The ingredients of both darkness and light are equally present in all of us… The madness of this planet is largely a result of the human being’s difficulty in coming to virtuous balance with himself.
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Trying to find balance in our lives is a universal topic, no matter where we live or what we do. In the first part of this series, I talked about our inner and outer worlds to gain an understanding of the complexities that affect our lifestyle balance. Today we’re going to explore these areas more deeply, as I show you areas of my life that I want more balance in, and offer techniques to help you do the same.
Assessing our life roles for better balance
By looking at the fundamentals of both our inner and outer worlds – the key cornerstones of our lives – we can begin to assess their impact on us and make adjustments according to what we desire more or less of. There’s no right or wrong regarding how we choose to shape our lives: there is no ‘perfect’ number of hours to work per week, or time to devote to exercise, or to spend with the family. In terms of balance, it all comes down to what works best for you.
There are so many ways to go about evaluating the roles in our life in order to achieve more balance. I’m going to show my personal method for keeping myself on a relatively balanced track. When exploring your own lifestyle, remember to consider your personality type. This can help us when planning what areas to spend to more time on. Since I’m a typical introvert, albeit with an extremely outgoing nature when I do socialize, I need to make sure to schedule in lots of alone time — while I love going to parties and seeing friends, these events also tend to exhaust me energetically.
Here are a few key points about staying in balance on the inside, based on my own personal experience. In addition, I’m noting where I’m currently at with these practices, and where I’d like to see myself in order to feel more balanced.
Breathe – Like water, breath is one of our life sources, and a gateway to our inner selves. I need to spend more time focusing on coming back to my breath these days because I’ve just had a big trip. I’d like to see myself check in 3 times per day with my breathing, making an effort to notice and slow down.
Ground – I re-located this past weekend, and therefore need more grounding time than usual. Lately, I’ve been taking 5 minutes at the start of each day to sit with my feet flat on the floor, and noticing my body’s connection with the earth. However, I’d like to do this in the evenings as well. What does your grounding practice look like?
Mindfulness – Right now, I try to practice having a mindful meal once a day. This is when I focus my attention on the tastes, smells, and visuals of my food. There is no talking, really bringing me back to the present. This is neat to try either alone, or with friends. I’d like to continue this, in addition to going on one mindful walk per week. A mindful walk is based on noticing our 5 senses as we walk, again without talking. Taking time to notice our feelings and being with them creates more space to be present and relaxed.
Meditate – This is something I have definitely been neglecting recently! My excuse is that I’ve been moving. But really, 5 minutes is all it takes for me to experience a difference, and that is something I can certainly make time for. So, I choose to commit to practicing a sitting or walking zen meditation three times per week.
EFT and other alternative healing techniques – I’m a big fan of the Emotional Freedom Technique, otherwise known as Tapping. If you’re open to new ways of getting in touch with your emotions, and moving through negative thoughts, this might be helpful. I will commit to doing this twice per week from now on!
This is where our life roles come into play, the basics that make up the general flow of our lives. For me, work and hobbies are areas I’m usually quite happy to spend time on. Photography, art, writing, and reading are the main hobbies that I always try to carve out time for, while I tend to forget about spending quiet time outside sometimes. As with my inner world practices, I’m simply jotting down where I’m at with each area right now, and where I’d like to be.
When I write out the key areas in my life, it looks something like this: work, play, social, self-care, community, romance, and hobbies. If you have family, one of your sections might include ‘family’; if you’re in a relationship, you might add a ‘relationship’ section. Tailor it to your lifestyle.
Self-care – For me, the physical aspects of self-care include food, water, and moving my body. I feel good with where I’m at with regards to the foods I’ve been nourishing myself with. As I’ve been living in very hot places, I’ve been drinking a ton of water, too. Cutting back on sugar has also helped me concentrate on work. My knees are hurting too much from jogging, so now that I’m back in Thailand, I’d like to see myself get back into my dance classes (twice weekly), as well as walk around more.
