Balancing Acts

When I chose to explore and deepen my understanding of balance in my life for a year, it suddenly became filled with extremes that demanded balance!  Balance being a mid-way point between potential extremes, like dancing on the edge of a sword, it requires constant micro-adjustments to maintain.  I immersed myself in play, that joie de vivre that brings a healthy balance to intense work.  At the same time I began major new work projects that demanded new levels of creativity and skill.  Work was my passion and motivation while play gave camaraderie, rest, fitness and an antidote to burnout.  By passionately committing to both work and play, it soon became excruciatingly evident that something had to give!  

Do What You Love:  I first prioritized what was most important to me, what gave me “juice” and love, those things that I would choose above others.  Choosing a combo of work and play, I committed to revitalizing what I gave out to work and to others.  Then, like squeezing a wet sponge, the less important things got eliminated.  “Just say no” became easier to do because I had committed to do what was most vital to me.  I had a template for choosing how to spend my time.   If a person loves their family and spends all their time at work, in the long run one could say they really don’t value family.  We vote with our time about what we value, which requires ruthless balance.

 Clara grew up in an international commune.  Mostly separated from her parents, she was raised in a collective, strict, controlling environment.  A long history of abuse, a controlling husband, five children and religious dictum molded her into a very compliant, submissive and depressed woman.  Her only outlet was dance, which she had learned in China, India and college.  And dance, she did!  The only self-expression she was allowed, she danced her emotions and pain with intensity.  Eventually she left the marriage, with no means of support for her children.   She reunited with her parents to begin healing their relationship.  She also began healing herself through creating her story in dance, a series of powerful vignettes accompanied by her recorded voice weaving the tales to the music and movement.   She danced the feminine, submissive, giving up herself to authority, only living for others until she found the deep well of self inside, finding her inner strength and power.  Only then was she able to feel compassion, love and forgiveness.  Only then was she able to turn to caring for her children.  She danced the healing balance, which spoke to the core in all of us, finding our demons and shadow sides to be able to reconcile them. 

 Start/Stop/Maintain or Change:   If you never threw away any of your clothes, your closet would be a hopeless jumble of needed and no-longer-used items.  New clothes are needed to replace outworn items and to fit the times, different images, different activities.  Clothes also require regular cleaning and fixing.  We habitually are better at some of these than others.  Ask yourself, of these activities, Start, Stop and Maintain or Change, which you do best and which worst.  Is it easy or hard to generate new ideas and projects?  Are you good or not at keeping things running, fixing and changing as needed?  Do you complete things or let them drag on and on?  Do you ruthlessly toss outmoded or unused stuff?  Once you have taken a realistic stock of your tendencies, it is time to bring more balance in these areas.   Flow in life depends on balancing these three.  Get a spreadsheet and ask yourself these questions: 

            What am I not starting that I need to?

            What can I start?

            What am I not maintaining or changing that I could?

            What needs more maintenance or change?

            What am I not completing that I need to?

            What can I stop doing?

 Law of Three – Tension Between Opposites Creates Movement:  Consider a couple dancing together – each must maintain a certain amount of tension while simultaneously being attentive to the other.  If either collapses or tries to dominate, it is no longer a dance.  The dance occurs because of the balance between the two.  Ana loves her freedom to be able to choose in the moment what to do and be free to follow her intuition.  She wants to be a writer, and she has set aside several hours each day to write.  She finds this daily grind very confining.  Yet she is using the tension of that confinement opposing her natural desire for spontaneity to elevate her writing skills and to achieve her goal.   Picture a climber who wants to go up a steep crevice with no toeholds on it.  The smart climber will put their back to one wall and feet against the opposite wall, using the tension between the two to “shinny up” (a southern technical term) to the top.  There is a maxim that nothing new is ever created without opposites.   Whether it is male/female, freedom/structure or current situation/desired outcome, all creativity demands two opposing forces in order to birth, invent or accomplish something new.  Once you understand this principle of using the tension between opposing forces, you can consciously apply it to moving forward in your life.  

 Just Say No:  Do you ever find yourself getting pulled into something because you don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, you want to be nice, to gain approval or do it out of a sense of guilt? A friend told me about her email being totally shut down because someone had sent her a file with lots of photos that used up all her computer memory.   Once that file had been removed, she could receive all her emails again.  It was a great metaphor for how we let relatively unimportant things in life clog up the flow. Fighting serial monotony means taking habitual things off automatic so that you will have the time to do what feeds your passion, joy and satisfaction.

 Oranges and Raisins:  Balancing time requires first knowing what you want to accomplish and then breaking big projects down into smaller tasks to let you use time efficiently.  If you fill a bowl with oranges, there is still room for pecans.  Then you can put in raisins.  When that’s full, you can still pour sugar into the bowl.  And then there’s room for some water.  By breaking a large project (oranges) down into smaller tasks (raisins), you can fit them into small bits of otherwise wasted time.  Looming projects can be less daunting, getting started easier, and procrastination less likely when you can chunk the tasks down.  Whenever you really, really want to do something, you will fit the time in for it.  Time is elastic like that.  

 Principles for Balance:

–    Choose your Passions:  Consciously decide what you value most, those things you love                  deeply and most want to accomplish, and spend your time there.

–         Closet Cleaning:  Use the Start/Stop/Change or Maintain model to find and fix what is out of balance.

–         Law of Three:  Balance and forward movement are accomplished by getting conscious about the opposing forces involved, including the emotional ones, and then reconciling them.

–         Just Say No:  It takes ruthless courage to stick with what you value rather than succumb to the lesser important requests.  If you don’t, it may overload your system or you’ll end up with something less than what you truly value.

–         Oranges and Raisins:  Break large projects down into smaller tasks that can be fit into chunks of time that might otherwise be wasted.

 Consider these principles to create balance in your life.  I hope they are useful to you.


Ashland, Oregon,