Off Balance – Reflections on Balance

Off Balance

It doesn’t take much to tip us off balance. A word here or there can easily upset our equilibrium and feed our appetite that wants to brood over real or perceived sleights. Our imagination makes up conversations, justifies our actions, extracts apologies, and stockpiles hurts that we absorb but do not confront. Over time we modify our behavior to protect ourselves. At its extreme, we erect walls that let nothing in or out.

If we want to breathe, we need to dismantle our protections and trust that our vulnerability will be an asset, not a liability. What a novel thought that by exposing our vulnerability we free ourselves from self-imposed limitations that restrict us. Instead of masking aspects of who we are, we nurture our core nature and begin to appreciate the values by which we want to live.

The hurts we have lived with since childhood are locked up inside us, and part of regaining our balance depends on our ability to bring closure to events from long ago. There is a comedy line which suggests that as we get older we forget everything but our grudges. Age doesn’t diminish the pain we feel – but distorts our memory of its origins. We need to take our hurts and sprinkle them with grace—perhaps to forgive others—but certainly to forgive ourselves. When we are not so preoccupied with the past, we have a better chance of appreciating the present and a greater likelihood of being open to the future. Every interchange becomes a fresh opportunity to recalibrate and move closer to the self we want to be in the world.

When our balance has been interrupted, we need to examine what has been the cause of the interference and address how our balance may be restored. Balancing is not a one-time activity. Balancing is continual, subtle, and conscious. The interruptions can be internal, of our own making, or can be external, and imposed on us from the outside.

When we are off balance, we need to appreciate that restocking our personal shelves takes both time and effort. Rely on your assets - self-compassion, commitment, intention. Allow enough time for acceptance and change to be an integral part of your healing process. If possible, don’t seek healing all alone – enjoy the company of friends, listen for beauty, and follow the senses. See what nature is offering and accept the proffered gift with gratitude.

Maya Angelou tells us we are more alike than we are unalike. Genome studies confirm that fact and commercial businesses make a living by providing information regarding our ancestry. The Butterfly Effect draws on chaos theory to state that very small changes on one side of the globe (the wings of a butterfly flapping) can affect the weather pattern on the other side of the globe (hurricanes in China). All these references point to our connectedness.

Today’s cause for being off balance seems grounded in American politics. There is a collective thrum in the air that is fostered by the current Trump administration that threatens to envelope us in war, damage our economy, eliminate healthcare for millions, and abrogate our commitment to support environmental quality.  How can the wealthiest nation on the planet begrudge a helping hand to those in need? How can we vote into power politicians that aim to reduce or eliminate programs that now offer shelter, medical support, and food to our neediest population?

If Maya Angelou is right that we are interdependent, we are not just hurting the “other” when we take such actions, we are hurting ourselves. If chaos theory is well grounded, our behavior contributes to planetary instability.  An action taken in one part of the globe has worldwide repercussions.

As our world is thrown off balance, we find it hard to stand on firm ground. We live in an environment of constant disarray, with little to suggest an orderly structure in which we can build on a solid base. The prevailing sentiment is fear - and it is overwhelming the qualities embodied in trust. We need to see the chess board with fresh eyes, anticipate four moves ahead, and adopt a strategy that will lead us back to center.

When we take things for granted, we devalue them. And when we devalue them we are ripe for losing what we cherish. As a military force, we have no peers. But our technical prowess has little to do with our humanity. Are we evolving as a species designed to relieve hunger and poverty, support shelter and health, encourage education and be a caretaker for the environment? Or are we in an acquisition contest that only serves a scant one percent of the population?

Some people believe the drama in Washington over Obama Care provided valuable lessons to both Paul Ryan and President Trump in planning, staging, and assessing their current performance and strategizing for future political battles. To my mind, it was a side-show that masked what was really taking place: a values battle over the degree to which private interests could restrict the government’s support of basic human needs.

Each executive order is another retreat from our opportunity to protect the planet. The tools available for voicing displeasure feel primitive in gauging their effectiveness. Phone calls, postcards, marching. One exception appears to be the calling of Town Hall meetings, which reveals the vulnerability of our elected representatives. These meetings warn our representatives that if you hold fast to party lines, we might just vote you out of office.

The news from Washington is constantly invoking the “danger” card and using it to usurp powers, fund pet projects, and rationalize bizarre behavior.  Similar positions are being voiced in many other countries, placing nationalism ahead of internationalism, and leaving us “more alike than unalike” in feeling off balance.

Perhaps cynicism is the new normal. Perhaps it is harder to serve others than we ever imagined. These struggles are ancient in origin. Perhaps the battleground is about containment, not victory. In Tolkien’s trilogy, The Fellowship of the Ring, good over evil is important – but evil over good is seductive. Whether I am alone or with company in this assessment is irrelevant. What matters to me is that I keep in sight the ultimate goal of bequeathing a sustainable planet to the generations that follow. My commitment is to keep pointing out that the emperor has no clothes until somebody puts clothes back on the emperor.

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