The role of balance in human life is one of the most overlooked aspects of our existence.
It doesn’t seem to be an idea that circulates through society all that much, at least not in the West.
I wonder why that is.
Maybe it has to do with our cultural inclination towards excess, our pathological addiction to consumerism and materialism, but this is beside the point.
The point is, balance is absolutely integral to human consciousness. Regardless of why we may or may not overlook the tremendous importance of it, we ought to do everything in our power to embody this mode of being if we are at all interested in living a deeply fulfilled and meaningful life.
In respect to balance, generally we think of moderation of some kind—not going too far in any direction, or exhibiting restraint. This is a tragic misinterpretation.
The true essence of living a balanced life is to elicit a quality of internal harmony, an inner sense of connectedness and equanimity that is transcendent of thought.
This is the state beyond all opposites—there ceases to be that staggering sense of duality and separateness within our own minds. That sense of being one thing opposed another thing comes to dissolve. A kind of flow comes alive within us, and we feel immersed in the flux of being rather than operating as separate and isolated “selves.”
Others have said it much better than me:
I was listening to a lecture recently by Jordan B Peterson, entitled “Reality and the Sacred.” and the best quote I have ever heard on balance arose.
It knocked me right on my head.
I couldn’t actually believe how on point this statement was and how he conveyed this mode of being in an entirely clear, yet profoundly interesting way.
Curious? Without further ado:
“The Daoists believe that the world is always an interplay between chaos and order, and that if you live your life properly you stand with one foot in order and one foot in chaos. Because if you are only in order then nothing interesting ever happens to you, nothing is anything other than a repeat of everything you already know. This is the state that fascists desire, because fascists desire things to be exactly the same forever. And if you are in a state that’s only characterized by chaos, then you are at sea, or overwhelmed, or things have fallen apart for you, and there’s too much of everything for you to deal with.”
He brings up a picture of a yin-yang symbol on a projector.
“Now, the Daoists, being very wise people, know other things as well. They know, for example, that chaos can turn into order. That’s why there is a white dot in the middle of the black paisley. And they know that order can turn into chaos, which is why there is a black dot in the middle of the white paisley.”
This is where it gets crazy.
“The Daoists believe that a meaningful life, the optimally meaningful life, is to be found on the border between chaos and order, and I would say that your nervous system tells you exactly when you are there, and it’s a kind of place. You can tell when you are there because you are secure enough to be confident, but not so secure that you are bored, and you are interested enough to be awake, but not so interested that you are terrified. When you are in a state like that, when you find things interesting and meaningful, then time slips by you and you are no longer self-conscious.”
This struck me. This is something I’ve been thinking about a great deal, for it seems there are so many modes of being to implement in such a wide variety of situations that it is unimaginably difficult to determine how we ought to be at any given time.
What I am asking is: How do we know? How do we know whether we are taking the right course of action or utilizing the right mode of being?
The answer is relatively simple (or at least substantially more simple than the question). We know we are living rightly when we arrive at this neutral point—this harmonious space—the inner balance of chaos and order where we cease to be self-aware and our lives flow with an effortless finesse.
The thinking mind comes to be greatly slowed, that stifling sense of self-consciousness is put to rest and we come to simply be aware. Not “aware of,” but aware in a simpler sense. It is this pure state of awareness that characterizes the most powerful and effective mode of being. To embody this state is to live a meaningful life, and as bold as this statement is, I say it with complete confidence because I have felt it.
This is the essence of all religious experience, in my humble opinion, as well as the impetus for artistic creation.
Like Dr. Peterson describes, it is really a place, a psychic location, and it is from this place that we make rational and intelligent decisions. In that, it is imperative to cultivate the capacity to dwell in this space of inner peace and connectedness in order to live in accordance with our own true nature.
I am profoundly grateful to Dr. Peterson for making this even more clear to me, and hope I have in some way done this most valuable sentiment some justice.
Balance is the very bedrock of human perception.
Author: Samuel Kronen
Image: Max Pixel
Editor: Danielle Beutell
Supervising Editor 1: Taia Butler