For a number of years I held this picture of stacked rocks in my mind as a representation of balance. To me, the rocks meant it isn’t easy, but balance is achievable. And, once you get it, balance is a beautiful, serene, permanent state.
This fall I’ve revised my thinking on balance. The stacked rocks above are balanced, but how easily will they topple? Wind, a push of a hand, a heavy snow or a wave will knock them over. Those rocks can’t yield to the unexpected forces of nature.
In the past I’ve thought ‘if I just figure out x, y, and z I will find balance,’ as though there is some magic formula yet to be discovered. Parenting, working, marriage, music, yoga…they would all just fall into place perfectly and I would live happily ever after.
When I stack the rocks of my life up a particular way, declare myself balanced and then life asks to me spin in another direction, I topple.
I’ve done just that, over and over and continued to wonder, “Why can’t I find balance?” Then I proceed to feel less than because I can’t figure out how to achieve balance and surely everyone else has.
It turns out life just doesn’t work that way. It is ever changing. This fall I realized there has to be a better way. Those stacked rocks can’t be my symbol of balance. But, what could be?
As usual, when life smacks me over the head with these realizations, I turn to my movement practice for answers.
Tree pose offers a new frame to explore the concept of balance.
If you’ve ever tried tree pose you know how challenging it can be, and seldom is the pose ever the same. It is easy to get caught up in the external factors that impact the pose… your foot’s contact with the ground, the pressure and position of the bent leg foot against the inside of your standing leg, the tilt of your pelvis, the position of your hands and arm, where the wall is in relation to your body and on and on. We can only truly focus on one of those forces at a time and it can seem impossible to pull all of them together into one, balanced pose. Sometimes, when we are beginning that’s all we can do – we have to address strength in our feet first and then move on.
But, if you are always and only tuned into the individual, external factors, you miss that balance comes from within. You find balance in tree pose when you can move your attention inside, breathing and ‘being’ in the pose rather than ‘doing.’ Trees are grounded through extensive roots. They reach in all directions, striving for sunlight. They move in response to the forces of nature and they communicate with other trees to create a community in which they can all thrive.
The same is true in our lives off the mat. If we are always looking to external factors like work hours, after school activities, sick days, snow days, meal times, product launches, auditions, concerts, we are trying to stack rocks against an eventual tide. Sometimes we need to begin by addressing an individual factor, but we must quickly move on from that.
True balance comes from within. We are balanced when we can adjust to life’s challenges by simply being and releasing the need to do. We understand that sometimes we experience being out of balance and rather than judging we get curious and move back towards center.
We move in response to what is asked of us.
We are present.
We communicate and community-create.
Balance is an ever moving spectrum.