level. The ease in which we respond to our own emotions, to others, to the transitions of the body; waking to sleeping, hunger to satiety, from calm to stress and back again, ovulation to menstruation, stillness to action.
Furthermore, our personal sense of ‘balance’ will look very different to another’s. It depends very much on our own needs, desires, body type, temperament, and so on. If we approach finding higher levels of wellbeing not with external information but with ourselves as a starting point, healthy changes, while still at times requiring discipline or being challenging, can begin to integrate themselves into our lives in a more organic, authentic way. Because they will be things that we actually want, rather than what we feel we should be doing.
A good way to approach this is simply to ask oneself: ‘What is it that I need?’ Very often, the answer is fairly immediate because it’s something that can be viscerally felt. It’s a question we can ask ourselves repeatedly in different situations, and the answers can be a starting point not only to a higher level of wellness (however that may look for you) but to a deeper relationship with oneself.
At various times different things may come up;
I need more rest
I need to eat better so I don’t have such low energy
I need to slow down
I need more focus
I need help with my PMS
I need better digestion
I need to find a way to reduce the amount of headaches I seem to get
I need to stretch more
I need more time
The important thing to remember is that your needs are unique to you, and offer a great starting point to a journey back to yourself, and to your version of balance. Simply giving yourself time and space to seek out the means and support necessary to meet these needs is a perfect way to start.
There are many resources available – whether it is a dietary change, a therapy, a therapist, an exercise method or a trip away on a retreat — always move towards what feels right, and be open to the process. Know that your body and how you feel are your best guide, and that in its own way, your body is always on a path towards balance. Adopt a spirit of gentle discipline, knowing that we need to move outside our comfort zone in order to create change. Your success can be measured not my how you feel in a certain state of being – such as in a state of anger, of stress, of deep relaxation, elation, or sense of happiness. These are normal and expected states we all go through and are not measures of how balanced we are.
We can more productively look at how gracefully we feel ourselves flowing through these various states we experience. How smoothly we flow through shifts and changes, and what these ebbs and flows look like. This dynamic, non-static sense of balance allows us to be open to the spectrum of experience life offers, to flow through life with a greater sense of ease and authenticity, and is probably the closest we can ever get to a daily sense of balance and equilibrium.