Balance and meditation

Balance may be one of the most elusive and ubiquitous ideas in current conversation. We know we should eat a balanced diet, we strive for work-life balance, we attempt to balance our emotions through mood stabilizing habits, diets or drugs and yet the continued focus on finding balance suggests it may be as mythical as the unicorn.

Consider instead balancing – a continual process - rather than balance as a destination. Even the most expert gymnast in an apparently static balancing posture is exerting a series of micro movements to remain in that position.

When we approach our lives recognizing balance as a verb instead of a noun, we find freedom to step away from perfection and self-imposed guilt. Maybe this week you missed your yoga practice because sleeping in felt better. Maybe you ate or drank things you’d normally avoid. Maybe you worked late hours every night to finish a project and hardly saw your family. We can accept that some days and weeks will be like this without feeling bad about ourselves or counteracting with some extreme response like a full detox or intensive workout schedule. Balance is a continual dance with life; swaying to one side or the other doesn’t have to mean falling down. And if you do fall, you just get up and step back into the beat. As long as we keep our focus on what our bodies are telling us, and honor that information with kindness and intention, we are fully participating in the dance.

One of the best ways to stay in touch with ourselves amid the polarities of life is through meditation. Anything that focuses the mind on something other than the cacophony of thoughts crowding the brain, for even just a few minutes, is meditation. There are many different ways to meditate, none of which should be considered superior to another. Every person is free to find what approach works best for her.

Physical activity may be a form of meditation – yoga, tai chi or qi gong explicitly include meditation in their practice – but many runners would also say that they enjoy a meditative state on their runs. Mundane household chores can be a form of meditation when we focus our attention on what we are doing, rather than on all the thoughts in our heads. This is a mindfulness meditation – increasing attention to and awareness of the present moment.

Chanting a word or a mantra – silently or out loud - is another way to calm your mind and shut down distracting thoughts. Even simply counting allows your mind to relax and ignore the noise.

The benefits of meditation include stress reduction and increased calmness, self-awareness, and positive emotions. And in relaxing our brains for just a bit every day, we find a place from which to listen to our needs and continue balancing through life.