One of my favorite books for the longest time was Robert Fulghum’s book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. In it, there was a list of important life lessons he learned in kindergarten. Number 11 “Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.”
When one was in kindergarten, it seemed easy for most people I know to lead a balanced life. We went to kindergarten, learned and thought about things like the alphabet and big and little letters. We would spend time in school and after school, playing and creating games or stories with our friends or by ourselves. When we were not in school or playing, we had chores we were supposed to do, like making our bed or some other extremely difficult thing to do, well at least when you were five it was such hard work.
It seems that all too many people I have met lately have lost that sense of balance in their lives. See when your life is in balance, you can go with the flow and cope with the challenges that come your way. When your life is in balance you live while dealing with crises; you are not living in crises. When your life is in balance, you can wake up singing and being happy just because you woke up and can sing and be happy. When your life is in balance, you are not thinking about what is wrong with you, but loving who you are at any moment.
Living in our world, it might seem like living a balanced life is a contradiction in terms. In some respects, living a balanced life might actually be counter-cultural, however, if going with the current cultural flow is not working, then going in a different direction might be exactly what the doctor ordered.
I am not trying to say that balanced living is easy; it is not. It takes work and discipline. I am also not trying to say, it is a panacea. You are still going to face challenges in your life; I do everyday. The difference is that it is easier to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to know that the best is yet to come, and that this too shall pass when your life is in balance.
Perhaps the most important aspect of maintaining balance in one’s life is that it requires some discipline. It is like being on a seesaw, if you move in one direction, but not in the other, your life will remain out of balance. If you have lived your life out of balance for a while, it might help to have a picture of one of those weighted scales to remind you of what balance looks like.
One of the things I learned about living a balanced life came from my studies of awareness and mindfulness. As I read once, “the two most dangerous days are yesterday and tomorrow.” The more time we are spending in one of these two psychological spaces, the less time we are spending in the present and the more gifts from the Infinite we are missing out on experiencing. Each moment of each day is a gift from the Creator. When we are thinking about what was or what might be, we are missing what is. You are not who you were yesterday, nor who you will be tomorrow. You are who you are right now. On one of my favorite reality shows, What Not to Wear they always tell women dress for the body you have now, not what it was or what it might be, but what it is now. Celebrate each moment for what it is. It is what it is, nothing more and nothing less.
It is not just about celebrating the moment, but celebrating the gift of your body through which Spirit move. When your body is not in balance, it can affect every aspect of your life. Keeping balance in one’s physical health is also a discipline; one which involves being mindful about what one eats, when, and how often. It is about being intentional about exercising to the extent one is able, being intentional about being active in what is becoming an increasingly sedentary world, being intentional about ensuring one maintains, what a friend of mine calls, proper sleep hygiene. Finally, it is important to be aware that every once in a while we should do something special for our bodies (i.e. a massage, bubble bath, long massaging shower, sleeping in, or some other form of pampering).
The quality you use to decide how you are going to pamper yourself may require some creativity. Creativity is an important quality in maintaining balance in one’s life. Creativity is not just about being a writer, artist, musician, or practicing some vocation, which obviously pulls on one’s creative energies, but about the ability to see life as an opportunity for growth and development. It is that internal creativity, which allows a person to see something as torturing them or as something positive, which will take their life on an amazing, journey. For example, I was recently told I needed to teach a hybrid course in the spring semester. This is something I have never done. I could view this with disdain as it requires me to break out of my comfort zone, or I can see it as an opportunity to get creative and expand my pedagogical skills.
Getting to this space is not always easy. Sometimes we have to be patient with ourselves. In Alan Lokos’ book on Patience he shares a quote from a friend of his who said, “Just about every mistake I have ever made and every unkind word I have ever spoken could have been avoided if I had been more patient.” We are able to avoid the mistakes that lead to imbalance in our lives when we develop patience in our lives. Doing so is not especially difficult. It just requires discipline and mindfulness. Simple acts such as prayer, meditation, and other disciplines can help one become more patient with one’s self and others.
Sometimes achieving balance in one’s life can seem incredibly difficult and challenging. However, it does not have to be. Achieving balance is about avoiding the extremes and keeping it simple sweetie (KISS). You might look at what things tend to throw your life out of balance and work on reducing them. You might want to simplify or rearranging your work schedule so you are focusing on one thing at a time. Multi-tasking truly is overrated. Simplify your relationship circle focusing on a smaller group of people you truly care about and which energize you and reducing or eliminating those that zap you of your energy and create imbalance in your life. Simplify your life by moving away from anything which is a time waster or energy zapper in your life and replacing it with activities which are life giving and productive. So perhaps you give up an hour of online gaming for an hour of reading, writing, walking, or enjoying the beauty of the outdoors.
At the end of the day, it all comes back to the quote from Fulghum’s book -- “Live a balanced life – learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.” Keep it simple, but be intentional each day about maintaining the balance.
 Allan Lokos, Patience: The Art of Peaceful Living, (New York, Penguin Press, 2012), 2.