Thursday, June 19, 2008

Balance and Moderation

I have realized the importance in finding balance in things. My father always gave me the advice “moderation is the key, everything in moderation” and when my more ornery side would protest, he amended this to “moderation is the key, everything in moderation, even moderation.” He is wiser than I give him credit for (or maybe I'm giving him credit, now). In this sense moderation is not just avoiding radical positions; it is finding balance in things.

This theme recurs through a lot of cultures. Beginning in Taoism, and extending to other traditions) the concept of yin and yang refer to the polar effects of phenomena. Yin and yang are complementary and form the entire phenomenon together.

Many cultures and new age movements describe the need for balance between mind, body, and spirit, describing them as a tripod that can only be stable and reach its fullest height when all parts of the tripod are developed. The first time that I learned about this was in my 6th grade health glass, where they were described as a 3-legged stool. If all of the legs were not the same length, a glass of water set on the seat of the stool would slide off. It is crucial to balance the stool to achieve stability.

I have come to think of there being mental, physical, and emotional sides to be developed on the outside, and the spiritual aspect on the inside, or perhaps arranged as a tetrahedron with the spiritual on top, or inverted with the spiritual side supporting the other 3. Either way, through the day-to-day stresses of life, or the desire to focus, we are drawn outside of our true inner natures, and tend to focus on one or more of the outside traits. For instance, someone may completely develop in the physical form – either through extensive working out, development of cosmetic beauty, worry about structural deformities, or even taking on diets specific to shape what the body is comprised of. This is all fractal in nature, which we see as we break it down further. There is even balance to be attained in the physical aspect where diet, fitness, appearance, etc. should reach equilibrium in order to maximize physicality. And even things such as fitness can balance between endurance, flexibility, strength, stamina, etc. However you slice it, it continues to break down to more and more areas to balance.

When you expand all of this, in every dimension, you may be overwhelmed. Wow, there are so many things to focus on, to try to balance. This is the obvious mistake that the mind wants to make. Looking within, through meditation / prayer / contemplation (labels get in the way), the spirit guides to a more satisfying truth. These aspects all work and develop together. If we let our spirits guide us, they will naturally lead us to find balance. And in balance lie grace, elegance, beauty, and truth. Things need not be isolated, and building them all individually misses the key points of integration in life.

Realizing this, and relying on my soul to lead me, has recently led me to some changes in my life. These have been wonderful to me, making me feel completely free in time, at peace with myself and the world, and loving toward others. My materialism and vanity have begun to melt away. My habits have changed. My diet no longer contains meats and alcohol, my body just doesn’t want them anymore, I don’t crave them, and I find myself feeling better without them. Though, even this is balanced, and there’s no resolution to not eat meat or drink alcohol… that would be missing the point, and sometimes my body does choose them. In this state of peace, I have noticed that I feel free of obligations and feel like I have lots of free time, though I can also take stock and realize that I do even more than before… though I’m just as content to sit along and do and think nothing. Recently, I have begun to practice taiqi (aka tai chi or taiji) and qi gong (very related to taiqi), arts that focus on balancing and developing these connections. Even just a little experience and research in this provides a wealth of learnings, and I expect that it will be the topic of much writing.

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