Yesterday was the Autumn Equinox here in the Northern Hemisphere, so I’ve been thinking a lot about balance.
I think balance doesn’t mean what most people think it means.
The equinox is not about balance. The word Equinox means “equal night,” because the hours of daylight and darkness are of equal length. Often the idea of equal or evenness and balance are considered to be the same thing. The thing is, they’re not.
Balance is not about being even or equal or perfect.
Balance is about something else entirely.
We tend to see balance as an achievable thing.
In yoga, often a goal for new students is to be able to balance in tree pose. The idea being that if you can hold the pose without falling over or without letting your lifted foot touch the ground, that you’ve achieved balance.
But that’s not really balance.
Balance is the eternal wobble. It’s not static.
Balance is being in flow.
In tree pose that means that your body might sway from side to side. You’ll feel a ripple of movement across the top and bottom of the foot you’re standing on. Your lifted leg might slide down and tap the floor.
This means there’s no clear goal; just constant movement.
Which obviously frustrates those of us that want something solid and simple to reach for.
In life, balance is just as fluid and way more complex.
Life is full of peaks and valleys.
Some days, it’s lots of valleys.
Miles and miles and miles of valleys stretching out as far as your eyes can see.
Other days, you’re leaping from mountain top to mountain top. You’re high up in the clouds. The earth feels light years away.
And sometimes it all happens in a single day.
Most of my days are like this, actually.
I tend to see only the valleys.
That’s normal. Most of us only see the valleys. The difficult, frustrating, hard, painful stuff usually obscures the easy, good, joyful stuff, even when there’s less of it.
When I look back to yesterday, I see the valleys first.
I remember yelling at both of my big kids, even though I was trying to stay calm.
Nothing I do feels good, even my short yoga practice.
When I scroll through instagram, I get annoyed that a teacher I admire/hate has people lining up to study with her even though she’s been teaching for 3 years to my 15. And she’s 2 years younger than me.
I pick fights with my husband for no legit reason. Mostly because I already feel like shit and want to feel even more like shit.
Spoiler alert: it works.
If I look at all of this, it seems like life pretty much sucks. Worst day ever.
The thing is, there were some peaks, too.
I got outside and helped my kids make an obstacle course out of random stuff in our garage. Then I did the course which was fun.
I climbed the tree in our front yard for the first time in a year — I’d forgotten how much I’d missed that.
We went for a walk and it felt wonderful outside. All 3 of my kids holding hands.
We ate delicious food at dinner and my kids didn’t complain. Not even once. Plus, they finished all of their food.
And at night, my youngest fell asleep early (hooray) so I got to read to both of my big kids. I did silly voices and whipped around my hair like an 80’s music video star. My son fell asleep curled up against me, with his hand wrapped around my arm.
So no, it wasn’t a perfect day. It was hard and wonderful and exhausting and sweet all at the same time.
So actually, it was a pretty normal day.
Because even the best days are full of peaks and valleys.
That’s life. And also yoga. Because they’re the same, really.
Balance is being in flow.
I’m probably going to need to get that tattooed on my arm somewhere, so I don’t forget it.
More importantly, I think we all need to stop romanticizing balance. Our idea of what balance is and what balance *actually* is are different things.
And personally, I prefer the real balance.
Not the one we’ve made up to torture ourselves with.
If you’re looking for a yoga practice to help you feel the flow, check out one of my latest. Don’t let the title scare you, it’s a ton of fun. Promise.