Seeking Balance, Part III: Life in Balance
“Life is a balance between what we can control and what we cannot.
I am learning to live between effort and surrender.”
- Danielle Orner
This last month of November, I set myself the task of thinking, writing, and teaching about the subject of balance. It didn’t take very long at all to realize there were several facets to this idea, and each played a specific and important part in our well-being. In the first post about balance I talked about the actual ‘sense’ of balance; how we stay on our feet and keep moving and how we keep from falling down and hurting ourselves. In the second, I wrote on our tendencies to indulge in excess when it comes to our bodies, either in motion or in rest, and my increasing belief that the body craves moderation. Balance.
I have always been a movement person. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t driven to move and express myself this way. No matter where else I looked or what else I did, movement always found its way to the forefront of my life. And I think I can see now that movement is the lens through which I see the world, and the means by which I seek to understand it.
And so it’s from a study in the body that mind comes to this third and final point on balance: There is no difference at all between physical sensation and mental emotion. None at all. We only seek to separate the body and mind because we fail to understand our own interconnected nature. We can’t live by head or heart alone. We must strive to strike a balance.
I think I have always instinctively known it, but more through the idea of emotions expressed as ‘body language.’ As a dancer and actress, I had even received formal training in how to emote – to express emotions physically. I’m not sure I completely grasped the notion that pain in the body could cause pain in the mind, which could result in painful and negative thinking, which could then result in painful and negative action – perpetuated by the cycle itself. And you can reverse the cause and get the same result: A painful thought, internalized and built upon becomes a painful sensation in the body, which becomes suffering in the mind, which produces negative action. All in real time, today. Not a gesture or an echo. It is a real, actionable process that occurs all the time without our awareness.
Like so many things, the answer is awareness itself. I’ve always marveled at the rare person I meet whose life experiences and circumstances did not seem to disturb their happy, placid nature. If anything, pain and suffering seemed to deepen their commitment to finding happiness in everyday moments. I used to think these people were modern day saints. They were abnormal, that’s for sure. And surely they were born this way. But the more I learn about awareness, the more I’m convinced these exceptional people have simply harnessed the power we all possess: mindful awareness of the present moment.
And I have seen in my own teaching the power that simple awareness brings to the body. A person can be experiencing pain that mystifies them, but the moment you bring their awareness to the movement or position that produces it, you can see an immediate shift in their bodies. Their minds have awoken to what they have overlooked, and now the body’s innate intelligence can take over to solve the problem. I like to say, ‘dysfunction can’t live in awareness.’ If you are aware of it, you’re already halfway to the goal of fixing it.
I am increasing convinced that true health is the mindful balance of body and mind.
I have been reading an excellent book entitled Your Body Knows the Answer by David L Rome, and this work explores the idea of the Felt Sense. Beyond physical sensation, beyond the seemingly random instances of ‘gut feeling’ or ‘intuition,’ is the Felt Sense, a sense that can be honed and used to glean a greater understanding of the mind/body connection and our deep inner wisdom lying beyond conscious thought. It teaches us to more mindfully attend those sensations we are taught to ignore, and to sit with them in quiet communication to discover their greater meaning. I’m fascinated with this, and have created a challenge for myself in the month of December: I’m going to commit to using the Grounded Aware Presence as taught in the book, and to hold myself accountable I’m going to blog about it. I’ll be posting daily on my Tumblr blog, with a weekly summary on the Kensho blog. I encourage those who are interested to check out the book, and if you’d like to participate with me you are welcome!
I am fascinated and inspired by the interconnected nature of our bodies and minds, and I hope to explore this more fully in this next month. In doing so I hope to have a better understanding of the mind/body balance how we can gain insight, clarity, and greater health by practicing mindful awareness.