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  • Writer's pictureJill Brocklehurst

Balance: A Fine Art

“[One] is bound not by limitation, but by limited thought. The same power which binds [them] will free [them]… .”  (Ernest Holmes - The Science of Mind)

When the sun begins shining more often and the temperature gauge rises, I can’t help but to pull out my calendar and begin planning ‘good weather’ experiences. It’s actually really easy for me to overdo it, in fact. Our culture rewards high productivity, marked by active engagement in all aspects of life. ‘Do more, be more, achieve more’… all based on the lie that ‘more’ is ‘better’, and when it comes to fine weather activities, I can’t seem to get enough. Still…

I had the day off this past Saturday where I didn’t feel like doing anything. Guilt followed me around like an annoying mosquito buzzing, “Hey, you’re wasting time.” ‘Wasting time!’ What does that even mean? I know from experience how important it is to unplug and recharge. Inactivity is like the quiet stillness of dormant plants. What may seem like lost opportunities is really the productive work of recharging one’s mind, body and soul; building a solid platform for creativity and success.

On this particular Saturday, it was important for me to note the full and diverse week ahead of me. Workshops, events and travel (both personal and business) were all upcoming, and I needed to be refreshed, present, and ready. I certainly wasn’t feeling that, though, as I succumbed to a weekend midday nap. Yet, from past experience, I knew that if I pushed through my ‘laziness’ and made myself go for a run, say, I would end up weakening my immune system and setting myself up for a forthcoming fallout. Years of experience have taught me that I can either take planned time out, or Life will knock me off my feet one way or another, and I could find myself sick in bed instead. So I gave in, and I moved about my day honouring the wisdom of a sloth, but this balance is tough to create when our society is married to the idea of productivity as ‘output’.

Lately, I spent thousands of dollars to be part of a group dedicated to personal growth. I am amazed that, despite the fee to be there, about half the group did not meet the engagement commitments. Whenever I had the chance to dialogue privately with others in the group, I discovered they were plagued by lives that demanded that they push, push, push… . Their workplace cultures seemed to reward only continuous, measurable results, which left no time to breathe. How do people do it?

They don’t.

Everyone suffers in the type of atmosphere where the key operating idea is to hurry and hustle before future opportunities are lost in a future that continues to slip through our grasp. (Of course it does. The future isn’t real. It isn’t the place of creation. The present moment is).

Creation comes from depth, with roots going deep into the silence of that centre place within each of us. Building in periods of rest is smart. Living a life that promotes balance and well-being expands our productivity.

Have a look at the graphs, above. Without pauses, work productivity might look like the bottom graph. The individual represented in this example is always producing something (not quite excelling), until things finally stop and they can crash for a time. A more balanced approach is represented in the top graph. In that example, high achievement comes from periods of deep stillness, reflection and rest.

In their book, The Diamond Cutter, Geshe Michael Roach and Lama Christie McNally talk about taking one day a week as a “Circle Day”, and two weeks a year in which one completes a “Forest Circle", for total detachment from the duties of work and life… as a place to birth creativity and possibilities. These creative ‘down-times’ are added to vacation time. The book describes it in this way: “One of my greatest secret weapons throughout my entire career is the Forest Circle. There is no more powerful way to penetrate deeply into the future of your business career, no more powerful way to make the major leaps in your business that have to happen faster for you to reach your ultimate goals.”

Benjamin Franklin once said, “Move fast by going slow.” Each of us must find our own stride. Creating clear boundaries, learning to say no, scheduling downtime, finding hobbies that are completely separate from work duties or other obligations… all of these are suggestions to ponder. Balance looks different for everyone, but making space for rest and leisure is key to sustained health, happiness and success.

And hey, as I have said before, I write about what I need to practice… . I know that exploring the more balanced experiences of my ‘sunshine adventures’ is worth the effort. So, the thought of each one of us seriously making this kind of change excites me. Imagine the new world we’d create together!

PS - Many highly creative and successful people have understood the benefits of occasional solitude, reflection and renewal as fuel for peak performance. For added motivation, I thought I would post a few examples: 

  • Bill Gates: The Microsoft co-founder is famously disciplined about taking a "Think Week" twice a year, where he isolates himself in a cabin to read, think deeply, and come up with new ideas.

  • Oprah Winfrey: The media mogul credits her success to taking quiet pauses and periods of solitude to recharge. She once said, "Every morning, I awake with a sense of renewal to receive the gift of a new day."

  • Winston Churchill: The former British prime minister scheduled daily sessions of building brick structures to give his mind a rest from weighty matters of state.

  • Maya Angelou: The acclaimed poet and author famously rented a bare hotel room to remove herself from distractions and focus solely on her writing.

  • Steve Jobs: The Apple co-founder was a practitioner of Zen meditation and consciously built periods of reflection into his intense work schedule.

  • Bill Clinton: The former U.S. president set aside daily times for meditation, calling it, ‘a way to learn to clear his mind and regain balance.’

  • J.K. Rowling” The Harry Potter author spent periods writing in quiet cafes, allowing her vibrant imagination to wander, while working on her novels.

  • Albert Einstein: The physicist was known to take long, solitary walks around Princeton with nothing but his thoughts, which helped to inspire breakthroughs like his Theory of Relativity.

"There is virtue in work and

there is virtue in rest.

Use both and

overlook neither."

Alan Cohen


Breath into Balance:

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