Balance has, in the past, seemed a little boring. Post-college I was not interested in all this self-care, self-reflection and routine that goes along with feeling balanced. It seemed much more fun, to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Read: moody and temperamental. Or maybe it was hard and I didn’t know how to do it. Self-discipline didn’t seem sexy or even accessible so I went to the other end of the spectrum making lack of routine and poor self-care (my body can handle anything!!!) my habit.
Last week, I confessed to some good habits that have slipped over the last few months. Hard won routines proved their worth as I made my way toward balance, but with the complications of sickness, travel and visitors, these things seemed to just fall away and brownies made their way into my late night life. When I’m not paying attention or not that mindful about how I go about my business, cravings and urges have much more sway over how I behave. Maintaining balance requires presence and a some effort.
The thing that I keep learning about balance is how good it really is. When I’m rested, nourished, and digesting well, I’m not distracted by the poor functioning of my body. My mind is more clear. I can be present with my family, students and friends. I feel connection more than isolation. I can stay with a thought or idea much longer. It actually can be really attractive. But then something happens and the seemingly elusive balanced state shifts. I forget how much I like it. I yearn for the familiar distraction of being under-slept or over-fed.
Moving in and out of balance is part of life. In the first Chapter of the yoga sūtras, Patañjali lists a whole bunch of things, called antarayas, that get us all at some point or another. Yoga sūtra 1.30 lists the following as interruptions to balance: Illness, mental fatigue, doubt, haste, physical fatigue, over-indulgence, having a view of ourselves that isn’t actually the case, failing to meet a goal, aging and regressing… these experiences can bump someone who is rocking a balanced lifestyle and good habits into a ditch.
If we know how good it is to be in balance, or if the discomfort of being scattered and distracted causes enough problems, we can and usually do come back. This process might teach us something about our own tendencies and help us to find deeper compassion for these human foibles we all face.