I used to think ‘balance’ was the most boring word in the dictionary. I wanted to be off-the-charts, not perched in the middle of some bell curve (which is what I naively thought balance meant).
I was perfectly willing to accept myself as I was, as long as I was doing as well as I thought I should be. But if I was really honest with myself, it wasn’t that I was bored by the idea of balance as much as I was terrified of it.
When you live mostly in your head—in your ideas about the past, future, and how things “should” be, trying to hold your life together with your own agenda, opinions, and intellect—you put your mind in charge. And your mind isn’t a fan of walking down the middle.
Your mind likes exact. Black or white, not gray. Yes or no, not maybe. Certainty this way or certainty that way, but never, ever, (ever) uncertainty.
And your mind likes extreme. It tries to help you feel safe that way. Don’t worry it says, we’ll settle in on the perfect solution—the perfect diet, 401K, grades, friends, income, weekend plans, partner. That way you’ll be extra safe. You’ll have wiggle room. The extreme game works in the reverse, too—if the perfect conditions don’t pan out, screw it all. You don’t need any of that stuff. Throw in the towel. It’s all or it’s nothing.
That’s the way the machine in your head works, but it’s not how life works. It’s not how you work. You are designed for balance. When you aren’t living in your head, the middle is a natural, peaceful, easy place to hang out. When you aren’t thinking about it so much, you gravitate toward a moderate state of balance.
The problem with the extremes is that the more you live there, the more they demand of you and the harder they are to maintain. Your mind has to keep upping the ante to keep you feeling safe. So you lose a few pounds and your mind says “ooh, see how good that feels? More would be even better…” Or the weight doesn’t come off the way you wanted so your mind tries to comfort you with “ah, it’s okay…pizza will make you feel better. Eat the whole thing, you can flip to the other extreme on Monday to make up for it”.
True peace is in the space in between those extremes. When your mind is relatively asleep and you are guided by something far more “you”…that wisdom allows you to let things unfold the way they are and to see the perfection there.
Remember learning to ride a bike? You wobble this way, that way, this way, that way…and then there’s balance and you don’t have to think about it anymore. You’re just riding.
There is still wobbling, of course, but you make subtle adjustments without thinking. It’s not difficult. That’s kind of how it is when you’re living in life rather than in your thinking about life. You’re right down the middle and much to the surprise of your mind, you do feel safe because ironically, the only thing that ever makes us unsafe is living in those man-made extremes to begin with.
Notice where you’re living. In the extremes, trying to hold it all together with your own ideas and your own rising standards? Or in life, coasting down the middle?
Of course we all live in both places at times. Your feelings will show you were you are. If you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders, as if your choices and actions really matter, you’re in your own man-made thoughts. It feels like the opposite of freedom.
When you notice that feeling, let go a bit. Don’t worry, you won’t fall. You’ll self-correct. You might wobble a bit, but you’ll end up in the middle. And the more you hang out there, weightless and unburdened, the more comfortable you become.