What's with our obsession with "balance?" The fabricated and fictitious “work/life balance.” The mythical “motherhood/career woman” balance. How we sigh when our friends ask how we are and say “yeah, good, I’m just trying to find the balance.” The way we justify the slice of cake by eating lettuce for lunch. "It's all about balance."
Can I just say, this is all a bunch of bullshit? It's not all about balance. We’re all chasing some imaginary, hypothetical, made-up idea of an unachievable, unsustainable acute state.
The idea of balance that we've constructed is a fallacy - a delusion that we can achieve a moment-to-moment position of proportionate perfection, a sublime state of supreme stasis where everything in our lives is evenly lined up, weighed, measured, and distributed, tit for tat.
This is an impossible goal, the pursuit of which is a recipe for guilt, overwhelm and feelings of failure. Not to mention joy-killing, intuition-smothering, and spirit-stifling.
This concept of holding a state of equilibrium doesn't exist. And yet, we keep torturing ourselves, setting our sights on “finding balance” in work/life, in family/work, in health/pleasure, in male/female.
The satisfaction we're searching for (falsely identified as balance) is actually a much broader state: integration. We yearn to be the expression of integration that nature has intended us to be: Ever-changing. Dynamic. Metamorphic. In flow. But most of all, harmonic wholeness. We desperately want to all of the different parts of our life make sense together.
The natural world offers us instruction on integration. The sea doesn’t strive. It doesn't worry when the tide goes out, fretting that the swell won't return. And when it feels it's energy mounting, the sea doesn't stifle the swell, worrying that the weight of itself rushing onto the shore is too much, too fast, too vast. The sea ebbs and flows.
Nature doesn’t languish or suffer in an effort to strike a balance. Nature doesn’t struggle or sweat or push or scramble, or toil or strain or go for broke. Nature doesn’t strain against itself. Nature doesn’t divorce it’s dichotomies, weighing and measuring Winter and Summer against one another.
Winter is met with the sweet, sexy, promising kiss of Spring, which gives itself over to the fullness of Summer, which is lead out with the bounty and ripeness of Autumn which greets Winter with the nourishing sustenance of harvest. One leads into the next, in an infinite loop. In a rhythm of total integration. Oneness. Completion.
Nature freezes and becomes still, quakes and quivers, bursts forth into bloom, goes to seed. Nature gives itself over to the pulsing cadence of life. Nature vibrates, ripples, swells, recedes and surges. Nature feasts and fasts. Nature produces and nature rests. The cycles complete themselves, creating an overall evenness, wholeness and integration.
As human beings, our involuntary, innate rhythm is the same. Our life is seasonal. Our bodies are cyclical. Our emotions are tidal. Our creativity and energy and appetites wax and wane.
But we push and force and strive against our seasonality. Insisting that we be a perpetual Summer in full bloom. Or hanging on to the sexy promise of Spring. Or finding ourselves stuck in the blue-white depths of Winter, frozen and paralysed and uncertain. Or gripping tightly to the Autumn harvest. We are not embracing our True Nature as seasonal beings.
Here’s the thing. Life is not a tightrope to be tiptoed across, with our outstretched arms balancing the scales of our life. Our lives are not a set of scales to be weighed up hour-by-hour or day-by-day. The dichotomies and opposing forces of our lives are not two separate entities placed upon the scales. We are not meant to tinker and fiddle and tweak and painstakingly move grains of sand from one side of the scale to the other as we teeter at great heights, trying to reach the other side before we fall to pieces and all is lost. We are not robots that need to be tuned and calibrated. We are human beings. Living, pulsating creatures.
When we quit striving for the impossibility of balance and set our sights on the potent possibility of integration, we open ourselves to WHOLENESS. To a life that can be truly fulfilling. Where our separate selves aren’t separate. Where the seasons of life effortlessly ebb and flow. Where we embrace the nourishment of restorative times and then freshly, blissfully give ourselves over to re-blossoming.
The once seemingly disparate parts of our lives draw closer, begin to weave together and eventually embrace, forming a pillar of mutual support that no bullshit balancing tightrope walk could ever hold a candle to. We are an integrated whole, an effortlessly organised sum of parts. Fluid, ever-changing, moving, thrusting and receding, made of so many swirling parts. But whole. Rhythmic. Unified. Strong.
So screw the scales. Balance can bugger off as far as I’m concerned. Stop trying to calculate everything in neat columns or tidy weighs and measures. Instead, watch the flow and step into it. Ride the tide of your humanness. You can't show up the same way with the same intensity from day to day. You're a quivering changing being. Release your grip and go with the flow. Everything changes and then changes again. When we step into the flow of our lives, balance becomes a useless and irrelevant concept. We embrace the wisdom of our wild nature and tune to our innate ability to embrace the changing tides of our energy, of our abundance, of our creativity, of our inner resources.
So how do we apply this idea in real life?
Accept that some weeks you will work more hours and spend less quality time with your kids. The fridge might not be fully stocked that week and you might eat eggs on avocado toast for dinner three nights in a row or have takeaway twice in a week. But the next week you’ll slow cook a roast or read books to your babies until your voice is hoarse.
Celebrate the work and immerse yourself in it, enjoying it while it lasts. The next week might bring less time for work and tons of quality time, when the inbox is bursting at the seams… and so is your heart.
Integration is about trust. Sometimes you’re on fire creatively. Other times it’s a drought. Trust that your Creative Summer is coming. Sink into the clean slate of Creative Winter. Polish your tools. Repair the fences. Chop wood. Prepare for the long, lit-up days of Creativity by honouring the short darkness of Winter.
Accept that some weeks your appetite for sex or chocolate or social celebrations will roar. And other times your bones will ache for solitude and silence and a bowl of soup. This is right.
Eat the cake. Not because it’s there. Not because you ate salad for lunch every day this week. Not because you worked out today. Not because you have a whole to fill. Not because it will go to waste. But because it’s Cake Season. Because you feel like closing your eyes and sinking your teeth into a piece of fucking cake. Salad Season will swing back around soon enough, so enjoy that cake. And by all means, lick the damn plate.
Exercise is no different. Charge up a mountain one day. Have an XL savasana the next. Get your Pilates on for months. Go apeshit on Crossfit for a while. Just change it up when your body says it's time.
Be seasonal. Be cyclical. Embrace the changing tides of your life and you step into integration. Put balance in the bin and make integration your inspiration.