A Balanced Life
“Balance: the act of bringing into harmony and proportion.” Webster
First considered, Webster’s definition strikes us as elemental. Yet in the midst of a hectic dinner party, a harrowing commute or a verbal clash, that seemingly transparent notion appears as vague as a Himalayan mountaintop shrouded in mist.
What is it about our lives that seems to defy this delicate balancing act? Has it to do with the unavoidably complex nature of modern existence? Or does it point at something intrinsic to our deepest selves? An addiction…to the excitement that our frenetic activity generates? Though most of us concede that a generous dose of real harmony may benefit, few of us know what it takes to go about getting it.
Sue Bender in Everyday Sacred recounts the classic Zen tale of Overflowing Tea: a Zen student, greedy for spiritual knowledge, makes a pilgrimage to an enlightened Monk only to have question after question returned by silence. Finally the Monk instructs, “Pour me a cup of tea and I will tell you when to stop.” As the student pours the tea and watches it spill over the top, he shouts, “Can’t you see? The tea is overflowing the cup!”
“Yes,” the wise monk answers, “and so it is with you. Your mind if full of many things. Only when you empty it can knowledge enter.”
Like the student we too must seek knowledge with an empty cup – purging our minds of superfluous notions so there is space for the balancing act to simply begin.
It remains for each of us to examine the overflow of our life-styles; to savor elements that make them worthwhile; to discard the clutter that merely sustains the illusion. “What inspires me? Where do I find joy?,” you start asking. “Am I creative…Do I play…Do I love deeply?” These responses reveal truths that help us grasp that elusive sense of proportion. They beg for our introspection during these long winter months.