I have spent a large portion of the last 10 years trying to find balance.
Balance is something that I have always struggled with. All or nothing is engrained into my being. A constant fight. An element of control always present. If I can control an element of my life, I will attack it 100%. If I know I cannot control the outcome, I abandon all effort.
Anyone who has watched me in a yoga class knows that I also struggle with balance physically. I lack grounding. I fall.
Growing up, I never thought of myself as a perfectionist. Nothing I did was perfect. If I was a perfectionist, wouldn't I do everything perfectly? Now as an adult, I am able to recognize that I knew what I could do well and what I could not do well. I avoided everything that I was not good at. I pursued fervently the activities that played to my strengths.
This is probably pretty normal; choosing the path of least resistance. Others might spend more time working to improve on weaknesses and spend less time focusing on areas where they are already strong, becoming more well rounded. More balanced.
I read something - I can't remember where exactly, or who it was that wrote it - but the idea of it resonated with me and has stuck as a whisper in the back of my brain. This is that - we should not strive for balance in our lives, but rather to be centered.
The argument is that balance is impossible. To think that we can achieve a well-rounded schedule where every day we get exactly 8 hours of sleep, work for 8, cook and sit to eat well balanced meals and snacks, exercise, take time for family, friends, and ourselves..... It's a little pie in the sky.
Balance is a nice goal, just not realistic for most of us. It is much more likely that life has more periods of busyness interrupted with occasional periods of rest and quiet. Some of you may even laugh at the suggestion that the words rest and quiet might be used to describe your slower days in life.
Being balanced would be ideal, but most days working towards balance feels like a fight. Not the good kind of fight. Not the kind of fight that is hard but leaves me feeling good at the end of the day. The fight I feel is one of being defeated. A fight, feeling like I am failing at this thing called life. In trying to find those moments where I am just enjoying the blue sky, stress is growing.
So what would it mean to absolve myself of the idea that I need to be balanced, and to adopt the practice if being centered?
For me, being centered means being aware. Being centered is knowing in the most true core of my being who I am and that what I am doing is intentional. Being centered is being in control when I can, and letting go when I must.
This idea of control again. It is shifting somehow with the idea of striving to be centered versus struggling for balance. I am kinder with the control of myself when it is not truly serving, and I try less to control that which is around me.
This may still sound a little cryptic. Or maybe it resonates with you.
I get up every morning somewhere between 4:30 and 5:30, depending on when my body or alarm wakes me up. I leave my phone on the kitchen counter, and head out for a walk with my dog.
In my balanced life, this morning routine was a chore. Something I did to achieve balance in my life. I got an hour (ish) of fresh air, exercise, and time with my dog. I planned a route that would maximize our time available. We had to get as much exercise in as possible. If my pup tried to dawdle too much, I pressed faster to get us past any distractions. WE needed our workout and fresh air. Check. ✔
Taking a centered approach to life, this morning routine allows for what is needed. Some mornings I spend an extra 30 - 60 minutes on the couch to snuggle instead of rushing to put on the sneakers and get out the door. We walk at whatever pace seems appropriate that morning. Breaking a sweat and burning calories are not the goal. I allow my pup to sniff all of the things, and I welcome the opportunity to be aware of the sky, the rising sun, and my surroundings. I have a chance to get grounded for whatever the day may throw at me. There may not be another chance to rest. So I take the opportunity to breathe. Check. ✔
This change has been, in part, facilitated (or forced) in my recovery from a broken foot. The result remains the same.
This may sound a little fluffy. My body may even look a little more fluffy for taking this approach. My brain is, however, beginning to thank me.
Being truly self-aware and listening to the Self is not easy. It still requires doing the hard things like drinking a lot of water, eating my (sugar-free) oatmeal and vegetables, exercising, and trying to figure out how to get 8 hours of sleep at night. This has been a slow process. I am still learning and growing.
The end goal in being centered may not be that far off of the end goal of being balanced. The difference is how hard I am on myself. The difference is one of finding the grey through the black and white.
Balanced to me is technical and analytical and hard. The schedule says this is balanced and this is possible, therefore if not achieved, I fail. I fail a lot. 8 hours of sleep at night is hard.
Centered is from the gut and flexible. The schedule forgives for life but holds me accountable for what still needs to be done. It is dynamic. If not achieved, I learn. One day I will learn how to get my 8 hours of sleep. I am consistently getting closer to 7.
I wobble and I struggle and I still fall. I also learn. And more frequently than before I am able to stand my ground. To remain connected to myself. To remain committed to listening to myself and learning about myself. Even when I am falling over or falling apart. To be centered.
Written by Morgan Hyam.