“A human being in perfection ought always to preserve a calm and peaceful mind and never to allow passion or a transitory desire to disturb his tranquility.” ' Mary Shelley
Ah, if only we were ‘human beings in perfection’! Alas, our tranquility is all too often disturbed by passions, prejudices, obligations and the ever present awareness of our own frustrating faultiness. How, then, can “a calm and peaceful mind” be preserved? Balance is imperative.
I was recently listening to a podcast called “The Dirtbag Diaries” and the host, Fitz Cahall, commented on the conflict between the ‘person I need to be and the person I want to be’. I found his comment thought provoking, but I would modify the conflict to one between “the person I need to be and the things I want to do.”
I frequently find myself torn between wanting to do the things that I need to do to be the person I need-and want- to be, and wanting to do the things that I want -but don’t need- to do. (That sounds convoluted, but re-read it several times and it really does make sense!)
As Fitz Cahall put it, “we all struggle with balancing the have-to-do’s with the want-to-do’s”.
What is the solution? How can balance be attained? How can the needs and wants be reconciled into some form of harmonious melange? I don’t know; and yet, asking the questions is not mere existential blather.
Perhaps resolution lies in the biblical advice to “Go on walking in wisdom…making the best use of your time.” –Colossians 4:5. Life being the finite resource that it is, we simply need to make clear decisions about what is most important to us and then not allow ancillary concerns, desires, distractions, etc. to dominate.
Enemies of Balance
Balance has many enemies. Here are 3.
- Technology: Facebook, Google, Snapchat, Instagram, WhatsApp. All of these words were unknown just a few years ago. Now we are inundated with messages overt and covert telling us that we cannot live without the technology du jour. It has come to the point where the venerable Oxford Dictionary chose an emoji as it’s 2015 “word” of the year. Not kidding; check this link. (On second thought, don’t; it’s a distracting time waster.) The point is that this onslaught of technological distraction does not contribute to the intellectual clarity necessary to ‘make the best use of time’ and thus seek and find balance.
- Excessive self-obligation: We cannot truly multi-task. Period. I don’t like to admit it in my case, but my dear wife frequently reminds me! However, harsh reality does not stop us from flirting with the idea. Thus, our grandiose perceptions of our own abilities cause us to excessively self-obligate on macro and micro scales. We say “Yes” to requests that we cannot possibly do justice to without maiming some other aspect of our life. We delude ourselves into thinking that we can text and drive or read and communicate with our spouse at the same time. Wrong. Unbalanced.
- Stress: Related to both of the above enemies of balance, stress is deadly. Eliminating it is impossible, but minimizing it isn’t. Cultivating modesty-awareness of one’s own limitations- can help to alleviate stress. When we have a positive, optimistic , yet realistic outlook, we are able to combat stress and progress toward finding balance.
The Balancing Effects Of Nature
One constant throughout my life is the fact that exposure to the beauty of creation helps with balance maintenance. The pictures in this post were taken during an end of August 2015 trip to coastal Maine. After a very busy summer, an unplugged getaway was the perfect antidote to some accumulated stress.
Bethany and I and some close friends rented a green cottage on a lake. With no internet service and my phone turned off, I was able to let the peace of the green trees and cool water leach into my soul and declutter the accumulated detritus of life. We read books and kayaked on the lake. We explored Acadia National Park and climbed the famed Precipice Trail. We ate mussels, lobster, and fresh wild blueberries under the warm late summer sunshine. We watched waves pound the rugged shoreline at Schoodic Point and nibbled on a variety of seaweeds in the ice cold tidal pools.
The experience restored Balance.
So, in summation: do I have the secret “life hack” to find equilibrium in all aspects of life? No. However, 2 things that I have found to be beneficial are: 1. prioritizing use of time, and 2. seeking out the balancing, calming effects of nature. 3 enemies of equilibrium are Technology, Excessive self-obligation, and Stress.
I will continue to seek balance and wish you the very best in your quest!
“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings.” -Rumi