I was quite blessed to have Ms. Evans as my high school guidance counselor. For whatever reason, she took an interest in me, looked after my welfare, and encouraged me to be my best. When I was close to graduation, she called me to her office and gave me a small award for which she nominated me. As part of that, she gave me a book called “I Dare You!” by William Danforth. (By the way, when I mentioned this book in a different context, a friend of mine sent me a photo of his copy, also received in high school, which was well-worn.)
One of the exercises in “I Dare You!” was to create what the author called “My Checker”. This checker had four sides, representing a balanced life that includes the Mental, Physical, Social, and Religious. I don’t know that that was my first introduction to a balanced approach to life, but it certainly stayed with me, and I still have my checker, which was written on the back on one of the cards I included in my high school graduation announcement.
There are certain ideas that seem so pervasive throughout history, religion, philosophy, and even popular culture that you have to believe they have merit. One of those ideas is the notion of balance. Aristotle had his Golden Mean, which represented a balance between extremes. The ancient book of Ecclesiastes tells us there’s a time for everything under heaven. Plato said, “The music masters familiarizes children’s minds with rhythms and melodies, thus making them more civilized, more balanced, better adjusted in themselves, and more capable in whatever they say or do, for rhythm and harmony are essential to the whole.” Emerson said, “People with great gifts are easy to find, but symmetrical and balanced ones never.”
More recently, John Wooden said, ”Next to love, balance is the most important thing.” (I believe it might have been Miss Piggy who said, “A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand”, but I’m not sure.)
Whenever I am feeling out of sorts and ineffective, I step back and most of the time I’ll find that I am out of balance in one particular area. Much of the time, I’ll find I have my identify tied up too much in my work, which is probably the most common source of problems in our society. But there are times, too, when I’m leaning too far in another direction.
We can often measure our balance by our language. When we find ourselves saying, “He always..” or “She never…”, we are probably not balanced in our thinking, because it’s seldom that those kind of declarations are valid.
I think one reason for the popularity of yoga and meditation these days is that it gives us a counter-balance to all the time we spend multi-tasking between the many screens that call for out attention. For that matter, resisting the siren-song of technology for even a few days can be a gift to ourselves and our loved ones.
How do you stay balanced? Do you have some routines to make sure you are attending to all areas of your life? If not, think about how that might be something you can do. Don’t make me bring out my checker!