But I’m not the only one – everywhere we look there is advice about how to find work-life balance, or what constitutes a balanced diet or a balanced approach to managing money and so on. So what does balance actually mean?
Last month in my workplace yoga classes I invited my students to explore the idea of balance between qualities that we experience as opposites. Effort and ease. Stillness and movement. Determination and contentment. Strength and softness. Exploring these themes in my teaching made me think about the different forms balance can take and how they show up in my life. Here are three types of balance I’ve come up with so far…are there any others I’ve missed?
- Balance as mid-point
I tend to think of balance as the mid-point between things. In life this might mean balancing how much time I spend at work compared to at home, or alone compared to being with others. In yoga it might mean giving equal attention to building strength and flexibility, or to physical practice and meditation. But I actually find this striving for balance a bit stressful. Focusing on weighing up leaves little space for doing things just because you feel like it. And okay, maybe this is because I haven’t found the mid-point between planning and spontaneity…but I wonder if there is a different way of thinking about it.
- Balance as equanimity
Balance can also be about being present in all aspects of our experience. Immersing ourselves in work when we’re at work, at home when we’re at home, in nature when we’re in nature, on our commute when we’re commuting. Not rushing to find a distraction. In our yoga practice it can be about simply being where we are. This might mean fully experiencing and challenging our strength and determination in one pose or on one day, and fully releasing with softness in another pose or on another day. Yoga teaches us non-attachment, letting things be as they are rather than grasping on to experiences we like or avoiding things we don’t like. This type of balance is about staying steady amidst the upheaval that often surrounds us.
- Balance as harmony
One thing I’ve learnt from yoga is that opposites can also be experienced simultaneously. This is a bit harder to articulate but, to me, it feels like being in harmony with myself, and like intuition, freedom and flow. In my yoga this might mean experiencing both the strength and space within a single pose, or the flow of energy and breath in stillness. In life it might be where the pressure of work exists simultaneously with my enjoyment of it, or where being in tune with myself allows me to be truly there for others. Finding this harmonious state of balance is not so easy, but it happens when I am at my most calm, grounded, present, and connected to myself. It’s a state of being rather than a process of weighing-up.
Striving for balance is a natural response to the stresses of modern life and the expectation we so often feel to be busy rather than still. These three types of balance seem to get more elusive as you move down the list, but I’m finding them useful ways to think about what I’m trying to achieve when I look for balance. And yoga helps me work on all three types of balance, both on and off the mat.
What aspects of life are you trying to balance right now? Does thinking about balance in these different ways help?