People in Bali understand: in order to be happy you must always know where you are. Every moment. Right here is perfect balance. Right at meeting of Heaven and Earth. Not too much God, not too much selfish, otherwise, life too crazy. – Ketut in Eat Pray Love
I watched Eat, Pray, Love today – because I had some time – and sat up at the point where Ketut, a medicine man, drew a picture of a cross with a circle in the middle and said the words quoted above.
The camera moved on quickly.
Was there more to the picture?
The Internet doesn’t say, so I’ve added bits to the picture and perhaps they’ll make sense.
This idea of balance is interesting.
There isn’t a perfect place you reach, where all is good.
Instead, you’re constantly balancing everything.
You’re balancing your need to find meaning and purpose with your need to eat and house your family.
How many stories have you heard of people achieving staggering wealth and losing their families on the way?
After all, if you walk along looking down at your feet or up at the skies you’re far more likely to get run over than if you’re looking straight ahead.
So, we have heaven and earth on one axis. What about the other?
Perhaps it has to do with what’s inside and what’s outside.
Some people take good care of what’s on the outside – their looks, their bodies, their environment but have doubts and uncertainty inside.
Others are the opposite – they spend so much time thinking about what’s inside that they miss what is all around them.
So, the aim is to navigate back to the centre, to that place where we’re in balance.
And that’s easier said than done.
You can, however, approach the issue from the side – creep up on it without being noticed.
Take good habits in the kitchen, for example.
The French idea of mise-en-place is about having the right things so you can use them in the right order.
The Japanese have Kichiri – the art of having things exactly, perfectly straight – with everything set out either parallel or at right angles to everything else.
Or take your computer desktop – when you’ve got everything closed except what you’re working on aren’t you much calmer than when there are tens of windows trying to get your attention?
Stress, anxiety, worry – in many cases your body must be telling you that you’re out of balance.
You need to do more of something and less of something else.
There is an argument that you get to balance by taking the average of extremes.
Today you break your back pushing your body to extremes.
Tomorrow you take the day off and don’t bother getting out of bed.
And maybe that’s true – it’s simply two points on the chart rather than a circle in the middle.
I heard someone say “The devil’s in the defaults”, which appears in The Four-Dimensional Human: Ways of Being in the Digital World by Laurence Scott.
So I guess where one should start is by working out where your defaults are set right now.
Do you spend all your time focused on what to do next and what your boss wants?
Or do you think about what you want to do?
Are you so lost in ideas and possibilities that you want to do that you forget to take action?
Or are you enraptured by a movement or ideology to the point of zealotry?
It’s only when you know where you are and how far away you are from the centre that you can start to think about shifting your position.
And that takes awareness – awareness of yourself and what’s around you.
Something many of us are too busy to spend time on.