Balance is a myth.
After some thought, contemplation, and reflection from my own life experiences, I have decided the idea that we can bring our outer lives to a state of equipoise and order is completely untrue. Yes, I actually believe that ‘balance’ is a myth, and when we work to seek that mythical state of balance, it only serves to cause more harm to ourselves because it will always be elusive. It is easy to wish for that idealized state where we won’t feel like we are running around in 1,000 directions, trying to filter an endless stream of information and communications, finish our work, meet deadlines, attend meetings, and go to the next appointment. The truth is, we will always be running around, feeling stress and fatigue, dreaming of a better life when situation ‘x’ changes. Life will frequently feel like an overwhelming stream of endless demands when we only seek to change the outer circumstances in aim of that sense of peace.
I say this not just because I am self employed and the mother of two busy teenage daughters, one with a chronic illness. I say this because I see it in everyone I meet. I have yet to meet the person who says “Yes, I figured it out. I have my life in perfect balance.”
A balanced outer life is like a unicorn. Introduce me to one in real life, and I might begin to think it is possible.
So what is to be done. Shall we slave away in misery and accept that life will always feel out of balance and probably overwhelming? I actually am an optimist at heart, and I do think there is a way forward. I accept that my outer life will never meet that place of perfect equipoise. Instead, I realize that the pendulum of my life will always be swinging and swaying. I am going to work to keep those swings closer to center, and the only way to do that is to observe and be the caretaker of my inner world.
Here are 3 ways that I try to keep sane in
my out of balance life.
1: Rhythm and Routine
It really does make a difference to wake up and go to bed at about the same time each day, and to eat your wholesome plant based meals at about the same time each day. I read this as parenting advice for babies and toddlers many years ago and I found it to be my anchor during those demanding years. In fact, I still require it of my teen children. We have regular wake up and bed times, and regular meals, and family dinner is a must.
2: Make time for the people and activities that you love
I do two things in this category. A few years ago my younger brother started coming over for Wednesday dinners. He is only over for a few hours each Wednesday, and some weeks he can’t make it- but we work to prioritize that family time. It has strengthen our relationship and it is as precious as gold. I also decided to prioritize my art making. I knew that booking a few shows would help me to stay focused on art making. Working creatively feeds my soul as much as meditating and doing yoga. So I decided no more excuses, it had to be done. It did lead towards my decision to take time away from the Yoga Teacher Training. Prioritizing time for the most important people in your lives, and your most nourishing activities has to happen on a regular basis. With so many people making so many demands of our time and attention, it can be easy to forget about those people and things we love. Examine your life and you will intuitively know what needs to be released in order to let in more love.
3: Seek Gratitude
Sometimes I think this is the most important factor. In yoga philosophy, it is one of the Niyamas: Santosha- or contentment. When we are constantly seeking and or complaining, we will never even come close to feeling balance. That pendulum swings at its greatest peaks when we are complaining and in a total snit. So when I am feeling crazy about driving to my third appointment in the week, I have to remind myself to be grateful that I have health insurance and a car to bring me to the appointment. When I am doing the 4th load of laundry in a day, I feel grateful that I have a washing machine and electricity to do the washing, and that I have a family at home whose clothing needs cleaning. Those little shifts of perspective help me to master my mind and thoughts. I actually believe if we could master gratitude, we might actually feel that thing called balance. It wouldn’t mean that our lives were any less busy or any simpler. But our minds would be in a greater place of peace.
My Digital Declutter Experience
I began a digital declutter on January 1st. This experience was offered by the writer and professor, Cal Newport. In his book “Deep Work,” Cal tells us that the internet and addictively designed social media apps are robbing of us our time and making us unable to concentrate. These products are robbing our ability to work and think deeply, and affecting our ability to pay attention and be productive.
In yoga, the concept of Dharana is one of the eight limbs. Dharana is our ability to concentrate the mind on a thought or task as preparation for meditation. As I thought about digital clutter, I thought on the many times I have found myself wasting time scrolling on social media, or browsing the internet when I could have been doing something more productive. As I read “Deep Work,” I started to realize that these seeming harmless apps may be causing much more harm than I thought. If you are interested in learning more, you can watch his Tedtalk or, I suggest you too read the book as I won’t go into all those details here. When Cal offered a test group to participate in a January “Digital Declutter” I took the plunge and unplugged.
