just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

The Challenge to Practice Balance

Published on 05/10/15
by randy


Life doesn’t happen on a flat surface. Everything is changing, moment to moment, even though we do what we can sometimes to convince ourselves that things are not changing. A vital life recognizes this, growing increased sensitivity to the need for balance lest we fall off center and make a mess of things. For sure, there’s no guarantee on this. Even those with a strong, dedicated practice of balance can loose their center. Yet, we can see more and more how a balance ‘practice’ creates an unborn security, reducing our chances for handling life’s events with such suffering and stress. This balance practice can begin with just the challenge to stand on one foot. It can begin with the challenge to just focus on our breath without getting carried away in thought. In short, it’s the practice of holding our center, aligned in body/mind/spirit, without allowing our untrained mind to take us wherever it wants.

Holding balance requires keen awareness to the present moment. If the mind is drawn to what was or craves what will be, we increase our chances for loosing our center. Yet, this seems to be the very nature of the human condition. One of the greatest spiritual truths is that, “Life is dis-satisfactoriness.” Our suffering in life is related to how much we attach to our desire for different conditions. Our life challenge is to hold our center, cultivating our posture, no matter what, giving us strength, stamina, flexibility and sensitivity in facing what comes up. We can try to bury our heads in the sand with a Pollyanna like denial of life’s difficulties. We can let the gravity of negative emotions have it’s way with us. Or we can cultivate awareness to our center that has relinquished the grasping mind’s pull from alignment.

There are a number of physical disciplines dedicated to holding balance, many coming from the East (i.e. yoga, tai chi, chi gong, akido, etc.). Even holding the meditation postures requires a deep sensitivity to balance since the slightest imbalance will eventually result in restlessness with the body. Slightly raised shoulders, minimally tilted head, uneven triangular base with the legs and buttocks, etc., can all lead to attached attention that gives momentum to pain and suffering. Holding balance in movement offers a great opportunity to challenge ourselves. This becomes especially noticeable in walking meditation. It’s also why board sports play into one’s balance practice opportunities. While skateboards and surfboards have been around for decades, the relatively recent introduction of stand up paddle boards (SUP) has made the single surface board experience accessible to almost everyone. I have taught SUPing to hundreds of people over the past four seasons and have been amazed to learn that more than half my students report that they’ve never worked with their full body weight on a single surface (i.e. snowboard, skateboard, windsurfer, wakeboard, balance board surfboard, etc.). Many of my students have come from a yoga practice that brought them awareness to the need for a balance practice. It’s why the marriage of SUP with yoga has been so popular. In short, SUPing deepens one’s yoga practice and one’s yoga practice deepens one’s SUP performance. Any balance practice works to develop one’s ability to embrace the present moment with keen awareness, free from the draws of the random thoughts that fill our minds. With awareness, we become better able to identify these thoughts and emotions early, dismissing them, bringing our full attention back to centering. If we let them pull us away, elaborating on them, attaching to them, we’re pulled off center. Giving them too much attention, they grow, gain momentum we eventually fall over. Some have called a ‘belief’ a thought we’ve held onto. We’ve all seen how rigid attachment to ‘belief’ leads to war and conflict. It doesn’t bode well for a well balanced life that’s cultivating unborn security.

The relationship of balance in body/mind/spirit is becoming more and more evident as we come to know more about our human condition. One definition of stress is, “The distance between where we are and where we want to be.” The Buddha said we suffer to the extent we attach to our desires for things to be different from what they are. Christianity advises a moderate life that lives in contentment for what is. The Bible says, “Be still and know I’m God.” It’s this place of stillness, keenly within the moment’s arising, when we find our center. It’s hard to hold and some say we can just ‘bounce’ in our experience of it. Yet, having touched this peace we have faith that shows the emptiness of materialism and a purely secular life. There’s a ‘knowing’ that humbles us to the mystery of just ‘being here’. Touching this place of perfect balance there’s a surrender to ever ‘thinking we know’. The need to be right diminishes. There’s a greater sense of the human experience offering the courage to meet one another’s suffering with reduced judgment. Touching this place, we’re more curious, more willing to seek common sense, knowing we’ll never fully understand one another. There’s a commitment to ‘be careful’, living in a way to minimize harm to others, knowing our thoughts, emotions and actions play into the overall balance of the universe. Most medical professionals will advise any of their ‘dis-eased’ patients to reduce the stress in their lives. Find balance and ‘ease’, touching peace in the moment, free from the restlessness that so often plagues us. The word ‘heal’ derives from the word ‘whole’. While there are no cures for our restless minds, we can all ease our suffering by periodically ‘touching wholeness’ in awareness to the divine nature of the present moment.

Touching balance in the stillness of the moving, arising moment has sometimes been referred to as ‘peak experience’, ‘in the zone’, ‘flow’, etc. These are all descriptions of the ‘wholehearted’ experience where we’re our best, free from thought. A balance practice improves our capacity to have these experiences. The irony is that the ‘empty mind’ is the most full, that a strong mindfulness practice is a mind-empty practice. Further, the stronger and more connected we feel, the more humble we are. It’s why the ultimate athlete looks like their performance is down with the least amount of effort. In balance, the play of tension and relaxation is as precise as the rotation of the earth, as the cycles of sun and moonrise. There’s a precision that’s come from a practice that allows complete surrender to the moment, in faith that there’s a bigger support. There’s an emptiness that is not negative, but rather, it’s a letting go of fixed ideas in order to go beyond them.

A strong balance practice is keenly aware of the need for precision, rhythm, and depth. A dedicated practice tunes deeper and deeper to momentum. As we relax our practice we lose momentum and eventually turn negative. With courageous dedication, a lifelong balance practice in body/mind/spirit may be one’s best investment. It’s where unborn security lives as we all come to know what an uneven surface life provides, forever changing, moment by moment. Living life from our center we’re standing solid in a deeper knowing, beyond thought, that allows us to relax in the felt experience of a bigger Support. It’s far beyond words, although words help us to point to it. It’s a practice that allows us to ‘cultivate stability on an unstable surface’ because we learned long ago, life doesn’t happen on a flat surface. Time is just an abstraction and the Mystery will always be unfolding when we surrender to it.

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