Which may (as a title) conjure mental images of stacking up Druids in humorous ways… but sadly no, I am not poised to offer amusing photographs. The idea of balance as a virtue is nothing new. The Greeks had it (forgive me, I am rubbish with names, can’t tell you who). The middle way, the median, avoiding excess on both sides – it crops up in all manner of traditions and philosophies. Generally speaking, balance gives you something more viable and sustainable than the absence of balance will. Sometimes there are issues around the scale of the balance as you consider it – what may seem out of balance close up may be part of a bigger and wholly balanced picture, after all.
I’ve become increasingly conscious of the need for balance in my own life. Right amount of sleep balanced against right amount of food and right amount of activity is critical. Get it right and I can do a great deal. Get it wrong, and I plunge into bodily pain, exhaustion, depression and become more vulnerable to anxiety. I got it wrong a bit over the last few days, and am rebalancing now, in a very deliberate sort of way. I need some time with no drama, to get re-centred. I also know that too much time with nothing exciting happening also drags me down. I need a balance between stimulation and reflection. I need social time and quiet time, active time and time to be still, and I need that in ongoing cycles from one day to the next.
I can work off-balance for a while, and there are times when that is necessary, productive or interesting. Living there isn’t viable. It’s so easy though, to be sucked in to a mind-set that accepts excess. From surfeits of food and alcohol, to overwhelming noise, and excessive consumption, the opportunities for gluttony are many. The pressures towards sleep deprivation, starving yourself, not getting enough exercise, and other forms of damaging insufficiency are also many. With more people finding themselves pushed under the bread line on a daily basis, the scope for not enough is huge. People who are overweight from too much carb and cannot afford fresh fruit, veg and good proteins, who are both starving and swelling at the same time. Such is our modern culture.
Balance is so much more important than growth. Balancing the economy, balancing the personal chequebook – matters. Getting the money straight is good, but in that balancing act things like health and well-being need to be given a value and added to the scales. We are too quick to place no value on that which cannot be converted directly into cash. Mental health. Happiness. Quality of life. These are not cash issues and often cannot be sorted out by throwing money at them.
Balance is not about avoiding excess, it’s about not having too much of one kind of excess all the time. Some fasting for spiritual work is fine. Fasting all the time, isn’t viable. Some staying up all night dancing and drumming is fine. Doing it all the time takes you out of other aspects of life. Some pain, some rapture, some madness, some office banality… in balance with other things, a great many extremes are visitable. We can have wide and wild experience without burning out. It’s just a matter of knowing when to stop for a while, when to step away, when to do the other thing instead. Today, a little quietness and drawing breath, a little domestic work, a lot of resting. Tomorrow, some other thing…