My embrace of the balanced life started in the late 1980s when I read Robert Fulghum’s bestseller, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” He exhorted: “Live a balanced life — learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
“Love that,” I said to my 30-something self. And I did, for years.
Then, a decade older, I came across another version of essentially the same message: “Living in balance is easy and very rewarding because your life becomes one of joy, happiness and serenity.” Reflecting early-stage midlife skepticism, I muttered: “Not so sure how easy that really is.”
My turnabout seemed complete recently, when in a yoga class I found myself staring down at a green block imprinted with: “Life. Balance. Growth.” “That’s bull,” I growled, using an expletive, loud enough for the person next to me to throw some shade in my direction. I promptly fell out of my pose.
After class I talked with my yoga instructor, Amy, about my disenchantment with the entire “balance” incantation. To my surprise she confessed: “Personally, I think balance is a fallacy. It’s presented in society as something that can be achieved, but in reality it’s not an achievable goal.”
Really? I realized I needed to take this to a higher power. That’s Susan Piver, a Buddhist teacher and author, most recently, of “The Wisdom of a Broken Heart,” who has long been a life guide to me. “Is it ever possible to be balanced?” she asked rhetorically. “I don’t think that it is, because then you’d have to freeze in that position. ‘Got it. Now don’t move.’” Even the noted biologist John Kricher was among the apostates, telling us there “is no balance of nature – not today and not at any time in Earth’s long history. The paradigm is based on belief, not data; it has no scientific merit.” My mentors had confounded me.
No matter my muddle, I continued my yoga practice, planned more vacations, ate a “balanced” diet, and even signed up for a “digital detox,” where I was promised that by disconnecting, I would reconnect. Still, balance remained an unobtainable state, an illusory goal. In fact the more I desired it, the further it retreated from me.
Before I knew it I had transitioned from believer to heretic. Not only did this aphorism seem inauthentic and unobtainable; even worse, a “balanced” life now sounded monotonous and dull. One Zen-y writer asked: Who would not want a life where you enjoy every second and where you can be happy without any reason to be happy? Continue reading >>