Balance is the Holy Grail of 21st century living.
Nobody sought balance back in the 1800s or even the 1950s. Back in the Old Days people sought to cultivate traits like virtue (huh?), patience, forgiveness, altruism, objectivity and a kind temperament.
Men worked in the world. Women worked at home. Balance was an unspoken fact of life. Only accountants and tightrope walkers in the circus actually worried about it consciously.
Nowadays balance is a big deal. Why? Because we're so freakin' out of balance.
Whole fields of scientific study have arisen from our imbalance. Food scientists weigh in on the proper balance of fruits, dairy, vegetables and proteins to consume on a daily basis. And a fat lot of good that's done us. We're more gi-normous than ever.
Sixty years ago kids walked to school, ran everywhere and played outdoors until dark. Adults did a lot of physical work. In 1950 only 10 percent of Americans were obese. Not anymore.
Seventy years ago we ate nourishing whole foods, unprocessed grains and cereals, butter, whole eggs, meats, fish and poultry and there were no organic sections in the stores because everything already was organic.
Now 80 percent of all calories consumed by Americans come from refined, processed, GMO-laden foods filled with sugar, salt, trans-fats and artificial ingredients.
To balance this out we go to the gym, which--considering that 70 percent of us over 20 are now officially overweight and/or obese--apparently doesn't balance the scales at all.
We worry about balancing work and home life--although I just looked up the average number of hours Americans work per week and, having done so, now have no idea what the hell everybody's complaining about. Apparently Americans work an average of 34.4 hours per week. Okay - add five hours a week commuting (including stops for a latte and scone) and we're almost at a 40-hour-work week. But who are these people? Where are they? I don't know anyone who works that little!
Fortunately, I'm self-employed and only work about 60 hours a week. And I do so from home. Which means I automatically have the Balance Work and Home Life thing solved no matter what.
Gender balance--now there's a biggie. Women STILL aren't being paid equal wages for equal work in the US, women STILL only account for 19.4 percent of legislators and a many-times bankrupt, many-times married, morally disheveled, ill-spoken, ill-prepared, boorish male with a ferocious ego and no public service experience whatsoever can STILL beat the most polite, erudite, qualified political candidate to ever step up to a podium if she happens to be a she.
Yes--balance is a BIG deal in our world because there's so damn little of it.
But as I was getting up from my meditation pillow this morning, feeling all glow-y and balanced and content, it suddenly occurred to me that perhaps the reason we're still struggling to establish balance on the outside is because we haven't found balance individually on the inside yet.
Living in physical bodies, this isn't surprising. Despite what mysticism and science tell us to the contrary, despite all that talk in church about the Holy Spirit and the soul, most of us fully believe we're physical beings dwelling in a physical world. So a belief that contentment and a certain degree of happiness can be achieved through the balance of our physical activities isn't illogical. It's just that it doesn't work.
And the reason it doesn't work is because the physical world isn't reliable. Life is, by nature, mutable. Situations and people change. You can have a 401K, money in the bank, and a house in the burbs and still lose it all. You can sign a marriage contract in blood and still end up divorced. Accidents happen. People die. Pets run away. Children get sick. Hurricanes, floods, tornedoes and earthquakes level whole cities.
The most balanced, orderly, clock-work regime in the world can go tits up in a heartbeat. That's life.
Inner balance on the other hand, once actually established, is unshakable.
It's the "once actually established" part that puts most people off, I think. With our focus fixed on the world circus, absorbed by the trials of our own tumultuous lives, seeking outside solutions, we believe we don't have time for such pastimes as meditation. But if we genuinely knew it was a scientifically reliable answer to all the unhappiness and flailing around we do ... ?
If we genuinely knew that all the answers to all the questions in our hearts lay within us ... if we genuinely knew that peace would prevail on Earth once we located it within our own minds through meditation ... wouldn't we go for it?
And if not ... why not?
There's a one-word answer: EGO. But it'll take more than one blog to address that story.