We all strive for balance perhaps without thinking much about what it is and what it implies. Perhaps this is because it means something different to each of us. A sportsman will say that to balance his life he has to train no more than four hours a day five days a week, play the game on the weekend and rest one day. To a parent with three young children, such a life would be totally unbalanced as she strives to accommodate lunches, school, sports, activities and her own part time job. A Tibetan Lama might say balance is when he can meditate for hours in the snow and think of nothing. What might be the advantages of balance should one achieve it? A state of balance is a place from which one can move. I f you’re playing football and the ball is passing your left side and you’re unbalanced, you’re not going to be able to make the move to cut it off. In order to achieve our goals, we need a state of relative equilibrium from whence we can move when necessary. How does one achieve a state of balance? Does a state of perfect equanimity imply balance, or perhaps indicate the end of exploration and therefore no movement at all? Life appears to be a journey in which matters which are not yet balanced rise to the surface and demand resolution and the restoration of equilibrium. Why so? The human organism has survived now some 15 million years and in that time genetic maladaptions and incompetencies were gradually replaced by genetic combinations best suited to keep us alive and reproducing. Those two aspects of evolution cannot be supplanted. If we’re not strong enough to resist disease, we don’t survive and if we don’t reproduce we die. So perhaps this is what balance in Human being is? A stable place of:
Many people aren’t happy with this reductionist approach to humans, preferring a more romantic or religious understanding of our “reasons for being here”. Even they however, wouldn’t deny the two obvious functions above. However, there may be more to life than surviving it and reproducing. Many would argue that the development of the new brain, the cortex, means that Humans have capacities which go beyond the two basic requirements. The human traits of intellect, compassion, understanding, vision and empathy may mean that these things require as much consideration now as the basics. Perhaps establishing balance in the basics enables us to explore the remainder of our existence, an existence which is a work in progress, and perhaps in its infancy. Then there are those who concentrate so much upon the evolution of the new brain that they’re prepared to eschew the old brain requirements of survival and procreation. Many religious figures might be in this category. I guess in the matter of religion one might ask is a religious person running from the basics and occupying himself in ethereal pursuits in order to avoid resolution of fundamentals, or is he genuinely taking the concepts of self, not self, spirit and grace to higher levels.
Perhaps we can look to the state of the world for insights, taking account of the hundreds of wars currently being waged, the vast majority of which have a religious basis. Many of these wars appear to be the consequence of religion not having caught up with contemporary living. With balance in one’s life so difficult to attain, perhaps people retreat into religious can’t in order to make some sense of a life of which sense cannot be made. Now where does all this leave us? Balance is different to each person. There is a balance between old brain requirements, such as health, procreation, emotional expression, touch, nurturing and new brain requirements such as exciting concepts, stimulation of passions, intellectual pursuits like learning. This might be the first balance to strike, between the essentials of life and the things which make life interesting to an evolved cerebral cortex. Ignore one and the other suffers. It’s fascinating to watch the modern woman, educated that she can attain all that her male counterparts have attained for some time, and equipped with the skills to do it. She’s finding that the other imperative in her life, the biological imperative, won’t be driven underground easily by high flying jobs and personal acquisitions. Many men have similarly found the attainment of material wealth unfulfilling. Some women are choosing to put aside the “advances” that women have made and go back to caring for children, albeit with far superior assistance including help from their male partners. Other women have elected to not have children and find out if careers will fulfil their promise of happier lives than experienced by their mothers. Time will tell. In the meantime, our quest for balance has us looking both inward and outward. Inward balance implies a willingness to address whatever left over childhood issues cause us stress as grown ups. We can use our current circumstances to identify those stressors and use the current circumstances to resolve them. This is our attempt at internal balance, not dissimilar to our endocrine system struggling with billions of cellular processes and trying for the balance most conducive to the well being and survival of the organism. Outward balance implies a healthy connection with those elements of existence we might define as “not us”. Other people would be at the top of that list, the environment perhaps a close second. We need to be in healthy symbiotic relationship with ourselves and with others and our Universe. This is the function physiologically, of our immune system. Now we’re starting to get a major handle on balance. There’s a balance to be struck within the resources we allocate to each of these needs. That will vary over the course of our lives, but it could be helpful to have these two major matters, both requiring balance to be in consciousness for at least some of that journey. In the long run it becomes automatic.