- Balance is often mentioned in personal development and well-being circles. You hear we should eat a balanced diet, live a balanced life and seek a good work/family balance. But what does it mean to live a balanced life, and why does it seem so elusive?Have you ever gone from an easily accepted place where you’re living in balance and believing your a valuable winner to being knocked off balance and into an unacceptable place of believing you’re worthless? How did you get yourself out of the disabling negativity that comes with believing you’re a worthless loser? How did you begin seeing yourself as a winner?
- “It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: And this, too, shall pass away.” – Abraham Lincoln
- I believe the process of regaining my winning feeling started early in my recovery. First I passed through the first three of the seven stages of grief. The Shock/Denial—Pain/Guilt—Anger/Bargaining stages are kind of a blur. My mind didn’t reengage until I was firmly on the fourth stage: Depression/ Loneliness. The strange thing is that as long as I focused on rebuilding my life, I couldn’t get past this stage.
- I didn’t understand or accept change. Life is one change after another. Our physical environment is in constant streaming flux. When it’s cold we shiver to warm our bodies up. When it’s hot we sweat to cool ourselves. We live in a constantly changing environment. Our bodies respond appropriately when conditions change, they change. This ability to maintain equilibrium (balance) by adjusting appropriately to the external environment is called homeostasis. Homeostasis is another word for balance. Balance is doing what needs to be done to maintain equilibrium.“There is no secret to balance. You just have to feel the waves.” – Frank Herbert.
- Sounds odd to say that I was trying too hard, but I was. Or at least I was trying in the wrong way. I couldn’t get past feeling depressed and lonely until I quit focusing on myself and my goals. Saying I had goals sounds positive, but what I was really doing was focusing on myself and what I didn’t have and couldn’t do.
When it comes to a concept or principle such as balance, it is important to understand that between different people and even from moment to moment the locus of balance is always going to be different. A balanced diet for one person may be completely unbalanced for another. Both diets may be very healthy but it is the context of the individual that makes them healthy or unhealthy. This is likely why there is so much disagreement and confusion in the field of nutrition. There is no one size fits all. No mass-producible solutions.
“Food is an important part of a balanced diet.” – Fran Lebowitz
Finding a sense of balance and harmony at some point in any aspect of life will soon turn to disharmony and loss of balance if you try to hold on and freeze that moment forever. Such action is futile and will only lead to pain and your own suffering. The only constant is change. The waves come in, break and recede. Then they roll on in again. Instead of fighting and being tumbled painfully ashore, feel the waves coming and ride them out.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.” – Thomas Merton
I believe regaining my balance so my visits back to the Depression/Loneliness stage of my rehab became as brief and seldom as they did because of three reasons:
- I began seeing my goals as opportunities.
- I quit focusing on myself and my needs.
- I started focusing on helping someone who needed me.
Would this strategy work for everyone? I like to think so, but if so, doesn’t it seem like it would be be more common place.
Doing these three things enables me to focus on the blessings I already have instead of my goals which are things I still want to gain. The biggest help with balancing my thinking has been my Attitude coaches, I have as many as possible. They help me believe in my value by example and by helping me become valuable to someone I can help.
For years, my main Attitude Coach has been Wayne who had a motorcycle crash a few years after I had my 1980 crash. I visit Wayne in the long term nursing facility where he lives. Wayne is completely immobile. He can’t talk. He eats through a tube to his stomach.
Wayne can smile, and Wayne can move one hand. We play blackjack, have one sided conversations, listen to concerts in the cafeteria where we play bingo and other games and we exercise his usable arm in the physical therapy room. I also tour the facility pushing Wayne’s wheelchair. When he sees me, he smiles the biggest smile I have ever seen. When I visit Wayne, I’m helping him by giving him some variety and some positive interaction. Visiting Wayne shows me of how powerfully balancing an attitude of acceptance is. Wayne is my Attitude Coach.
Beliefs (un)Balance Us
Do you believe yourself to be a kind and helpful person? I answer this question for myself by asking myself if I love people because I need them or because they need me. How many people do you help? The more kind and helpful I become, the easier my rehab journey is and the more valuable I believe myself to be. And, the more valuable I believe myself to be, the more balanced I feel.