Kevin B. Burk, author of The Relationship Handbook: How to
Understand and Improve Every Relationship in Your Life.
A recurring theme in these articles seems to be redefining, or at least exploring our (or at least my) understanding of the meanings of certain words and concepts. In the past, I’ve questioned words like “judgment,” “impotence,” “compassion,” “war,” “abundance,” and a host of other concepts, including “good” and “evil.” I have one more word to add to this list: balance.
“Balance” is a quality that I personally value quite highly. I strive to live a balanced life. I’m not alone in this objective, either. One of the fundamental goals of Buddhism, for example, is choosing to walk “the middle way,” choosing the path of balance that avoids all forms of extreme behavior.
What I didn’t realize until quite recently was that I had a very limited and ultimately unsupportive definition of what balance is. Perhaps the real issue is that my assumptions about balance were, shall we say, dimensionally challenged.
For me, this was yet another confirmation that the beliefs we most need to question are the ones we can’t even see because they’re too close. “Balance” had some very specific associations in my mind that I was not aware of. One association was with the “straight and narrow” that we’re taught represents if not the moral high ground in life, then at least relatively higher ground (and by definition a steeper, more difficult path) than we might otherwise choose to walk.
“Balance” to me was a fine line, quite literally. When I endeavored to choose balance in my life, my ego was only too happy to step in and point out each time I stepped off the central tight rope that seemed to represent the middle way to me. My personal definition of balance, then, was a line: something that only exists in two dimensions.
Even though I had this unconscious, limited definition of balance, at least when it applied to me, I also had a very conscious understanding of balance that was far more supportive, at least when it applied to my clients--or anyone working with an abundance of Libra energy in his or her chart.
Libra energy appreciates balance and harmony above all else, and specifically wants balance and harmony in one-to-one relationships. The lesson for Libra energy is to learn that true balance only occurs when two individuals come together, each expressing him- or herself fully, and seek a point of balance from positions of mutual strength. Often, Libra energy will deny its own individual needs or expression in order to maintain an illusion of balance. Libra understands that every single action has an equal and opposite reaction, and therefore that every single action will, by definition, upset the static and perfect balance of the moment. What Libra individuals have to learn is that this is the true nature of balance: that we must choose to act, and then accept the consequences of our actions. It’s very easy for individuals with a strong Libra signature to fear taking any action at all, living under the false belief that true balance is static.
I mention this because even though I understood in many areas of my life that balance is not static, that this knowledge was nevertheless compartmentalized and did not in any way change my personal beliefs and assumptions about balance. As far as I was concerned, my unconscious and personal definition of balance was that it was static and two-dimensional.
What changed for me was that a classmate of mine shared her own revelation from her own experiences that balance is not, in fact, static. She shared her discovery that when she took a slightly broader view of her life, that on average, she was living in balance. She realized that when she honored her own path, that she would naturally move from one peak to another, not necessarily attaching to any extremes, but simply following natural cycles of extroversion and introversion.
This was what it took for me to rearrange all of the furniture in my head and helped me to grasp one of the most fundamental truths about balance: balance is dynamic.
The following week, I participated in a walking meditation that drove this truth home to me in an even more literal sense. The meditation was an experience of “walking the middle way,” an opportunity to have a physical connection with some of the Buddhist principles. As I began the meditation (which largely involved walking slowly around a very large, dimly lit room, visualizing the “middle way”) the first thing I noticed was that I had seemingly lost my ability to walk in a straight line. I had absolutely no sense of balance--literally--and in a rather detached way, observed that I came quite close to falling over several times.
I realized that part of the reason I was having so much difficulty simply walking was that my idea of the “middle way” was a tightrope. One wrong step would mean falling off the path, something I nearly experienced quite literally several times.
Once I shifted my awareness and remembered that true balance is dynamic, however, the entire experience changed for me. I was immediately free, able to twist, turn, swoop and sway wherever my path seemed to lead me, and I was able to do this knowing that I was still walking the middle way. I would swerve to one side, experiencing one extreme and then naturally find I was drawn to the opposite side of the path, where I spent a comparable amount of time before moving back towards the center once again.
