In seminary, students were asked to incorporate some kind of daily spiritual practice into their lives. Many complained that they were too busy to do so. While I agreed that I was too busy, I also realized that life isn’t going to get less busy post-seminary. I needed to start figuring out how to make room for what matters regardless of how little room there appeared to be. I wasn’t great at doing so then. And five years later I’m still not great at doing so now. But I know it’s up to me to figure it out. I know that life is probably never going to make it easy. If I want my life to be balanced and full and meaningful, it is up to me to figure out how.
What I have managed to learn so far is what is meaningful for me. That includes some things I would like to do daily: reading, exercise, meditation, writing, eating well. Weekly, I need quality time with my family and close friends (preferably on multiple occasions), time spent outside, and an ongoing project which gives me an sense of accomplishment (which is important because so much of my work is ongoing and not necessarily with measurable results). These are the aspects of my life that bring me joy and contentment. They help remind me that I am more than what I do for a living. They are the components that keep me sane when everything else seems to be falling apart or I am falling apart. These are the elements that help keep me grounded and balanced.
By balance I don’t mean equal parts in time. There are weeks where I have minimal time for those daily activities. But I do mean equal importance. While the work must get done, if I don’t eventually figure out how to incorporate the meaningful activities, I will suffer for it. And that means eventually my work will suffer as well. This awareness brings great clarity when I am at my wit’s end and see a house in need of cleaning and realize, yes I will clean for an hour because something has to get done. And then I will sit with a friend on my porch with a glass of wine because I also need to know how she is doing. I need to put my feet up and laugh. The work can wait. More cleaning can be done tomorrow.
There are seasons when balance is nearly impossible. But knowing that my balance is my responsibility makes the possibility of balance in my life grow. It allows me to think creatively about how to seek balance, rather than blame my schedule or my boss or my circumstances for the lack of it. The awareness of what I need allows me to periodically add them in small doses here and there, guilt-free. And the more I add them, the more time I make for them. I’m convinced that even the busiest among us waste more time than we realize. I’ve observed it in others and I’ve experienced it myself.
These days, the amount of imbalance I have been feeling in the universe makes my pursuit of balance all the more needed. Balance gives me perspective and hope. And perhaps most importantly balance gives me peace. The peace comes, I think, from that realization that I am not the center of the universe (something I believe we are all prone to think unless/until challenged) and I do have say over my little part of the universe. When I feel more balanced, I find myself to be more patient and understanding. I feel less of a need to control what is outside my control and focus instead on what I can control. I feel more balanced which makes room for more balance.
May we all find a sense of balance that gives us a sense of contentedness and connectedness.