Balance is something we create. We experience it physically in our bodies, emotionally through our feelings, and mentally through our inner dialogue and mindset. It’s not actually a real thing. It doesn’t exist outside of our experience of it.
Envision standing on a balance beam. What do you see? How do you feel? What thoughts are going through your mind? What emotions are you experiencing? What body sensations are you having? Were you balanced or off balance? Whichever you envisioned, now imagine the opposite. What do you see? How do you feel? What thoughts are going through your mind? What emotions are you experiencing? What body sensations are you having? How were your experiences different?
Like performing a flawless routine on a beam, to achieve the steadiness and equilibrium needed to be in balance requires focus. Focus is achieved through intentional use of our energy. When we move to a place where we are paying attention to the signal and not the noise and when we are tuning in to the calm instead of the chaos around us, we find balance.
Below are three practices you can try in order to discover and use your power to create balance.
Any time, any place, simply pause and notice your breath. No need to judge it or try to change it, just notice it. By bringing your attention to your breathing, you bring yourself into the present moment. As long as you are focusing on your breath, you are not anticipating the future or ruminating about the past – you are here now, where that sense of balance is possible.
This simple shift of noticing our breath is a way of moving us out of our always-on, analyzing, judging, evaluating, planning minds and into our bodies. We shift from thinking to feeling. The shift is important because it moves us to a place where we can be at choice. And, when we are at choice, we can opt for something that brings us a sense of balance.
Sometime during the day, focus on a specific experience and bring your full attention to the activity. You might choose a routine activity that you do every day like washing your hands or your face, brushing your teeth, making your bed, eating a meal or drinking, walking, or listening to someone. Just be awake for the activity, instead of letting your auto-pilot run. Pay attention to what you are doing and how you feel physically and emotionally while doing it. Notice your thoughts, feelings and body sensations. Really observe yourself in the moment. The aim is to establish a solid base for appreciative attention.
Being in an experience is more fulfilling – we’re there for it, involved in it consciously, feeling and sensing – and that can create a sense of balance. We’re not just in our heads; we’re open to our emotional response and physical sensations. It might not be that you need to do less to find balance, rather it might be that you can simply engage more in what you are doing.
Start or end your day in gratitude. When you go to bed each night or wake up each morning, name something from the day that you are grateful for. If you find this difficult, go beyond your experience of the day and include things you are generally appreciative of. You might identify people, places, things, feelings, activities, qualities such as friendship, home, flowers, joy, relaxing, or creativity, for example. Anything can be the object of your appreciation, even pain and mistakes that you grow from. You can do this in your mind, or you can keep a journal and record the objects of your appreciation.
Grateful appreciation is cleansing. It’s like removing a film that has been covering the lens through which we see our life. Being thankful is, in fact, much more than that – it is good for you. It can lead to greater optimism, acceptance, resilience, alertness, adventurousness, creativity, and health. And, with all of those qualities flowing through our lives, we counteract the negativity, resistance, burn out, disappointment, and just plain crazy busy-ness that can pervade our lives.
Learn more at the IBM Jobs blog I’m writing with my colleagues: Mindfulness Series.
You might also be interested in this previous post: Focus.
* I took the photo on Menorca, Spain on the path between Cala Macarella and Cala Macarelleta, where I felt strong and firm on the cliff’s edge as I relaxed with my husband Jim on holiday to balance a productive first half of the year at work.