I often do this exercise in my yoga classes with both adults and children and I encourage you to try it. It is simple but offers rich insights. It is a balance exercise. Stand with both feet hip width apart, spine tall and now close your eyes. Just notice your feet on the ground and how your weight is distributed. Now, eyes still closed, slowly begin to walk forward as though you are on a tightrope, stepping one foot directly in front of the other, heel to toe. Notice what happens.
What we find of course is that it is very difficult to balance, and the reason that I encourage you to try the activity for yourself, despite what may seem predictable, is so that you can feel the adjustments your body makes as it endeavours to maintain balance.
This physical experience of trying to keep our weight centred teaches us something. Whilst in the process of gripping our toes, wobbling around and using our arms to help stay upright we may learn a valuable life lesson. In the same way that we make adjustments to find physical balance so too we balance our lives -we hover around the centre. The less we overbalance the less likely we are to fall, so the key is to try not to stray so far from your centre that you topple over.
This metaphor is a useful reference point for me and one I come back to often when trying to maintain steadiness amongst life’s unsteady periods. The first step is to check in with my true priorities and highest values and this helps to remind me where I want my life to be heading in the first place – it resets the course. Life is a constantly changing landscape and we need to keep readjusting the direction we are heading in order to stay on track. We are constantly presented with challenges and choices that guide us closer to or further from our ideal.
The more frequently we examine our bearings, the better chance we have of staying on, if not close to the path that brings us happiness and wellbeing. From this proximity it requires only subtle alterations to get back on track, rather than having to make a complete u-turn or not know how to get back at all. It is similar to a meditation practice where we are aware of the mind’s tendency to wander and so we keep watch, and redirect it back towards the breath as often as is necessary. Some days we are able to stay vigilant and keep re-focussing our attention whilst on other days we may get distracted by thoughts and plans for our day ahead and lose sight of how we intended to use our time on the cushion altogether.
When life feels out of balance it may be time to reconnect with our foundations. We may need to re-evaluate where our own mid-point is located by reassessing how successfully we are balancing work and play, activity and rest, the spiritual and the hedonistic, time with others and time alone, eating for wellness and eating for convenience etc. This list will be different for everyone as each of our struggles vary, but if we can become present with where we are at we can usually identify where the imbalances lie.
Balance is an approximate place. It is close to the middle but there is some leeway for error. By trying to live close to the middle most of the time we are less likely to be destabilised by life’s challenges. If we stop to regularly evaluate where we are in our lives we have a better chance of staying centred and it is around this mid-point that we operate at our optimum, feel happy and experience wellness.