Standing on a yoga mat in mountain pose, I feel the subtle micro-movements of muscles and joints balancing the height and weight of the body on the relatively small surface area of the soles of the feet. Tiny adjustments bring everything to center, leading to moments of stillness, followed by additional adjustments. In this stillness, the senses are sharper, awareness is richer, and there is greater clarity.
We can also find greater stillness and clarity when the mind is balanced. Emotionally charged concepts, exciting opportunities, looming worries and fears pull our attention this way and that, but the awakened mind constantly adjusts, moving with ever greater skill and ease back toward equanimity. It is only within this fertile ground of balance and stillness that the wisdom emerges to more consistently act in our longer-term best interest.
In this culture we have a hard time seeing value in middle ground. We have begun to equate “average” with “less than”. Moderation is seen as boring, mundane, or “safe” (translation: uninteresting, cowardly, or weak). We’d rather be exciting, exceptional and stand out from the crowd. To be in the middle is to be invisible.
Another challenge is that it takes work to maintain balance. Extremes seem easier because it takes to no effort at all to allow attention to be pulled by strong stimuli. We get an immediate charge from following extremes and we often don’t have to pay for our out-of-balance behavior until later. We feel overwhelmed by the prospect of a lifetime of self-examination and self-restraint.
It helps to remember that falling in and out of balance is part of the journey. What is important is that we are mindful along the way. Do we dare to wobble and fall with eyes wide open? This is the true show of strength and courage. Do we invite ourselves and others to get back up and try again? The is the true demonstration of exceptionality. Balancing is a skill that can be improved with practice, and over the longer-term, we can see for ourselves that the rewards far exceed the cost.