Sit on a mountain and meditate? Is that the answer?

March 12, 2012

Google the words “Find Your Balance” and you’ll get a million links: acupuncture, yoga, tips on avoiding injuries, and tons of health and wellness sites. Including this one – it’s the first on the list (thank you for helping make that possible)!

You’ll also find further down the list, which is the URL I want but the guy who owns it won’t sell. It sits, barely used. Grrrr.

So what’s this elusive “balance” all about anyway? Is it totally cliché?

Here’s what I think. My professional and personal opinion.

When I say balance, I’m not talking about tree pose or perfectly balanced gut flora (although both of those are nice.) I’m talking about that sweet spot between too little and too much effort. The place where we ease in and out of our comfort zone.

In the book “The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching”, Thich Nhat Hanh tells a Buddhist story about this idea of effort. It goes like this.

Buddha asks a musician monk, Sona, a question. “What happens if the string of your instrument is too loose?” “When you pluck it, there will be no sound,” Sona replied. “What happens when the string is too taut?” “It will break.”

The practice of the Way is the same… Maintain your health. Be joyful. Do not force yourself to do things you cannot do.

When I was dealing with majorly messed-up health issues (hello, fainting spells) I was most certainly out of balance. It wasn’t for lack of trying. I lived my life trying as hard as I could. A lot of effort, in every direction.

No wonder my body chose to sometimes shut off the lights and take a break.

I didn’t heal myself just by eating kale. That would be too simple. Rather, choosing to rearrange my diet allowed me, as a person, to be different. Without sugar and caffeine, I relaxed in body and spirit. With more real, whole food I became more real and whole. I got in touch with the person inside my shell.

Changing my diet allowed me to flow with the energy of the Universe, instead of fighting it tooth and nail.

Wait. I can say that in a much less hippy way. I was too revved up. Changing my diet and lifestyle helped me balance out. Think more clearly. Act more like myself.

There. That’s better.

So maybe you’re like me. All Type A, all yang.

Or maybe you are the opposite. Yin. Maybe your story is that you tend towards too little effort. Being timid. Fear. Hiding. Can kale change your life? Maybe so. Making conscious decisions to nourish yourself takes guts! To understand your sugar addiction – that’s not for the faint of heart. Suddenly you’re overcoming fears, one step at a time and feeling stronger. More balanced.


Here’s what balance is to me, today:

– Choosing the shampoo that I like the best because it makes my hair look great. Not feeling guilty about the chemicals. Choosing sulfate-free, fragrance-free stuff for days I’m not leaving the house.

– Making sure I eat some kind of dark, leafy green every day as a way to stay conscious about my meals. But not stressing over every bite of everything I eat.

– Moving my body, even if it’s just walking on a treadmill or pushing the stroller. I’m not up for marathon training. I can’t get to a yoga class often enough to really advance my practice. Right now, my practice is to move in some way, every day. And that’s enough.

– Working at this business of mine, but not too hard. As soon as I start feeling revved up, I know I’ve taken on too much. Time to scale back. Being a mommy is my #1 job, I have to remind myself.

– Getting to bed as early as I can. That might mean the dishes don’t get done. Oh well. I simply need sleep, more than other people (read: more than my husband).

Ironically, I know a lot of health coaches and yoga teachers and other wellness practitioners who wear themselves out. It’s not easy having your own business, and they run themselves into the ground trying, trying, trying. Oh, I’ve been there.

And of course there’s the more obvious 9-5ers, who really work 9-8 and most of the weekend too. Who drink coffee to wake up, vodka to wind down, repeat, repeat. And those who push themselves into things they are not ready for, letting their ego drive in the gym or on the yoga mat. Then the New York Times writes a story about them.

Should we all sit on a mountain and meditate? Is that the answer to a balanced life? Well to me, that life is not balanced either. That person probably forgets to put money in his or her 401K.

When I say balance, I’m not saying, “Be like me.”

I’m saying, “Be more like you.”