We live in a time and place of rare abundance. A profusion of products and possibilities is available and accessible, and we've grown accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it. Of course, this bounty comes at a price. The 21st Century demands a lot of everyone. We're 24/7 connected. Communication is instant and constant. With information a click away, we seek, learn, modify, manipulate and dissolinate from the time we arise until our head hits the pillow at night. And thanks to new tools like Plurk, Twitter and TweetLater, we can actually continue our output even when we're out like a light. But is this good? Does it serve us? Are we well?
Consider this: In the United States today, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, nearly 20% of all adults-over 40 million people-are diagnosed with anxiety disorders. Many of these lead to, or co-occur with, depression and / or addiction. Sounds like a problem.
Has it always been this way? Or, is our constantly-connected, ever-on, energizer bunny lifestyle contributing to an over-stressed, over-anxious state of affairs? I'd say the answer is a little of both, a balance between the two. Anxiety has always exhausted, and in some, the predisposition is inherent. And the world we've created and live in kindles and fuels the phenomenon. I'd also say that the answer, balance, is actually the solution to the problem. Balance. Something else we must learn. And like business savvy, interpersonal skills and the internet, once learned and mastered this something-balance, will change our lives forever. Let's look at how to create balance in five areas of our lives.
The Physical Self
Our bodies are amazing machines that go and go until "they just can not go no mo '." Many of us push ourselves basically without realizing we're doing so. We eat too much of the wrong foods and drink the wrong things. We sleep too little or sleep too much and over exert between long stretches of inertia. We look at screens and pages until our eyes are bloodshot and watering at day's end. We overdo. We move too little. Neither is healthy. Neither is good. Balance is the answer.
Every single day the physical body needs a balanced intake of healthy foods, at least thirty minutes of heart-rate elevating movement, eight or more cups of water, and about eight hours of sleep. For every hour you sit at your desk, spend ten minutes walking, moving, or stretching. When your eyes get tired and strained, close them for five minutes. Listen to relaxing music. Give them a rest. If you drink an alcoholic beverage, match it with at least two glasses of water before you have another. If you overeat at lunch, eat less at dinner. Balance. Find it. For your body. Every day.
Our bodies are not the only things we abuse. Our minds also take a beating. Driven to produce, we constantly think and consider availabilities, possibilities, and opportunities. And that's okay, part of the time. As we've developed into a society that values output, values product over process, we've deducted and discarded the art of contemplation, the ability to appreciate quiet. Non-thought.
Through history, yogis, gurus, philosophers and (ironically) great thinkers have touted the virtues of meditation and the quiet mind. We must learn to re-embrace this valuable tool. We must use it to balance our constant thoughts and busy brains. When we learn to quiet our minds, we allow natural well-being to develop, we move closer to inner peace. One who can quiet the mind can relax the body and embrace the world. Remember, the universe sprang forth from a void. There is value in the void.
To quiet your mind, take a comfortable seat, close the eyes and breathe. That's all. Just breathe. Listen to your breath and nothing else. Pay attention as you take a deep breath in and let the breath out. Focus only on your breath. As thoughts pass through the mind (and they will) let them pass. Do not fight them or engage them. Just let them be. All you're paying attention to is the breath. Do this for five minutes a day to begin. If you must, set a timer to help you reach that goal. After a couple of weeks, increase the time to ten minutes then fifteen, gradually attaining the ability to sit in quiet meditation for thirty minutes a day. You will be amazed by the increased sense of well-being and literal health this simple practice surprises. You will enjoy balance of thought and mind.
Human interactions can seem like a circus. Relationships between individuals have always been balancing acts. In order to stay on the tightrope together, couples must take care not to push too hard or pull too far. And when one developments momentum, the other must match that momentum or lose the connection. The rider stops on the horses back by responding to a movement with a movement of her own. Acrobats succeeded by responding to their partners in predictable, reliable ways and always honoring their commitments. All human relationships require these same skills, this same sort of balance if they are to last. If you take more than you give, you create a need in the other person. If you give more than you get, you come up lacking. Now do not get me wrong, we all have needs and experience lack at one time or another. Temporary imbalance is part of the dynamic that allows us to grow and change and learn new skills. A problem develops when imbalance become the norm. Imbalance is literally uncomfortable, and when we experience it in relationships we must choose to correct it or endanger the health of the relationship. It's really simple. Take no more than you give, expect as much as you offer. If another is unable to match your healthy expectations, decide if the relationship serves everyone involved. Always strive for balance.
Worries of the World and Spiritual Needs
It's easy to forget, when we're doing what we do, that each of us is a spiritual being functioning in a physical world rather than a physical being trying to find spiritual connections. We would be well served to remember this and address our spiritual requirements as intentionally as we address our physical needs. Whatever your spiritual practice, do it! If your traditions include church services, meetings, communicating with nature, or silent retreats, participate regularly. Do those things that feed your soul just as sure as you do the things that feed your body. We are complex creatures, made up of body, mind and soul. Attending to all three keeps us balanced and focused, integrated and flexible; attending to all three keeps us well.
The Need to Control and Acceptance of Grace
Finally, as doers, movers and shakers, we tend to be "get it done" kind of people. We see a need, we address it. We see an opportunity, we take it. We do and we do and we do. And then we manipulate and control what we do, in order to guarantee the desired outcome. These are admirable practices. They put into action a good, old-fashioned work ethic. These leads lead to business savvy and success; and in certain circumstances, they are vital and necessary. But there comes a time when each of us must relinquish the desire to control every outlet of every aspect of our life, and accept the fact that much of what we appreciate and enjoy is simply a gift of grace-no strings attached. No strings for us to use in control of others. No strings for others to use in control of us. An integrated and balanced, healthy mind, body and spirit basks in the glory of grace and the realization that we're surrounded by abundance and are free to partake, but that we also have the freedom to decline and be content with what we have and where we are at any given moment. Find that balance for yourself. Do everything within your power to reach your dreams and aspirations, and then release them and let grace do her part. Find balance. Be well.