A Guide to Balance in Meditation
Is balance in life or meditation a problem for you? If so, this introductory guide may help.
Meditation and yoga–as well as most spiritual, religious, health, exercise, and science systems–teach that balance is of key importance in all aspects of life if you want the best opportunities to be happy, at peace, and secure. Such balance applies to your general life paths; to mental, emotional, and physical parts of life; to individual or specific body parts and body experiences; to use of food, drugs, chemicals, drinks, and potions; to exercise, movement, and sensuality; and even, especially, to meditation and spiritual practices and studies.
What happens without balance in one or more of these areas of life? The answer is unbalance, unhappiness, strong swings of the pendulum from highs to lows, discomfort, pain, disease, and even an earlier–and far less comfortable or happy–death. Does seeking balance rule out thrills, excitement, and exploration? You don’t necessarily have to do so. If some extremes are rationally and carefully chosen and managed, and they are balanced with other proper activities, then even such wilder experiences can be explored: the roller coaster is fine as long as it is not unpleasant and as long as you spend some time on the ground, eating, getting plenty of liquids, and exercising.
No one is exempt. Everyone practicing extreme sports or exercise, for example, must let their bodies rest and recuperate each day to heal small tears, abrasions, and pains in muscles and to prepare the body for more with proper food, liquids, and stretching. Everyone who thrills at intellectual or artistic challenges and activities must let the mind rest and also sleep each day so that it may retain its flexibility, cell strength, and memory. Highly social people need solitude, and those who are very inner directed need to be around others at least some of the time. Pleasure needs its rest, joy its patience, and each drug (legal or illegal) its balancing healthy regimen.
Every emotional thrill needs its quiet and peaceful moments, every act of bravery and courage its quietude and thoughtful withdrawal, and every shout its perfect silence. Living in balance is the human animal at its best, and thus the human spirit.
Lifestyle balance: For balance in your general lifestyle, Buddha’s Middle Path and the Jesus of Nazareth’s guideline of the Golden Rule are good guidelines. Buddha’s Middle Path simply says that you should avoid frequent extremes and live a life that is neither too rich nor too poor in how you eat, exercise, and treat others and yourself. The Golden Rule simply recommends that you should do unto others as you would have them do unto you, such that you live by the code that you believe in and treat others with the same respect and love that you want them to give you.
Mental balance: For balance in your mental life, there is a time for intense intellectual or aesthetic activity, and a time to rest. There is a time to try piercing the intellectual and aesthetic secrets around you, and a time to let them pierce you. There is a time to seek, and a time to be sought by others–and a time to rest from seeking or being sought. There is a time to think good thoughts, and a time to better understand or learn what is bad. There is a time to be engaged in your tech devices and a time to escape them.
Emotional balance: This is one of the most difficult for some to achieve. It requires being able to feel deeply at some times and in some situations, but to be able equally to rest from all feeling. It does not at all require you to choose bad feelings some of the time; however, you must balance feeling good with learning better what your bad feelings are and dealing with them, rather than blocking or ignoring them. If you use artificial or technological means to feel good–such as drugs, artificial devices such as phones, television, or musical recordings–then you need to balance this with times when you live and act simply from and with your own body and within nature.
Again, these are not moral or ethical precepts required by some kind of rigid Authority. Instead, they are simply the way that billions of people over tens of thousands of years have discovered leads to a happier, more fulfilling, and more awakened life.
Physical balance: In the physical parts of life, balance is strongly needed to keep the body and its systems strong, flexible, and well maintained. Every part of the body needs exercise monthly in youth, weekly in middle age, and daily in old age or we lose muscle mass and tone. This, in turn, causes us to lose blood capacity, memory, and full cognitive and sensory awareness.
In individual or specific body parts and body experiences, balance is key to maintaining our entire organism. If one part of you fails or cannot be used on one side of the body–say, for example, the left arm muscles–then you should continue to exercise the other side–the right arm muscles–as usual: the body’s symmetry scientifically is such that exercise of the good side will cause the bad side to try to maintain similar strength and functions.
And if you are having trouble with a part of the body, proper balance in your body means you need to pay attention to the problem, rather than ignore it. This is true especially if the problem becomes worse or, over a period of time, does not get better. Paying attention means trying to cure it and to see experts who can help you.
Sexual balance: Balance in sexuality means a wide variety of approaches that may vary dramatically for different people. Sexual expression by oneself, alone, according to science, tends to deliver many physical benefits. In relationships with others, safety, security, and respect are, at the least, required, and for many, closeness and love also are needed. Frequency varies dramatically: for some, once a day is barely enough; for others, once a month feels right.
However, again, some kind of sexual expression on a regular basis tends to be physically healthier than little or none at all. Sexuality also can be part of meditative practice: see “Sex and Meditation.”
Balance in the use of food, drugs, chemicals, drinks, and potions: Balance in the use of these is very important for continuing physical health. Fasting should be carefully limited and balanced with eating well. Extreme diets should be avoided or limited by longer periods of balanced eating. You should learn what the general standards are for a fully complete, healthy diet, and then gradually learn your own specific needs for more of some foods and less of others.
The use of chemicals–supplements and drugs–can be very helpful in reaching certain mental or emotional states, diminishing pain, or creating happier states. On the other hand, the body itself is in many cases a remarkable organism that often can heal itself. For example, sometimes headache drugs are very helpful, but sometimes the use of them may prevent you from learning to heal yourself of headaches by learning to relax more, or by learning to avoid certain foods or stressful activities that cause your headaches.
For reasons such as these, it can be a good idea for you–or your doctor or therapist–to answer questions such as the following regarding artificial chemicals or drugs:
Does the chemical create significantly more balance in your body, mind, and life?
How necessary is it?
Are you, or will you become, physically or psychologically addicted?
Would your body or mind be better able to heal itself if the chemicals were not covering up pain or otherwise masking your symptoms?
For chemicals that the body can make itself or substantially receive from foods, are you able to stop your use of the chemicals at least once per week so the body can maintain its ability to continue making them?
Are there natural foods or drinks that could sufficiently replace your supplements or drugs?
Are there significant activities, allergies, people, or other stressors in your life that, once gone, would enable you to stop using a chemical?
Balance in meditation, yoga, and other inner practices and studies: Even in practicing these, balance is needed. It generally is not good, for example, to sit in meditation for hours in an uncomfortable position with no liquid, a full bladder, a headache, and a big problem at work or home that keeps distracting you. Go eat. Go drink. Use the bathroom. Work on a few solutions to your problem. Then return to meditating. Similarly, yoga or any other type of physical or spiritual practice that causes more disturbance rather than more balance and peace is a step backward. Try a variety of methods, take your time, and be kind to yourself.
In addition, one should not try to immediately change all of one’s life from one day to the next. Mental, emotional, physical growth–and especially growth in meditation–take time. They are like trying new ways of eating for health: try one food one day, another food the next, and discover what you like and what works for you, rather than enforcing a rigid and foreign discipline upon yourself.
Balance means helping yourself in gradual ways, experimenting here and there. And it means keeping what seems to be working and letting go of what is not.
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Most recent content revision 21 July 2018
Text © 2017-2020 by Richard Jewell
Images © 1994-2018 by Gabriel R. Jewell
First edition: 1 Sept. 2018. Second edition: 1 Sept. 2019. Free Use Policy
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