Balance is a word we throw around a lot in Yoga communities these days. We talk about Balance as the salve for our often overwhelming and over committed lives. But, is Balance really a state of continual being that we can aspire to have or simply one of the experiences that we pass through in the continual ebb and flow of life?
I should start by fessing up. I am not a poster child for balance. Ask my Ayurvedic practitioner. I have good weeks where the scales of balance are fairly equally weighted, and then there are the weeks where I am spinning in the ethers, the realm of balance barely viewable from my vantage point above the clouds. Still I strive for that blissful ground of equilibrium and I know how wonderful it feels to inhabit it.
But I've never successfully taken up permanent residence in the balance promised-land. A conundrum that compels me to contemplate balance on a larger scale. What if balance is simply surfing the waves of our highs and lows, our spins and stillness, our floating and sinking? What if the essence of balance is to simply keep getting back onto the board every time a wave of life knocks you down and even drags you under? Would the acceptance of the flux change the inevitable frustration that descends when we wonder away from a state of equilibrium again and again?
The Yoga Sutra of Patanjali says that when pairs of opposites cease to have impact, we are in balance (2:48). Essentially when the crash of the waves stops causing us to react with emotion, we've got it. We fall off the board, we get pulled under by the rip tide, but we no longer feel pulverized by the effort. We take a deep breath, access our inner stability, then climb right back up there to ride the wave again.
We even stop judging the waves themselves as adequate or inadequate, and instead allow the uniqueness (or the sameness) of each wave to saturate us. We learn to feel at a different level, and in feeling more deeply, we connect to the wonder of that of which we are all a part. Emotions, thoughts, and sensations still inform us, but in balance we have a choice about how we respond to the information. We begin to open to the constancy of change, and build our muscles on the current of contrast.
Thankfully the practice of Yoga gives us opportunities to practice this approach to balance when the waters are calm. We can climb onto our mat and challenge the stability and flow of our bodies and remind ourselves over and over again to soften around the impact. We can shape the flow of our breath toward symmetry and equanimity. And then we can sit in the bhavana, the feeling-sense-vibration, of balance and allow it to permeate us, to fill our cells and envelope our minds. That way, when the seas of life get choppy, we the feeling of balance is more accessible because it can unfold from direct experience.