Work – I’ve been spending a bit too much time at the computer, but only because I’m learning how to use some new social media tools for an internship position. After a little while, things will even out, so I’m not too concerned. Aside from that, I feel content with the amount I work, and intend to continue with it.
Social – Now that I’m back in my old, familiar town, my social calendar is already packed with catching up with friends. But, because of my introverted nature, I think I’ll stick to giving myself permission to cancel dinner dates if I’m feeling overwhelmed, or need to spend some time alone to decompress.
Play – A few weeks ago, I took myself out on an Artist Date, where I gathered fallen petals, and placed them into a heavy book to dry. After they’re completely dried and crushed, I’ll make a special card for a friend. This experience reminds me that I’d like to schedule an Artist Date with myself each week, to inspire some more creativity.
Romance – Unfortunately, I haven’t been on a date in quite some time! Perhaps it’s because I’ve been traveling. Now that I’ve settled here for a bit, I think it’s time that I commit to finding some dates! There aren’t generally too many eligible bachelors in my city, but I’ll cross my fingers. I’d like to see myself go out a couple of times a month for starters. Stay tuned!
Hobbies –Personal photography projects were put on hold during my last month in Africa, as I found it difficult to shoot street photography there. Understandable, not too many Ugandans were too keen on having a foreigner taking photos in urban settings. Now that I’m in Chiang Mai, I’ll continue my goal of making one photo essay per week, and also execute the underwater water photo shoot I’ve been planning to do for ages now. I’d also like to add 30 minutes, once a week of drawing time.
I know that was a lot of writing about me! But that’s my process for assessing what areas in my life need more attention and which ones need less. Goal-setting naturally came up, because I find goals very useful for moving forward in my life. However, goals don’t necessary jive with everyone’s personality. One of my good friends, an incredibly accomplished chi-gong teacher, really dislikes the practice of setting goals — it hampers her natural flow. Be true to yourself and listen to your inner voice about what works for you.
Play is vital for balance!
I love to be reminded of the importance of play in our lives. In the last post, I talked about taking yourself out on an Artist Date. An Artist Date is any fun or interesting activity that you do alone, simply to experience an enjoyable time with the most important person in your life — you! More and more, we are finding studies and research that show just how crucial making time for play is. There is even an organization called the National Institute for Play, developed around the principle that:
“Play is fundamentally necessary for our survival and our ability to navigate life in a healthy way. And we are not getting enough of it in our schools, jobs, and everyday lives. The sobering reality is that the majority of society does not emphasize play in the Adult World (…) But in order to be healthy, well-rounded individuals, we need to keep playing long after childhood.”
For me, the key sentence here is the last one: to live our best lives, we must make room for play in our day-to-day routines. Play is no longer just about having fun; it’s necessary to complement and off-set the serious side of adulthood.
Balance means self-care, contributing to our community and earth
My version of balance involves self-care, and making positive contributions to the environment. This is part of the reason why I appreciate eco-friendly products like the Soma water filter. Because Soma shares similar values as I, their water filter meets many of my needs all at once. Not only does it help us to practice good self-care by replenishing our bodies with fresh, clean water; it also brings us together in a global community working to end the water crisis. When products already have balance built-in, it makes it much easier to continue balancing our own shifting lives. This is part of what makes being a conscious consumer so important.
You are what you settle for
You are what you settle for. – Janis Joplin.
This was the same advice given to me by a dear friend many years ago. When contemplating relationships, work, and other areas of my life, I find myself frequently going back to this statement. Am I settling with this particular choice, or am I moving forward to where I truly want to be? Finding more balance in our lives comes from this same state of mind. We are all responsible for our own destiny, and the course that our journey takes. Making sure we don’t settle for anything less than our dream-self and dream-life puts us on the right track to creating our dream world.
How can you find more balance in your life today? Pick three roles in your life, and be honest with yourself when evaluating where you’d ideally like to see yourself. Putting in the effort to gain more balance in our lives is a great way to enhance our experience here during our ever-so-short time on earth.
In art and dream may you proceed with abandon. In life may you proceed with balance and stealth.
– Patti Smith