Balance has been occupying my thoughts recently, both the physical act of balancing and balance as a metaphor.

Balance is stability, awareness, and controlled movement during chaos. We think “Oh, how I should love to live a balanced life.” Eat a balanced diet, find balance in your pursuits. If you had that, all else would fall into place. We seek routine and homeostasis, a life without turbulence.

But balance–that is, equilibrium–in fact exists ONLY because of the forces which act upon you. You will never know balance if you don’t feel the disturbances that they cause. You only perceive balance, your center, as you are falling off balance or coming back into it. Balance is the skill set that you employ when imbalance comes along.

What is more balanced: a lump of inert matter, or a flamingo standing on one leg? A fat man lying down or an acrobat up on a highwire? Of course it is the acrobat. He is more masterful, in control of the impulses which threaten to shake him off at any moment. A rock lying on the ground is a system which has reached kinetic equilibrium, but there is no agency as compared to the tightrope walker. A rock on the ground is not a demonstration of the principle of balance. It is simply the absence of imbalance, a lifeless system where all the potential for change has been shaken out.

They say that emotions exist along a spectrum, that the highest joy is merely the reverse of the most painful sorrow. And if we cultivate awareness and gratitude, we can appreciate it all. A life without emotional peaks and valleys isn’t balanced, it’s just flat. In this respect, everything is truly a blessing, both the good and the bad. Something tips you, and you return to center. Finding equilibrium in the midst of all the emotions and forces which act upon you, push you towards mania or depression, elation, love, anger, hatred, melancholy–that’s balance. Maintain your center, the seat of your appreciation and your love, and be grateful when a disturbance comes your way and acts upon you, because it’s really just a reminder that you have to regain your balance.

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