Is balance something to strive for?

This is the time of year when light and dark are coming into balance again after the extreme light of summer and before the deep dark of winter.  So as always it make me think about balance in my own life, and for the first time I thought about the face that for the majority of the year, light and dark are OUT of balance.  In fact, there are only two days a year, the spring and autumnal equinoxes, when the Earth finds a natural balance of light and dark.

So although I feel like I’m always striving to find balance in my life, between my kids, chores, writing work etc. etc., it got me to thinking that maybe this isn’t necessarily a realistic ideal.  Am I spinning the wheels desperately seeking some kind of ‘balanced’ state that doesn’t actually exist…or exists by nature very rarely?

Growing up near the equator where the range of day and night doesn’t change as much as it does at other latitudes (like where I now live in the UK), I always feel more comfortable around the equinoxes.  It feels like it SHOULD get dark sometime between 6-7pm, and it SHOULD get light again about 6-7am.  While many revel in the long evenings of summer, I feel disoriented when the sun doesn’t set until 10 or 11pm as much as I feel unnerved by the incredibly long periods of darkness in the winter.

That said, if I relate that to my own life, and I think about periods when things were really out of balance…either in terms of travel and ultimate relaxation, or in term so work, times like finishing my Ph.D. when I worked 18 hour days and achieved more than I ever imagined was possible…those times OUT of balance were also incredibly important and amazing…and maybe even necessary…

There are two ways we can think about ‘balance’.  One is to look at all the elements of our life and try to keep them all going without letting one area take over.  I think this is how I’ve often unconsciously approached trying to ‘balance’ my life.  Mark Sisson summed it up really well in his blog post about balance:

“It seems like a lot of people approach balance in this way — we’re supposed to take pride in how rapidly and deftly we attend to the given game in front of us – no matter how many ‘plates’ there are – work, parenting, fitness, marriage, school, hobbies – the list goes on.  If we just spin them fast enough we should be able to keep any number of them going.” And Voila! Balance!


But I think the ubiquitous use of the word ‘balance’ in self-improvement writing is just another fancy term for how we are all trying to ‘have it all’, be everything to everyone, be Super-Selves (super moms, super workers, super husbands/wives).

Another meaning of Balance comes to us in the avoidance of extremes.  As in – the Buddhist Middle Way.  Confucius’s Doctrine of Mean.  Or the Golden Mean of Aristotle.  In other words, balance means trying not to do too much, not to overload yourself with too many spinning plates.

This is a kind of balance I really want to strive for!


In the Havana Sessions podcast this week, in honour of the autumnal equinox and turning wheel of the year,  Clay Lowe and I discuss this idea of balance in more depth… You can listen here.

And if you have ideas about how you’re trying to slow your life down and find a new sense of balance, come share your thoughts on my FB discussion here.

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