“The world is like a dropped pie most of the time. Don’t kill yourself trying to put it back together. Just grab a fork and eat some of it off the floor. Then carry on.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
In yoga, we hear a great deal about balance, both in asana practice and off the mat. Truly, balance has been a buzzword in recent years in any public conversation about stress and stress management (I mean how many articles have been written in the past few years about “work-life balance” alone?!).
While it is admirable to strive for balance, we might want to stop for a moment and think about what we’re actually saying when we say we want a more “balanced” life. The author Elizabeth Gilbert touches upon the double-edged sword of the word “balance” in a fantastic blog post she wrote (click here to read, I promise it’s worth it!), of which my favorite line is: “The word BALANCE has tilted dangerously close, I fear, to the word PERFECT.”
And if we’re really being honest with ourselves, isn’t that kind of what we’re going for? An attempt to rid our lives of its inherent messiness and make it “perfect”?
Unfortunately, life is messy, even when we are doing tons of yoga and drinking lots of green juice and meditating for several hours a day. I’m not discouraging any of these activities, mind you; I’m just cautioning against the tendency to throw ourselves into anything in hopes that it will automatically bring our lives into balance. While yoga, meditation, and green juice mayhelp us feel more energized, we are still out of luck if our goal is that elusive “perfect” – and almost certainly setting ourselves up for failure.
But before you throw in the towel on balance completely give up on yoga/green juice/meditation, I invite you to substitute the word “fine line” for “balance.” Because when we are striving for balance, we are in reality trying to walk that very fine line between two extremes. Even the most talented Olympic gymnasts, tightrope walkers, and slackliners will fall off (or come close), and if they don’t, they move extremely slowly and/or have years of practice under their belts (which, not coincidentally, includes thousands of falls).
So maybe that takes some of the pressure out of “balance” – it’s a constant game of trying, falling, trying again, falling again, trying again, maybe not-quite-falling, trying again, and falling again…until, after many falls toward either extreme, we gradually attain more agility so we don’t wipe out as badly.
The fine lines are everywhere, giving us an infinite number of opportunities to practice: Between self-love and self-indulgence; between “letting go” of negative feelings and avoiding problems that actually need to be faced head-on; between advocating for yourself and being a bully to others; between living in the moment and planning for the future. If we live too long in any one extreme, the imbalance will show up in our lives – sometime in tangible ways (say, a relationship gone awry or financial difficulties) and sometimes in less visible ways (ever felt a vague sense of dread arising from deep within you when dealing with certain parts of your life? That’s your intuition trying to grab your attention.)
If you do experience the pangs of being off-balance for too long, don’t beat yourself up – instead, join the club! We’re all playing the same game and falling off that tiny balance beam over and over again. As long as we keep getting back up and giving it another shot with the new intelligence gained from our last fall, we’re slowly but surely on our way to walking the tightrope with greater skill and confidence.