Wednesday, March 15, 2006

More Thoughts On Balance

Many people search for balance in their lives without knowing where to even begin. It has been my experience that the platform of our lives is balanced on four pillars, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Because life itself is not static, we can not simply bring all into balance and forget about it.. We must constantly adjust the pillars, achieving balance for fleeting moments only. The more effort we put into bring our lives into harmony, The more frequent and longer will be the periods of being in balance. In order to know where to start, we need to look at our lives, examine each of the four pillars to see which is the most out of balance.

The physical is usually the best place to start as it is the one we are most familiar with, but is also the most neglected. Since the body is the temple of the soul, we need to treat it with respect, providing for it’s needs. Do we provide clean air, nutritious food, sufficient rest and medical attention when needed? Or do we eat too much of the wrong foods, or too little food? Do we pollute the air we breathe with no regard for the damage to the temple? Do we allow ourselves sufficient sleep, knowing that it is during sleep that the body can work at healing and renewing itself, or do we burn the candle at both ends, assuming that we can deprive the body of it’s needs and catch up at some future time? Do we seek medical attention when illness occurs or protect the body from those things that can make it ill?

Much of the problem we encounter with balancing the physical pillar centers around food, and why we eat the way we do. Many of us use food as an instant gratification of a poorly understood urge for comfort, for pleasure, to fill up an empty spot. As children we are given sweets to comfort a bump or a bruise, a tearful face or to distract us from something else we want. In time, we learn to reach for food as an instant cure-all for any unhappiness we experience. It is even called comfort food. Usually high fat or high sugar or both, our comfort food is not eaten for sustenance, but for consciousness altering.

The result of all this eating is a body that is over-weight, over fed and undernourished. We develop medical problems, causing us to feel bad, then we reach for another chocolate bar, another donut, for the quick fix, the sugar high that makes us feel better for a short time. The larger we get, the sicker we become., the more we eat.

To break the pattern, we need to understand what we are doing and why. We also need to teach ourselves what is healthy food, what we need to replenish our bodies and what to do to comfort ourselves instead of reaching for that comfort food.

Once we have examined the physical pillar and seen what improvements are required, we can begin to become more healthy. Keeping a journal can be very helpful while working at bringing our lives into harmony. We can record the areas we need to work on, the work we are doing and the results. Since instant results are seldom seen, the journal can help us to see results over a period of time. We must set goals that are reasonably achievable within a time frame that makes sense. We would not start taking vitamins today and expect to get a major improvement tomorrow!!! If we record each day what we are doing to achieve the goals we have set, the journal will become a useful tool to not only record our progress, but help to keep us focused as well.

When doing this we need to keep in mind that we are not perfect, only the soul within is perfect. Knowing this, we need to be gentle with ourselves when we slip, and we will slip, more frequently at first, less so as we become accustomed to our new way of living. We should treat ourselves like we would a child, calmly and gently bringing our attention back to the task at hand. Even if we take three steps forward and two back, we are still making progress.

When we get to the pillar of the mind, we need to consider what makes a healthy mind, and what part it plays in the total picture. The mind is an ultra-sophisticated computer and like a computer, it can not function smoothly without basic programming and input.

We need to open ourselves to a wide variety of experiences in order to enrich our data base, and be able to think about many different things. The mind that is active, exploring new ideas, learning new skills, thinking for the sheer pleasure of it is a healthy, happy mind.

We need to interact with others, learn communication skills, share knowledge to keep the mind working well. Without this, we can not search for what will make us whole. We become stagnant, stuck in the same old rut with only vague feelings of something missing, which leads us to the emotional pillar.

If we can not identify what we are searching for, we can make unwise decisions and choices in an attempt to fill that void. We can form unhealthy relationships, fall prey to extortive cults, suffer from long term depression, even become unable to function in our world.