He gave us many choices for participation. I opted to completely stay away from all social media. For me that meant absolutely no Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. FB and IG are my two big online apps. I removed all notifications from my phone so it wasn’t buzzing at me all day. I have been checking email regularly (that means several times a day, completely off by 7-8 PM each night). I feel that email is an area I could work on for myself, checking less frequently.
I use Facebook for a lot of promotional work for my home studio, classes, trainings, and special events. using their “Create Event” feature. Inevitably, event promo leads to needless scrolling and wasting of time. People do sometimes get in touch with me about classes through my studio page on FB. So this is my biggest area of struggle. I have not been on to check this at all and I do have some studio events coming up that I am not posting about. I do worry just a little bit that I am missing out on some dialogue and promo. But I am not worried enough to break this peaceful session away from distraction.
Benefits and Joys
I must say that I am actually enjoying this time away from social media; I am enjoying being more intentional with my online use. I love my head space right now! At first, I had this brief twitch whenever I turned on the computer to go check my page. But now I don’t even want to check. In fact, I am not looking forward to going back to these services once January is over! I enjoy not having to bother with those sites at all. AND, I am making TONS of art in between my teaching responsibilities- putting in 2-5 hours per day painting. I am thrilled with how frequently I am painting! I feel like I am being much more intentional and useful with my time.
My thoughts on going forward are to only allow myself to use social media once per week, strictly for promo and communication. I thought to myself, I use an online accounting service to log my income and expenses, why not think of social media like that? I don’t desire to use my accounting service more than once per week. Social Media should be a tool to help me promote when needed, but I suspect I can use it far less and still be effective. We shall see what happens.
I seek a sweet inner quiet space. I seek a time for deep reflection and deep creative, reflective, and spiritual work. I desire to spend time being creative and to cultivate connections with care and attention. I am participating in a January “digital declutter”. I hope to spend time each day out in nature and to be fully present with my family and loved ones, to not be distracted by tech devices plinking away with texts and mindless use of my precious time. I have already stepped back from social media use and it has left me with a much better sense of self and mind.
I will be stepping away from all social media use during the month of January and I will engage in limited technology use. I will check email, manage this website, and you may contact me here. I will also send a few hand written, and even typewriter typed, letters during the month of January. Remember when we had penpals? It may be time to return to that level of connection and attention.
I hope to do some deep work in this quiet time away from draining distractions. After January, I will revisit my usage and decide how to best move forward.
Be well, and use your precious time with great care.
“We breathe, we pulse, we regenerate. our hearts beat, our minds create, our souls ingest. Thirty-seven seconds well used is a lifetime.” ~Mr. Magorium
For The Love of Stuff
Over the past month, Josh and I spent nearly every day either packing up every item we own into a box, or deciding it was no longer needed and was to be recycled or junked. Every single item in our house. Luckily we had been downsizing and decluttering since we returned from India in March of 2014. We had reduced our book collection by 3/4, our clothes by about the same, and had removed many furniture items, children’s toys, and so much more. We thought we wouldn’t have too much to move and we didn’t have that many “things” left. Well, nothing brings the reality of your belongings right up in your face as much as having to pack them all up and move them.
After we packed, over the course of just under two weeks, we moved 98% of our possessions into a 16′ x 17′ storage unit. We are staying with family while we continue our house hunt. Moving your belongings into storage is a humbling, and very tiring, experience. Most of our belongings are sitting in a quiet and lonely storage facility. At least there is central air. Josh has said he has dreams of taking everything out of the unit and reorganizing it so it is packed more neatly. That is about the last thing I want to do! But I do think about certain items that would be better served by moving them on than by continuing to store them. I think when we finally get to taking them out of the unit, I might have two piles: one to keep, one to get rid of.
Why do we love our stuff so much? What drives us to purchase and keep so many things, from big furniture and appliances to little trinkets and items that we never use or don’t really need? What are we really holding onto? When I think about the energy and resources that go into making all these items, creating facilities to sell them, and then moving them about, I wonder what we are really trying to do. There are about 400 storage units in the facility we are using, and 90% of them are full. Our society is drowning in its own stuff, and we are stripping the earth of its resources just to spend more money on more things that we do not really need.
