Balance. It involves polarities working together as one. Synchronizing of sides. Yin and yang. Hot and cold. Masculine and feminine. Light and dark. Day and night.
The earth works in ever moving cycles, undulating seasons. As the flower needs both rain and sun to bloom, so do we need the variety and balance of polarities to become our most whole being. And so it is with cycles and seasons of our own life, in all our stages and life changes, even in every day. Our moods, our energy, our physical states, outside influences – all of these have an effect on our internal equilibrium, naturally and regularly. Likewise, we learn to work with these sometimes seemingly opposing forces and still find and create our sense of stability, buoyancy and grace in the ever shifting waters of life.
Being in balance is finding a state of harmony within the self. Remember that this state is fluid, always moving, changing, alive. It is not stagnant or stationary, but stimulated by life changes, moods, hormones, age, events, environment, maybe the moon and astrological influences, things others do and say, even the weather. Though we can learn to work with outside and inside stimulus, we are aware that these do touch us, and so we adjust ourselves to return to our state of balance accordingly. Great as it sounds, when we reach a positive state, be it incredible joy, love, ecstasy, excitement, even enlightenment, this state will naturally shift. We don’t remain in a permanent state of bliss, no matter how attractive that sounds. That would be like the ocean remaining in the swell of an eternal wave, or the flower in a forever blossom. Even for the monk who works hard to avoid the realities of change and outside influences you and I deal with daily, there are natural fluctuation within. For most of us living in the real world, there are things like changing diapers, an unpleasant encounter, an uncomfortable illness, financial burdens, a nasty person we encounter at the store or at the stop light, and stronger shifts like divorce, getting fired, loss of loved ones. As long as we are living, there will be these natural ebbs and flows. Balance is not about avoiding them, but learning to live with them, move with them, and the ability to return to our sense of soul-stability and inner equilibrium.
So, think of being in balance as riding those waves. Close your eyes and envision yourself floating or surfing upon the rising and swelling and falling of the waters. Be aware that the wave cannot by nature always remain high. As we find our balance, notice how nature has found hers. She allows for the waves to rise and fall, the brightness of day and the dark of night, the warmth and plush season of summer and the cold, stark dormancy of winter. It is when we learn to honor both sides that we are able to move with nature, with harmony, and in balance.
Think how simple and shallow life (and each of us!) would be without fluctuation and variation. Remember, harmony in music is not one beautiful note, but a combination of notes. It is the synchronization, contrast and agreement of sounds together which creates harmony. This is the depth, the change, the discrepancy in each of our lives that make us too interesting.
Being in balance is not seeking that middle ground where we slide by without fluctuation, steady and forever unchanging. Rather if balance must be something we find within and can take with us as we ride those waves of ups and downs, light and dark. Thus being in balance is learning to find our place as we go up and down, through light and dark, and find the steadiness, stability and peace within us as we ride through the journey of life.
Finding our own balance is not being exclusive. In other words, balance is not achieved with our focus and attention continually on one side, leaving the other unattended. We’re not in balance when parts of our whole are off.
Every element of the whole, as in our previous discussion of the Nurturing Wheel, affects the whole. Thus every element of the Nurturing Wheel is looked at and considered in order to be fully in balance. The formula for each of us is always unique. For example, I might need more time in nature, solitude, meditation, running wild in the woods, letting loose dancing, reading and writing poetry, long dinner conversations with my husband and son. Those things nurture me, and keep me in balance. One or two help, but I need to address the whole me to feel whole.
You know how it is – though one element of ourselves may be getting a lot of attention and feel well nurtured, if we’re only looking at that one element, and the rest is neglected, we get off kilter and will feel off. Like when we begin a new relationship and it’s all about passion and sex and we totally forget about work, exercise, tending our garden. Or we’re impassioned by a project for work, and spend all day sitting in front of the computer researching, and don’t take time for fresh air, a brisk walk, listening to your favorite music, meditating. You get the point. We’ve all done that. And then we’ve all had to work to regain our sense of equilibrium by tending to those elements of the self that were neglected.
What feels off?
So take a good look at your life. You may want to use the Nurturing Wheel for reference. Which elements mean the most to you, where do your attentions usually go, and what elements may get neglected? How have your time and energies been divided between the elements? Where are you at now? Do you feel in balance? If not, what’s missing? What can you do to change this, to create a greater sense of inner balance?
Hard as it may seem sometimes, you can create change in your own life to create a greater sense of balance. Consider your choices. And consider your excuses. Remember what it means to excuse: justify, defend, absolve, acquit, pardon, plea… In other words, put off. Put off change. Put off balance. Put off the responsibility to your self – and often as mothers, we do this under the guise of caring for others above ourselves. Then in turn, we may turn to others to “take care” of us. We can both work to maintain our own ever changing balance, and then, from that place of balance, have a firm foundation of where and who we are so that we are more capable to honorably be there for others, and not feel as needy ourselves. Yes, it takes work. And it’s not always easy. And it’s often working against a lifetime of habits. So, go slow, be easy on yourself, be forgiving… and try, try again!
Returning to balance.
Sometimes all it takes is one deep, conscious breath. Better yet, take three. Pay attention to your breathing. Like a mini-meditation, use the breath for bringing our focus away from our emotions, thoughts and environment and into our bodies and the simplicity of our breathing to center us.
Sometimes that simple pause is enough to return us to balance. Yes, it can be that simple! At the least, it can bring us closer, or bring us to a place of calm within where we can observe with clarity what needs to be done (or not done, as in released) to return to equilibrium.
Considering and adjusting balance is a wonderful tool to work on and take with you far beyond pregnancy. Imagine those days when your family is taking up all your time, or it feels like all you’re doing is taking care of baby, and there’s no time left for you. This happens. All too often. And no one can fix this but you. How do you fix this when you have your hands full? Get creative. There are ways. Take responsibility for your self and your choices. Think beyond the box. Start by breathing – then looking at the Nurturing Wheel and seeing what you need more of, what you need less of, what you’re lacking and what you have too much of. For the elements you need more of, how can you arrange to fulfill yourself? For the elements you need less of, how can you get help? Hire a postpartum doula, a babysitter, take on less, or understand that messy house isn’t the end of the world. Get your mother in law to cook dinner, and partner to take care of the kids. If you are alone and a single mom like I was, there are still so many options. My son learned at a very early age that I had work. He’d be just fine on his blanket on the floor beside me, doing his own thing, playing with blocks or what not, safely, because I had to work. I’ve seen moms do yoga with nursing babies nearby or even in their arms, others work at stores with baby on the back, and other moms get two seating strollers to pile the kids in so she could get in some well needed brisk walking or running. The kids thought it was awesome.
Kids are adaptable.
Kids naturally find balance. They know their needs and do what it takes to fill them or have them fulfilled. They are not concerned with social pressures, and paying bills, and looking good, and worried about what others think, and being both independent and better than the Jones’. They are quite practical that way. Needs are just that – necessary. Why do we feel we can “rise above” or do without? Take a look at what happens when we think we can, and make choices to deny ourselves of our personal needs? That’s when we unnaturally shift to strive for a shaky sense of balance. That’s when we may turn to overindulgence in other elements of our lives, perhaps with addictions, eating disorders, compulsive shopping, even spending too much mindless time on the internet instead of doing something that is nurturing to our neglected element. Your child, on the other hand, will tell you without hesitation, “I’m hungry,” “I’ve had enough,” “I’m tired,” “I need that,” “More, now!” and “I’m done.” As we learn to listen to them, may we learn to listen to ourselves as well. May we learn to nurture ourselves as we are willing to nurture our children.
Oh, the things we can learn from our children…