Life is the art of balance.
Balance between yin and yang, being and doing, masculine and feminine, effort and surrender, holding on and letting go. Letting go may be the most important skill we can cultivate, but letting go has no meaning without the action of first holding on.
It is okay and natural to hold on. The Buddhist concept of nonattachment does not mean not loving and feeling connected to people and animals and things. We have to hold on, to make effort, to take action in order to stay alive. We have to feed our minds and bodies, and the more wholesome the food, the better.
So, how to find our balance? Here are some ways I have found that help.
1. Know that there is no such thing as perfect balance.
If there was, life would be pretty boring, would it not? Without failure, there is no success. Without darkness, there can be no light. We can approximate balance, but to be 100 percent perfectly balanced all the time is an impossible dream, a problematic myth. There is no ¨having it all.¨
And yet, paradoxically, everything is already in perfect balance. We do have it all when we can live our life as it unfolds in the present moment.
2. Let your discontentment be a catalyst to change your life. Disappointment is actually precisely what we need.
The attainment of enlightenment from the ego’s point of view is extreme death, the death of self, the death of me and mine, the death of the watcher. It is the ultimate and final disappointment.
… We fall down and down, until we touch the ground, until we relate to the basic sanity of the earth.
… We are just a speck of dust in the midst of the universe. At the same time, our situation is very spacious, very beautiful and workable. In fact, it is very inviting, inspiring. If you are a grain of sand, the rest of the universe, all the space, all the room is yours, because you obstruct nothing, overcrowd nothing, possess nothing. There is tremendous openness.
You are the emperor of the universe because you are a grain of sand. The world is very simple and at the same time very dignified and open, because your inspiration is based upon disappointment, which is without the ambition of ego.
– Chogyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom and the Way of Meditation
3. Balance letting go of ego and taking compassionate action.
When we stop competing and start collaborating, amazing things can happen.
4. Balance making plans and having a vision with letting go of the plans and seeing reality as it is.
It is great to have a plan, a vision, a dream. It is also essential to let it go as life unfolds, moment to moment. When we get stuck on our plan and our expectations of how things should be, life becomes unfun.
5. Balance independence and solitude with interdependence and community.
Be an introvert and an extrovert. Listen to your intuition. Be alone and soak up time in silence and solitude as needed. Be around people, and communicate and socialize when that is what you need to do. Both are of value.
6. Balance rest and relaxation with activity and ambition.
Take it easy. Breathe. Chill. (Sometimes.) Go for a walk or run. Work. Create. Be on fire. (Other times.)
7. Balance study and scholarship with practice and experimentation.
Read books about stuff that fascinates you. Learn. Let your mind be a sponge. And also take the ideas and concepts that you learn about and apply them. Use them. Interact with them in your day to day life.
8. Balance birth and death, doubt and faith, the in-breath and the out-breath.
Right now, I am traveling in Colombia with my husband and our one year old daughter. The day we arrived in Bogota, last Friday, an old friend of my husband’s tragically died. He was just 41 years old. We went to his wake the following evening. I never knew him, but his death touched me deeply. Being in a room full of his family and friends, along with his lifeless physical body lying in a coffin, I almost felt that I had known him. The details are unclear, but he died from an accidental fall.
How inconceivable—to be alive and breathing one moment, and gone from this world the next. But such is life, although we continually deny or ignore that fact. Death will come, certainly. The time and reason are unknown. Instead of being depressed about this reality, I strive to balance my life. The joy and sorrow. Beauty and ugliness. My own doubt and faith. My inhale and exhale.
May all beings find freedom through balance!
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Editor: Renée Picard