“Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as bird wings.” ~ Rumi
In life, balance is essential. It’s in balance that we find equilibrium with the conflicting, at time at odds, energies that exist in our day to day. These are made up emotional energies, in the form of our happiness or sadness, excitement or boredom. These are also made up of our physical energies, which dictate both our emotions and our physical capabilities –sickness debilitates the body, and health empowers it.
But how do we bring balance to our lives, and more so, to our practice? What acts, thoughts, and intentions drive us toward balance?
Balance as a Physical Phenomenon
For the body, which houses the mind, physical balance comes from physical health, wellness, and care. It critical to practice upkeep with your body, as a balanced vessel generally serves as the precursor to a balanced mind.
To bring this balance, consider these three methods:
- Balance in Nutrition: A healthy body starts with what you put in it, and a healthy, wholesome diet with varied foods that contain diverse vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients (fat, carbohydrates, and protein) is the essential starting ingredient. Indeed, most nutritionists refer to such a diet as “balanced diet“, as it represents a holistic representation of the foods and nutrients needed by the body.
- Balance in Exercise: Exercise, like a diet, is a big part of having a balanced physical body. In exercise we maneuver and flex the body in new ways. We tear apart our muscle fibers, encouraging them to regrow even stronger than before. We expand our lungs, our heart, and our diaphragm, pushing our bodies to higher and higher limits. But in this, exercise also does a lot to calm and de-stress the body. Yes, that’s right – we exercise to relax!
- Balance in Relaxation: In relaxation, we find the critical element of balance when contrasted with the hearty and often exhausting acts of ‘finding food’ (aka. work!) and exercise. Both activities can tire the body, but as we know, they both also help to restore the body. Nutrition provides the body with the building blocks of health, and exercise inspires a restful mind. But what is required here is a devotion to step back and allow yourself to relax and rest. While both of the aforementioned points are essential, without the proper deep rest, your body may not find balance.
Balance isn’t just about the body though – it also directly relates to the functioning of the mind.
Balance as a Mental Phenomenon
For the mind, balance relates to our thoughts, motivations, actions, and intentions. Balance is something we find in healthy thought, not unlike the health we learned about above. It too requires a delicate set of ingredients, which require consistent and thoughtful application every day or as often as possible.
Consider these few points when balancing the mind:
- Meditation: Meditation is the act of quieting the mind. In actuality, it’s considered one the of most difficult and fulfilling acts when balancing the mind. Often, we find ourselves with so many thoughts. Our bills, our loved ones, our needs and wants… thoughts of each assail the mind, in the form hopes and fears. Quieting the mind involves pushing these thoughts out of the mind. It acknowledges their existence, but allows you to greatly narrow your focus. This break from thoughts, emotions, and fears, is a direct balance to the opposite: fully conscious thought.
- Chakra Alignment: Chakras are swirling pools of energy within the body. While chakras may sound too mystic to some, the acts related to opening the chakras can be balancing for the psyche. They deal with understanding root desires, how we love and attach ourselves to things, and how we perceive the world and our own thoughts. Learning about chakras and their meaning is, in many ways, a mystic systemic to understand our thoughts, emotions, motivations, and purpose in life.
- Positive Mantras: Mantras are word or phrases we repeat to focus the mind on specific points. Mantras can be as simple as repeating “I love myself” or “I deserve to be happy.” You can also use mantras long celebrated for their meaning. A personal favorite of mine is “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” which translates to “May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.”
Bringing Balance to Your Practice
So how do these things relate to your practice? Equipped with a healthy body and mind, you’re more able to engage with your practice and what it means for you. You’ll find an invigorated, inspired purpose when you reach your mat, and you’ll better able to apply yourself. Indeed, with a balanced body and mind, you’ll find almost everything benefits.