“It’s all about balance.” This is a phrase I find myself thinking or saying often. There are those common types of balance we are all supposedly seeking, such as work-life balance. But I have a long list of other apparently competing priorities that I often find myself trying to balance, such as:
- Alone time vs. time with others
- Travel vs. feeling settled in one place
- Freedom vs. commitment
- Enough time vs. enough money
- Time for reflection vs. taking action
- Planning vs. spontaneity
- And the list goes on…!
Each of these points could be a explored in their own post (and I have explored specific topics of balance before, such as balancing self-care with caring for others), but here I’d like to reflect on the concept of balance itself.
Feeling out of balance
It can feel very challenging to achieve a good balance. It can be easy to assume, even if sub-consciously, that one thing must take priority over the other. It can feel logical to prioritise work over leisure time, for example, or time with others above spending time alone.
In part, these behaviours can be motivated by external rewards. If I get results and praise when I push myself, it can be really hard to take my foot off the accelerator – even when it’s clear I that need a break. If people respond well to me being constantly available to support them, it can be hard to admit that I also need time for myself.
Another pressure is our own expectations of ourselves. We all have ideas of how we should be or what we should do with our lives, and when we don’t feel like we’re meeting our own expectations this can make us feel frustrated, lacking or sad.
So, how do we find a sense of balance amidst these internal and external pressures?
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to become aware of the underlying assumptions fuelling our behavior, and this can offer the opportunity to consciously respond in new ways.
The Buddha spoke of a ‘middle way’ between sensual indulgence and self-mortification, warning against extremes and advocating for moderation and equanimity. This sense of balance is integral to Buddhist practice, and it is also useful in a more secular life.
Making time for regular meditation can offer space for awareness and gentle questioning of the assumptions and motivations behind our actions, and from this point it becomes easier to regain our balance, and also recognise the importance of doing so.
A balancing act
Sometimes we set up false dichotomies in our search for balance. For example, we think that we need to balance happiness and success. We can mistakenly see this as a zero sum game; if we want more success, we need to give up some happiness or vice versa.
Yet a deeper sense of balance is not necessarily about juggling competing priorities, but about creating virtuous cycles and complimentary priorities in our lives: When I take the time to rest I will obviously have more energy to be active and achieve more; when I take time for myself, it then becomes easier to be more fully present with others; when I take time out to reflect, my actions are more thoughtful, generous and successful.
Finding a natural balance
We are natural beings and in some ways the seasons and weather can change within us as well as around us. Sometimes we feel sunny and full of energy; happy to be outside and together with others. At other times we may feel more cloudy and rainy; needing time to protect ourselves while the storms pass. We do not need to fight against these changes, but with the help of mindfulness we can observe and acknowledge our inner and outer weather and decide how we can best respond to maintain our natural balance.
Share your comments
Does the topic of balance come up often in your own life? What do you seemingly struggle to balance? And which areas of your life are easier to balance harmoniously? Do you have any tips which have helped you to experience more balance? Please share in the comments, and thank you for reading 🙂
Stay in touch
Read other posts on Mindful Change
- Sangha and the importance of community
- What is normal anyway?
- Who are we: Economic man or holistic human?
- Self-care as a radical act
- Vulnerability is a strength: An ode to stretch points
- Slow change, big impact: Experiencing Bhutan
- Practicing gratitude
- Reasons for hope in a changing world: Chandolin retreat review
- Can happiness change the world? Three lessons from Bhutan
- Can mindfulness change the world? Daniel Goleman event review