Thanks to friend and yogi, Rukmini Ali Shevlin, BestYOULife followers will be treated to a series of Guest Blogs. I hope you will enjoy reading the series on balance that will come out once a month. Ali also offers special services in Ayurveda and crystal healing.
For more from Ali Shevlin, check out her website http://purepranaayurveda.com.
What does “balance” mean to you?
I should probably admit from the start that I still don’t definitively know the answer to that question myself. Neither am I entirely sure what being “in balance” really means, beyond standing on one leg on my yoga mat. It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot, with encouragement from all sides to find the right work-life balance, to eat a perfectly balanced diet, to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle, to be emotionally and mentally balanced. You’d think everyone was doing it….and yet, from my experience and the experience of those I’ve talked to about it, somehow it’s elusive. It’s like the Holy Grail. Everyone idolizes “balance”, and yet no one tells you how to achieve it, where to find it, what it really means, or even whether it truly exists.
My journey and my exploration of the idea of balance started with the realization that, whatever the ideal of “balance” was, I wasn’t it. The work-life scales were firmly weighted towards work, and I don’t think I’d eaten anything remotely resembling a decent diet for years. As a consequence, and despite all appearances to the contrary, I had a lifestyle that was not truly healthy physically, mentally, or emotionally. I looked fine but I didn’t feel good. Yet I didn’t know what good felt like, and finding the way is hard when you don’t know your destination.
I had vague ideas of what I was doing wrong. I kept telling myself that “more balance” was needed, but I had no idea of what that truly meant. Every so often I would try to eat a few more substantial meals to counter the days I sometimes went without, and I would do some work-related reading or planning in an essential oil bath instead of at my desk. And after a few weeks, I would wonder why I still wasn’t feeling that zen-like sweet spot where the scales of illness, anxiety, and depression weren’t tipping one way or the other.
It took a long time for me to realize that being “in balance” meant something far deeper than what the books and articles I read hinted at, and even longer to realize what being “in balance” might mean for me. And through months of journaling, reading, reflecting, being sick, being well, crying, laughing, and standing on one leg, these ideas of what balance is - and what it is not - represent my own journey so far, from where I started to where I am now.
Balance is not “one size fits all”.
Despite endless studies and health organizations and “experts” claiming that everyone should be eating certain foods in a certain way, living certain lifestyles and doing certain things in order to be healthy and balanced, my own experience has shown the opposite - that in fact we are all completely, wonderfully unique. What feels good to one person is guaranteed to not suit someone else, and that goes for diet, exercise, lifestyle, work-style, sleep patterns….and so on. There is no one prescription for balanced wholeness.
Balance is not a “quick fix”.
Given that nothing works completely for everyone all of the time, finding what does work for you at any given moment is a game of trial and error. It takes time, patience, curiosity, and a hefty dose of self-love and compassion. You will get it wrong. There will be times when you curse yourself for taking on that extra project at work, and there will be times when you really wish you hadn’t taken a day off. You’ll end up eating foods that your body didn’t really want right then. Sometimes you’ll sleep more than you feel is good, and sometimes you’ll have nights when you stay up late watching TV and then barely get to sleep at all. Learning to accept all of that as new knowledge and awareness, rather than mistakes to beat yourself up over, is all part of the fun.
Balance means getting to know yourself.
All that new knowledge and awareness over what works for you and what doesn’t means that, even if you don’t feel even remotely balanced yet as a result of your experiments, you are getting to know yourself. You are discovering who you are, beyond what your friends and family and society and culture say you should be. It’s powerful and scary at the same time, especially if you discover that you don’t “fit in” after all. And yet achieving our own unique balance requires that we are true to our own unique selves - our inner Truth, our Self. Not following our own path, however hard it may feel, is actually the quickest way to imbalance.
Balance does not mean being happy all the time.
People often assume that being “in balance” means that everything is going to be perfect. If you’re in balance, you never get sick or tired or depressed or angry, right?
Nothing in nature is perfect all of the time, including you. Everything has its time to flourish, and everything then has its time to rest. Those feelings of exhaustion, or wanting to cry for no apparent reason, or wanting to scream into a pillow, actually need to be safely honored, not pushed away. They are just as much a part of you as the happy smiles and laughter, and they need to be loved and nourished just as much. I discovered that balance, to me, is at least partly about accepting that no part of me is “bad”.
Balance is natural - balance is nature.
Nothing in nature is perfect all of the time…..and yet nature is the most perfect example of balance we have. It’s a delicate balance that is often thrown by human activity and ignorance but, left to her own devices, Mother Earth has the most amazing way of maintaining harmony. If we want a beautiful, living example of what balance can be, we only have to look outside.
Balance is harmony with nature and natural rhythms / cycles.
We are part of Mother Earth. We do not live in an environment - we are the environment. Fundamentally, we are made up of the same elements as everything else on this planet - we are not a species apart. The Earth is naturally balanced, and it follows that, if we listen and attune ourselves and begin to follow the natural rhythms and cycles that are laid out for us, we could be more balanced too.
Balance is a state where everything has its place.
In nature, everything has a place and a role to play. Even mosquitoes. Learning and accepting that every single part of you, and every single part of the world around you, has a part and a role to play too is one of the massive challenges of any journey towards health and wholeness - and yet the key is in the word. Wholeness. We cannot be whole if we reject certain things that we don’t like, and if we aren’t whole we cannot be balanced.
So, as a kind of conclusion and summing up of these ideas, I came up with this:
Balance is a state where every part of you - physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual - is loved, accepted, nourished and honored.
Balance is true alignment with inner Self and Mother Earth (and God, if you’re so inclined) - which are really one and the same thing.
So easy to say, and yet so hard to do!
This series of articles will be exploring the elements of balance that I’ve discovered on my own journey. I’m still on that path and probably always will be, so I’m definitely no expert! But I’m excited about sharing that journey with you. Next month I’ll be exploring more the idea of balance as harmony with nature, since that has really impacted me in my own lifestyle and ways of thinking. In the meantime, I’d love to hear your own stories and thoughts!
You can find me through my website http://purepranaayurveda.com, or get in touch via email email@example.com.
Thank You to my dear friend, Ali!
Loving Life and Living Love,
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