Sure, I recognize that we do actually use some of these items, and that some items may improve our quality of life or even be very necessary. But then I think about other countries where they make do with very little resources and seem to get by just fine. Maybe there is a middle ground out there? Maybe we could find a way to manage with just a little of what we need — think of all the time we would save by not purchasing, fixing, storing, and moving all of those unnecessary items. Maybe we could start examining what it is we own, what it really costs us, other cultures, and the planet to have those items, and perhaps start to envision a new way?
Let me ask you: When was the last time you went through every item you owned and questioned its true need and value?
Going Gray: Inspiration
*photo credit: http://waytofamous.com/22043-marian-seldes.html
I find it important to stay inspired while pursuing any new endeavor. By learning about the journey of others and how they have navigated a path, I find new ideas to test out and new thoughts to consider. As an artist and creator, I also find inspiration in the artistic expression of others.
My yoga students often give me thoughtful and inspiring surprise gifts. About a year ago, a dear student gave me the book “Wise Woman, ” by photographer Joyce Tenneson. What a treasure of a book. It is a collection of photographs of women over 40, combined with inspiring quotes and thoughts on their life. It was a fitting gift considering my website title of “Powerful Woman Yoga,” but it is even more fitting now on my going gray journey as many women in the book reflect on the idea of dyeing hair.
Here are the words of the late actress Marian Seldes:
“My grandmother always used to say, ‘If you know your part and you know where you have to go, why do you rehearse?’ I always remember this, and it’s true. You have to start each day again- you can’t repeat what you did. When I let my hair go gray I felt an enormous freedom. All those years of having my hair dyed- why do we do that?”
Are you dyeing your hair, or thinking of going gray? Let me know your thoughts and inspiration in the comments below.
Going Gray and Ditching the Dye, Journal Entry 2
I had a moment this weekend where I felt like shaving my head. I only have about a half an inch of gray/white roots coming in, but I felt ready to get all that dyed hair off my head and let my silvers shine. I sent a picture of what I was thinking of doing to my mom, and within minutes she was calling me with an intervention. Mom and I are doing this gray thing together, and we started at the same time (she is a week ahead of me). Josh was standing by with his shiny and sharp electric razor in hand. After I got off the phone with mom, I trimmed a tiny bit off the ends, and we put the razor away.
I have done a great deal of self work with my yoga and meditation practice to become a patient person, and I feel I have come a long way. But there are still moments where impatience can run high. It is not that I don’t like the way my hair looks, that doesn’t feel like an issue right now. Instead, I feel ready to be silver. Usually when I make a decision, when I announce it and I accept it mentally, I take it on right away. Indecision is not my work. My inner work over time has been to sit still and wait for better timing or to let things take their natural course. I am struggling with that in a big way with trying to sell our house, but that is a whole other blogging category…
Mom told me to wait a few more weeks or months, if I possibly could, and then to do that pixie cut. She said I would regret shaving my head, big time, and there would be no way to change it if I didn’t like it. Before I decided to go gray, I thought I might let my hair grow out to my shoulders. But since deciding to go gray, I feel that for me it would be better to go back to short hair and then to let it grow out all silver. I like that idea quite a bit, so now I feel committed.
I am in a few Facebook groups about going gray. If you are on Facebook and are thinking about going gray, I recommend joining one of these support groups: Silver Foxy, Going Gorgeously Gray, and Gray and Proud. These groups offer support and community for those times when you wonder “am I doing the right thing”, or “how do I handle the transition”, and “should I keep my hair long or go pixie?” Sometimes, we need to see or know that someone else is going through the same thing, or that they have the same doubts or questions, and it makes us feel connected. These groups have been positive, supportive, and full of joy. I see in these groups that women, and even a few men, struggle with this process as it brings up many insecurities. Should I cut my long hair? What will people think of those white roots, will they think I am letting myself go? What if they call me granny? While these groups do offer support to people, the truth is, that bigger work has to be done on your own.
One of the things that has helped me decide to go gray is my yoga practice. Yoga encourages us to love ourselves where we are at, and to embrace our inner goodness. Yoga encourages us to question our thoughts and to investigate why we might hold a particular belief that might not be serving us. My deep investigation of Yoga philosophy has helped me to understand that there are many options and ways to approach a situation and to feel less attached to outcome and expectations.
So for now, I will not shave my head. While writing this post, my mom called to check in and see if I had shaved my head after all. I reassured her that no, I had not. “Good,” she said. “I didn’t shave mine either.”