I had a lot of really interesting conversations with Quakers this weekend on the subject of "Balance," which was the theme of the retreat I was attending. I wanted to capture some of the best bits of insight here so I can come back to it later.
Imbalance and Fear
We talked about what makes imbalance such a bad thing. For me, imbalance is about fear — fear of being hurt, fear of failure, fear of looking incompetent. I think of how hard it was for me to learn how to do a handstand. A lot of this had to do with confronting the fear of injury, of failure. And in order to learn how to do a handstand, I had to risk greater imbalance to reach a higher level of balance.
It seems to me that finding my own personal balance in my life is about feeling agency. That is, I am at the center of my own life, making informed choices that are moving me to where I want to be. This is opposed to feeling like my life is out of control and I am subject to forces that I can not effect.
Taking the idea a bit further, the youth that we work with at Global Kids often don't feel much control over their own lives. They don't get much choice in what they are studying, or opportunities to improve their situations, or options for where they want to end up in life. So our work is really about empowering them with a sense of agency.
Connected to agency is the experience of flow. That is, feeling balanced is doing things where we are fully engaged and immersed. Whether it is creating artwork, raising our children, or writing a proposal, this sense of engagement is in some ways spiritual and fulfilling in a deep way.
We had a number of interesting exchanges not only about how we achieve balance in our own personal lives, but also how we may be facilitating balance in other people. It's an idea I am still trying to get my head around.
For myself, I wonder what it is that I do that facilitates other people to find balance. In some ways, I am very effective at helping people deal with the externalities of their situations: someone's computer is broken, someone is lost and needs directions. But in other ways, I'm not so good at dealing with the internal emotions and deeper roots of the imbalance. Getting un-lost is not just about getting the right directions, it's about someone else acknowledging how scary and bewildering it is to be lost.
And not only for myself, but also for our Quaker community, I wonder how we are balancing those around us. How do we as the Brooklyn Meeting ensure that we are lending our weight towards addressing the imbalances we observe in the city around us, and in the world?
Elizabeth from our Meeting talked about how she sees her job as not just exemplifying her best self in the workplace, but also engendering in others the ability to exemplify her best values whether or not she is there. That seems to me a very high level of leadership that I aspire to.
2 thoughts on “Thoughts on balance and the Spirit”
Hi Rik, I don’t often post in your comments, though I’m a faithful reader, but I felt compelled to respond to this post. Whether it is your intention or not, I think your.. openness and sharing on this site and in other things you do are some of the ways you help balance others.
Perhaps because we both work in education, or share a passion for human rights issues, or work in virtual worlds, much of your work is of at least passing interest to me, and sometimes you write about things that speak as clearly about my own worries/fears/concerns as if it were coming out of my own head. In those cases, reading about your thoughts and responses helps me find my own balance.
And in some cases, like a couple weeks ago, your impact will come from something completely unexpected. You posted about some friends of yours who’d created a breakdown of the Shim Sham steps online. I had to check it out and got hooked, and now I’m working through the steps and having more fun dancing than I’ve had with my (lack of)exercise routine in a long time. Who knew!
So, I guess I just wanted to say, sometimes you may be impacting others even when it isn’t a conscious intention, and by openly reflecting about your trials and tribulations, and ways you’ve been successful, it sometimes sheds light and helps the rest of us.
For that, I am thankful, and see it as a way of living an open life that _I_ aspire to. =)
that’s like the nicest comment I’ve received on this blog like EVER. Thank you so much for your readership and sharing this with me.