In our quest for total well-being, there is one principle, one guiding pillar that, like a lighthouse will always lead us back to our most natural state of calm and centered well-being. That principle is balance. Balance is the sense of equilibrium between all the influences, elements, and forces we experience in our lives. It’s the well-proportioned state between the opposites of rest and activity, work and play, day and night, hot and cold. In physiological terms, balance is reflected in the homeostatic stability that helps to ensure the optimal functioning of our body.
Balance Is More than a Physical State
Balance is an inherently natural state. Whenever we’re out of balance, we feel “off,” as if something just isn’t right. Those bodily signals in and of themselves are messages urging us, often subtly, to get back to a more grounded state. While it’s true that we can (and often do) operate in an imbalanced state of being, it’s always less than ideal and, according to Ayurveda, the root of all illness.
However, the primacy of maintaining balance in life goes beyond just our physical bodies. It’s also deeply tied to our overall levels of happiness and sense of fulfillment in life. This was one of the key insights discovered by the future Buddha. According to legend, as Siddhartha sat in meditation near the bank of a river, he overheard a musician teaching his student in a nearby boat say, “If you tighten the string too much, it will snap; but if you leave it too loose, it won’t play.” Upon hearing this, Siddhartha realized that in the same way, life is the balance between all opposite values. This insight would later become known as the middle way in Buddhist teachings of the Noble Eightfold Path.
Calm and Centered
Balance is also the bedrock of staying calm and centered through life’s many challenges. When you’re balanced, you feel steady, stable, and grounded. You’re more prepared to make conscious choices, to move and act deliberately, peacefully, and with equanimity. By contrast, living in a perpetually imbalanced state can be chronically stressful and leave you prone to anxiety and worry. Like trying to navigate a slippery ice-covered sidewalk, you feel stressed, tense, and possibly irritable, knowing that your feet might slip out from under you at any moment.
Knowing the foundational importance of living life from a centered and balanced space, what can we do to optimize our own balance—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually? Seeking your own balance point is a subjective process; however, consider the following key principles to help you on your journey to finding your optimum mind-body balance.
Make Balance a Priority
Begin with having the intention of creating and maintaining mind-body balance in your life. It’s not likely that you’ll stumble upon a centered and balanced lifestyle without actively taking steps to achieve it. Life’s competing priorities will provide plenty of distractions if you don’t clear a path with a focused and unbending intention for what you wish to create in your life.
In addition to having a clear intent and purpose to keep yourself in balance, you may also need to establish set boundaries. Think of your balance boundaries like the walls of a castle. They form a defined perimeter that protects you from unwanted influences. They form a clear line in the sand that says, “I’m not going to do anything that jeopardizes my needs for balance and centeredness.” They also embody the discipline sometimes required to prevent yourself from going too far to one extreme or another. Identify for yourself the lines you aren’t willing to cross when it comes to maintaining the balance you need and commit to staying within them.
India’s ancient “Science of Life” provides a comprehensive map to mind-body wellness that is entirely driven by the concept of balance. In Ayurveda, it is held that any disorder can be prevented as long as balance is maintained, be it in the body, mind, or spirit. Ayurveda also holds that our mind-body balance is mapped into our consciousness at the deepest level and prescribes specific practices and techniques for tapping into our innate impulse to heal, grow, and evolve. If you’re new to Ayurveda, Deepak Chopra’s Perfect Health is a great place to start your exploration. For an even deeper dive, consider Chopra’s Perfect Health Master Class.
Take a Dosha Test
The dosha test is a key component to understanding your unique mind-body constitution. According to Ayurveda, your mind and body are distinctive blends of the elements of space, air, water, fire, and earth. Your dosha (mind-body constitution) provides you with a better understanding of your personal tendencies and what types of food, exercise, music, and activities take you closer to—or further from—your balance point. Staying in balance is a subjective experience for each of us and knowing yourself better equips you with the knowledge needed to make the best choices.
Meditation is a powerful tool to help cultivate balance in all areas of your life. As you settle into stillness, the activation of the restful awareness response naturally triggers your body’s homeostatic thermostat to gently nudge your system back to a more harmonious and balanced state. The restful awareness state is a deeply balanced and centered function of your nervous system, which triggers a trickle-down effect of increased balance into all areas of your life.
Yoga (Asana) Practice
Yoga poses (asanas), especially those that cultivate physical balance, can have a surprising correlative effect upon your overall sense of mind-body balance. Since every part is contained in the whole, when we practice yoga poses that require us to stand on one foot or steady ourselves in challenging positions, the balance we develop is woven into every fiber of our being. When we practice balance, we eventually begin to embody that quality at the deepest level. With continued practice, you may find yourself able to remain more deeply centered and balanced, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Balance can’t be achieved by rushing. By definition, balance is a settled, grounded, centered state, so the faster the pace of your life goes, the more elusive balance will become for you. Each of these steps implies a certain sense of deliberate, mindful choice-making, which is the byproduct of a calm inner state that allows you to witness your life from a more removed and objective viewpoint. When you’re caught up in a high-speed frenzy of activity, life goes by in a blur and balance becomes hard to find. Take a step back to evaluate your pace of life and look for opportunities to downshift into a lower gear. Oftentimes, in the simple act of slowing down, your system begins to return to a more balanced state.
Tune in to Your Inner Guidance
At any given moment, your body is providing you with multiple signals of comfort or discomfort. Essentially, your system is saying either “Yum, I like this!” or “Yuck, I don’t like it at all.” Those signals are like an internal GPS indicating which choices will lead you to the destination of balance, harmony, or stability or which will lead to chaos, disruption, and imbalance. The input is always there, it’s just up to you to tune into that feedback and follow its suggested course of action. In doing so, you’ll often be amazed at how your subtle awareness can instinctively guide you to where you need to be with remarkable reliability.
Establish a Routine
One of the best ways to create and maintain balance in your life is through a structured routine. A daily routine helps curb the chaos of overactivity and overindulgence and brings order and coherence to your regular activity. Like the bridle of a horse, your routine should be flexible to allow for changes, but firm enough to keep you on track. Managing your time with a regular waking and bedtime schedule, planned time for meditation, exercise, work, rest, and play will help you to settle into a comfortable lifestyle pattern with mind-body balance at its core.
Finally, remember it shouldn’t be a struggle to find your ideal balanced state. Your mind-body system is automatically drawn to harmony, balance, and centered awareness like a compass needle to the earth’s magnetic pole. All you need to do is remove the obstacles on your path, and your destination is assured.
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