Spring Equinox, falling on March 20th at 2:37 am PT in 2021, is a great time to revisit what it means to balance. It marks a time when the days and nights are approximately equal, in the midst of the changing from dark to growing light.
(Round by Laurence Cole.)
What does it mean to walk in balance?
We idealize the concept of finding balance. It seems like such a good idea… even though I rarely seem to find a static place I can stay in for very long…
That’s one of the problems of our culture, of colonizing cultures in general: We set up ideals that don’t match reality and then try to live up to them (and force others to).
No wonder we always feel like we have to keep working, trying, fixing, reaching, striving…
What would it be like, instead, to meet the moment as it is?
This is what Eairth* and her more-than-human beings are always doing.
If there’s a windstorm, the cedars outside my window don’t say “No, I’m going to stay straight and calm like a tree should be.” They respond to the moment by swaying and moving with the wind, by balancing, not resisting to try to stay straight and unmoved.
When we humans release too much carbon into the air, Eairth doesn’t refuse to change, but finds more and more ways to manage it—to store in the soil and rocks, in the breathing in of trees and green plants. Eairth responds to the moment by balancing.
When plants don’t get enough sunlight, they don’t refuse to live, but take the energy they do receive and live as best they can, perhaps sending less to flower or fruit and more to leaf and root. They are balancing with what life presents.
What if, like Eairth, I could accept that there is no ideal way to find balance?
Could I, like Eairth, just respond in the moment to what presents itself as needed without trying to find balance?
This is what I call the practice of balance-ING. A client once wrote it out like this to emphasize how it is an ongoing meeting of the moment, a shifting to meet reality as it is now, not a hunt for an ever-elusive and unattainable “balance.” (Thanks, Meg!)
Take work-life balance—an ever-present “issue” for me.
The pandemic brought more work into my life. This was at a time when I was learning to say “No” and not take on more. So, for months, I told myself I needed to find the right balance. I needed to work less to do that. I kept telling myself it wasn’t right that I had to work more, that I shouldn’t have to, that I didn’t like it…
But I was just fighting with reality. I chose to do the work, so why keep making myself unhappy about it?
When I held up the ideal of work-life balance, the situation didn’t look good, and I kept striving for that elusive ideal of more balance. I was holding up finding balance as the ideal and could see no way to make it happen. This kept me stuck.
Over time, I realized that I could practice meeting each day differently—I could see what was needed, accept that, and see what bit of balance-ING I could bring in. So, instead of, “I need more work-life balance,”
- One day, I stopped early and spent some time playing music.
- Another day, I went into the garden on my break.
- Or I made time for the dog walk in the middle of the day.
- Or I rolled around on the floor, listening to my body’s needs and playing with our dog Sammy for a few minutes.
I couldn’t change the objective need I had stepped into, but I could change my experience and open to meeting the moment in these small ways.
And slowly but surely, I stopped feeling so stressed about overworking. I still work more than I want to, and am actively looking for ways to cut back, but the fact that I am practicing balance-ING makes it all OK again. I don’t feel stuck. I mostly (😊) don’t get upset about it…
Seeking balance is yet another ideal that
we set ourselves up against and measure ourselves by.
Even the Spring Equinox is not really a moment of balance—it’s just a time in the middle of the tilting of Eairth on her axis when the amount of dark and light is relatively equal. But it’s not a stopping point. If it did stop, we wouldn’t have the seasons!
Let’s drop the seeking, the measuring, the trying to find balance.
Let’s practice, instead, meeting the moment and not arguing with reality.
Let’s practice balance-ING.
* Eairth = earth and air together