When looking at our emotional selves and determining how to bring that pillar into balance with the others, we often come face to face with the fact that we do not love and cherish ourselves right here, right now. Over the years, we have been subjected to a great deal of negative criticism. It slowly seeps into the center of our being, leading us to believe we are not worthy. The reasons may vary. We may have come from dysfunctional, abusive homes. We may have done poorly in school or in sports and been criticized for not excelling in everything. We may have become entangled in an abusive relationship or marriage where we have seen no way out. We may suffer from depression, either full blown clinical depression or sub-clinical depression, which may go undiagnosed for years. The reasons are as varied as the people who suffer from this low self-esteem.

The first step in reclaiming our Selves is to recognize that there is a problem. We have a right to feel good about ourselves. As it says in Desiderata “You are a child of the universe, you have a right to be here.” It may be necessary to seek out someone to talk to, a family doctor, a counselor, a minister or even a close friend or respected family member. Breaking the silence may be one of the most difficult things to do. We trend to build high walls around our hearts when we feel vulnerable. There are now many help groups, both in the community and on the internet, aimed at providing mutual support. The most difficult part is to isolate and acknowledge the problem. Finding the help we need hinges on accepting that we need help. Until we learn to love ourselves, we can not expect others to love us. People tend to treat us in the way that we expect to be treated.

This body, this mind, this heart, this physical presence is the temple in which the spirit resides and deserves to be loved, respected and cherished. Until the temple receives the attention it needs, we can not begin to search for the questions we need to ask in order to find our proper path and begin the Journey meant for this lifetime.

Once the physical, mental and emotional pillars are brought into balance with each other, the fact that we are searching for something we can not yet name becomes much clearer. Who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? What lies before and after this life? So many questions. Where to start to search? At this point, learning to meditate may be the best tool for searching for meaning. It certainly was for me. Again there are good books available on meditation techniques as well as a great deal of information on the internet,. The challenge is to find the best meditation techniques for each individual. What works for one will not necessarily work for another.

Each of us has a unique path to follow, individual goals to achieve, a Journey similar to, but different from all others. We begin in different places. We have different questions to ask and answers to find. We may search in the company of others with similar goals or we may find ourselves in situations where we must walk a solitary path. At different times we may experience both companionship and solitude.

When we reach this point in our Journey, the beginning of consciously walking our unique path, finding our questions, then searching for our answers, we often get so involved in the excitement of finding purpose, we often forget to continue to be aware of the need for balance. The other pillars may well be neglected to the point that we experience great turbulence in our lives. When that happens, it is necessary to stop and re-examiner all of the pillars that support our lives.

And so begins another circuit around the upward spiral of Becoming.


George Breed said...

What a beautiful and clear writing. You are a minister in the best sense of the word.

Zareba said...

George: Thank you so much for reading these jottings. I wish I could reach out adn help all who are so lost and don't even know where to start to find themselves.

I believe you also write because you must.


Darlene said...

I just read through the first few paragraphs, and my mind is racing, because you're so right about how the four pillars make up our being. I've got to comment thus far.

I believe achieving stability or balance between one's four pillars is impossible, but yes, we do have to work on all of them and not let any one decline too much.

Problems with one pillar can lead to degradation of the others. For example, I have a particular blogger friend in mind, who recently erased her writings (which she has done before) and said they would no longer be there. She even e-mailed me, saying she's in a period of deep depression.

This shows me how the mental and emotional pillars work hand in hand. This, in turn, can lead to the decline of one's physical pillar.

She's a very religious person--can people depend on their spiritual pillar to bring them out of the mire? Will that then give her mental and emotional pillars the nudge they need to overcome her depression? Will she then eat the food she needs for sustenance? And in turn, will that food then raise up her physical needs?

Hmmm...could it be that all four pillars are dependent upon each other?

Zareba said...

We can achieve balance, only for very short periods, like a pendulum which swings back and forth through the balance point, but never stays there. The more we work to keep balance, the shorter the swings away from it are.

The pillars are all connected to the platform and an imbalance in any one of them affects the whole platform, dragging the other pillars out of balance with it.

Until one has found the conscious connection between their eternal spiritual self and the physical here and now, I doubt that the ego (caretaker of the temple) would be able to be directed by Spirit.

I pray your friend finds a way out of her depression and begins an earnest search for her path and the satisfaction that finding and following it brings.