Life in balance
Some incidents in childhood leave deep impressions. I have a deep memory of a television programme showing a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls....
Some incidents in childhood leave deep impressions. I have a deep memory of a television programme showing a tightrope walker crossing Niagara Falls. I was fascinated as he carefully placed one foot after another in a state of total concentration.
Sometimes he stopped to re-balance and reassess his position. Only one slip or slight imbalance and he could have fallen hundreds of metres into the turbulent white waters below. It was breathtaking.
Some of us feel life is similar. Finding our inner balance while living amongst many extremes, like the tightrope walker, can be precarious. It can create extraordinary tension.
We live in a world of duality, and at every second we have to make decisions about where we sit between so many extremes. Should I tolerate the situation in silence or should I face it and express how I really feel? Am I coming from a point of self-respect or am I just being arrogant? Am I being selfish or am I just being sensible and looking after my own needs? When should I let things be and when should I push for what I want?
Taoist philosophy expresses these dilemmas in the ancient Ying Yang symbol. At almost every second we are faced with the duality of opposites. Unfortunately, there is no formula for finding the right balance.
Each situation requires a different mix of seemingly diametrically opposed forces. Some situations require us to be totally assertive and express how we feel. Other situations require us to let go in favour of others' needs and desires, and at other times a mixture between the two.
Every situation depends on our ability to objectively view a situation and discern the middle path. In my experience, the middle path means to find a point of silence from which I observe all the tides of influences and opinion. From that point I clearly see the path I need to take.
Most of us find life a constant juggle in which we try to fulfil many different responsibilities. Firstly, to our family and friends—most of us do feel relationships to be the highest priority. Secondly, our responsibilities in our chosen career. Thirdly, to our other interests, whether they be community service, sport or just our own recreation. Neglecting one can create stress.
The greatest stress does not come from overwork, but from the worry that we are neglecting an area of our life. It's common knowledge that workaholics who may be brilliant in their field often use work to escape areas of their life they find difficult. Perhaps there's conflict at home, or even a lack of self-worth.
Going to an extreme is usually a sign of covering up a lack in another area. We seem to pursue the things we are good at, but very cleverly create our life to avoid those things that challenge us or we find difficult.
A renowned public speaker once told me he had so much confidence in front of a crowd, but when it came to one-to-one communication he often felt totally inadequate, so he avoided it. The result, imbalance!
I took up the practice of meditation when I was just twenty-one years old. One of the wonderful benefits of meditation I discovered was the art of objectively viewing myself, like a member of an audience watching my own performance on stage.
As I watched myself I could see how hard I was trying to please others, constantly compromising what I really wanted or needed. It was more important to seek respect from others than from myself. The result ... more imbalance.