I released all of my attachments, not only to the extremes of the left or the right paths, but also my attachments to the extremes of the center path as well, and simply allowed things to flow. It was a truly exhilarating experience for me, discovering that I could be weaving around the room like a drunken sailor and still be in perfect balance, walking the middle way.
No longer do I associate balance with a straight line; I’m no longer dimensionally-challenged in that respect. Balance is a dynamic, changing, flowing experience that can’t be contained in merely two dimensions; in fact, it can only barely be described in four dimensions (length, width, height and time).
Balance is not the same thing as “moderation,” or perhaps it is, and I simply need to adjust my definition of moderation so that it, too, is no longer dimensionally-restricted. Living a truly balanced life, to me, means allowing myself to experience each moment fully, and being open to appreciating the perfection of each experience.
This is quite challenging because I don’t judge every experience in my life as pleasant or desirable. While I certainly have a great deal in my life that I thoroughly enjoy, I also go through periods where I’m less comfortable, and experience things like anger, frustration, depression and fear. What’s changed for me is that I no longer feel the need to “fix” these experiences. I no longer assume that if I’m feeling introverted or down-in-the-dumps that it means that something’s wrong with me, or that I’m off my path or out of balance in any way. I simply do my best to sit with the experience, without attaching to it or judging it, and inevitably, it passes.
Of course, the same thing can be said about the more pleasant experiences: inevitably, they pass as well.
I suppose what fascinates me about this awareness is that it’s not new for me; it’s simply a new, deeper way of understanding things I already understood. I’m well aware of the natural cycles we all experience; I’ve written articles on the necessity of sitting with our pain and our grief, of being willing to acknowledge our shadow because without it, we cannot express our light. And even with this breadth of understanding, I had still not made the connection between these cycles and the concept of balance.
And even with this new awareness, I still have to make a conscious effort to apply this awareness to my life in broad and fundamental ways. I still find that I take a narrow, dimensionally-challenged view of my life, judging where I happen to be at any given moment, measuring it against some static, outdated and ultimately useless set of standards. Mind you, this only bothers me when I’m in a “down” cycle, and feeling introverted, uncomfortable, frustrated, or otherwise “stuck” in some way. When I’m feeling joyful, productive, expressive and extroverted, I find that I still judge where I am against this fixed backdrop; however, since I place more value on the “upper” portion of the scale, I’m pleased with the results.
As I write this, we’re just coming out of a Mercury Retrograde period. Mercury goes retrograde three times a year for about three weeks each time, and during that time, communication, travel, and all things related to Mercury tend to go a bit haywire. Some Mercury Retrograde periods are more challenging than others, and often, I don’t even notice them. This time, however, I spent almost the entire three-week period in a kind of a funk. I got little done, stopped going to the gym, started making some less-supportive choices in terms of food, and basically felt pretty darned uncomfortable the entire time. What made this even more challenging was that I found myself comparing where I was to where I had been the weeks before, when I was exceptionally productive, feeling wonderful, and definitely loving life.
Frankly, it was much easier to relax and enjoy the “up” cycle than it was to relax and, if not enjoy, then at least be willing to experience the “down” cycle fully. And when I was in the “down” cycle, even while I was working on this article, I felt that I was significantly out of balance in my life.
Now, I am beginning to recognize that my life is balanced. The “middle way” is not a tightrope; rather, it’s an eight-lane highway. When I release my attachments and my judgments, I allow myself to experience the natural cycles of life. Even now, as I finish this article, I’m preparing to get back to the gym, and am very aware of the shift in my energies.
The thing about surrendering to the flow of life is that while sometimes it brings wonderful things into our lives, at other times, it brings less pleasant experiences. They are all part of the flow, and in order to experience true balance, we must be willing to embrace everything as it appears in our life.
At times, it may help to remember the four magic words. These words embody one of the underlying truths about balance, and they have the power to cheer us up when we’re feeling depressed, and to depress us when we’re feeling cheerful.
What are these words?
This too shall pass.
Kevin B. Burk is the author of
Relationship Handbook: How to Understand and Improve Every
Relationship in Your Life.
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