By Cyndi Myers
“Balance is a feeling derived from being whole and complete; it's a sense of harmony. It is essential to maintaining quality in life and work.” ~Joshua Osenga, 12 years a Cubicle Slave
What does it mean to “lean into wholeness”? How do we know if we’re out of balance? And, most importantly, how do we FIND balance in the midst of our busy lives?
At some point in history, probably with the advent of industrial development, our way of living drastically changed. Not only did the Industrial Revolution bring changes to the way we produced goods in the U.S., it also brought significant changes to the basic structures of society and the way we live our lives. No longer tied to the land we lived on, these changes provided new opportunities for work, travel and housing. And as many traded their agrarian way of life for city living, urban populations - and businesses - grew exponentially. And so began a much more rigorous and demanding lifestyle.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Everything seems to operate in the fast lane, with no real escape from the frenzy. Computers, cell phones and the Internet force us to be “on” from the moment we wake up to the moment our heads hit the pillow (oftentimes far too late). Until Covid, life seemed to be a never ending spiral of things to do; constant motion and continually adding more to our plates was the norm.
And then we all took pause. A forced pause, yes; but it seemed to me the Universe was sending all of humankind a message...SLOW DOWN!
Sadly, we’ve come to define our lives, our SELVES, by how many balls we can juggle all while putting in a 60-70-80-hour work week. No longer are we sitting down for a family meal each day, discussing the day’s events and chatting about things like what the silly dog did or what the kids are going to wear for school pictures. Those every-day topics are now left to quick texts, usually from another room in the same house. We no longer value human relations as they once were. We have become just a bunch of people living AROUND other people, rather than WITH other people. We over-schedule, over-promise and over-expect (yes, I made that up!).
What we DON’T do, in the midst of all the chaos, is regularly take pause, check in with ourselves. Whether we’re afraid to step away from the frenzy, feeling like we’ll “fall behind”, or we’ve shifted our priorities and put ourselves, our health, our wellbeing at the bottom of the long to-do list, many of us find - all of a sudden - we’re out of balance. We’ve lost control and can no longer find comfort and happiness. We’re stressed like never before and experiencing dis-ease at alarming rates. Our external chaos has turned into internal chaos and we’ve seemingly lost the ability to take pause on our own. We feel broken.
So, how can we shift this trajectory? By leaning in to our wholeness.
Deep down, we are always whole, even though at times we may not feel that way. But wholeness doesn’t mean flawless. I like to think of wholeness as a quilt...all the little pieces of ourselves - the good, the bad, the ugly - stitched together to create one complete being. Leaning into that wholeness means accepting ALL of the pieces. The only way a quilt can serve its purpose is by being whole. Recognizing that no one is perfect, and that your “flaws” or some of the less desirable pieces of your quilt provide opportunities for growth and change, can lead to a more balanced life. But how do you get past the discomfort of leaning in to all of the pieces, especially the ones you’ve worked so hard to avoid?
“It’s he or she who’s willing to be the most uncomfortable who can rise strong. Discomfort: the way home.” ~ Brene’ Brown
Practicing mindfulness is a great way to find balance. According to Mindful, “mindfulness is the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what's going on around us.” Most associate meditation with mindfulness, and that’s a great way to find presence and bring awareness to what your body and soul are experiencing. But I believe it’s important to understand that the act of meditating can happen anywhere and for any length of time.
When my three kids were younger and I was a stay-at-home/part-time working mom, I was often running myself ragged trying to make it all work. By the time I got to their school to pick them up, I was stressed, uptight and short with them and found little patience for their needs on top of my own. After a few life coaching sessions (where I confessed I was desperate to “learn” how to meditate and stop my monkey brain from running wild), I decided to start small. So, every afternoon when I pulled into the school parking lot, I paused. For just one minute. I closed my eyes (despite feeling like all the other parents walking past my car would think I was odd for what looked like me sleeping in the parking lot!), and let go of all that preceded that moment. Good or bad, I was free of it all for that one minute. And it didn’t take long for that one minute to become my daily bliss. I quickly noticed I was now smiling as I was walking toward school, slowing my hurried, stress-induced pace and enjoying my kids’ often frenetic release of their own day’s stressors. I found that when I was present in the moment and gave attention to the less desirable “pieces” of my day, I was able to let go of the parts that weren’t serving my highest good. I was becoming more tolerant of the challenging pieces and found that I was actually managing them in a way that took away their power over me.
5 more ways to lean in to your wholeness and find balance
Let go. Set down one of the balls you’re juggling, even if for just a moment. Recognizing that you don’t have to ALWAYS keep ALL of the balls in the air at once, and that life will continue to move along if you put one or two down momentarily, could be incredibly life-changing;
Create a mantra. Set an intention you’re hoping to manifest. Mantras can be incredibly useful in transcending the activity of your mind and allowing you to truly let go and be more present in the moment. For example, in my one minute meditations, I would often quietly repeat phrases, or intentions, such as “I am grateful for my abundant life” or “I am bliss” or “I am patient and compassionate”. Repeat your mantra over and over. In yoga, mala beads are used as you say your mantra 108 times. This helps focus your mind on the sounds, vibrations and meaning of what you’re saying, rather than your lengthy to-do list;
Take a tech break. Regularly. Put down your devices and take a walk, go for a hike, play a board game with a loved one or read a book. You’ll be amazed by how transformative that time is, and how you will begin to crave those moments;
Pamper yourself. Every so often set aside time just for you. Whether it’s a day at the spa or a bubble bath behind a locked door, spending time with yourself and taking care of YOU will do wonders for your mental health and your relationships with your family, friends and co-workers;
Embrace a healthy lifestyle. While many of us find it hard to incorporate self care into our busy lives, I’ve found that it’s a critical component to finding balance and happiness. Eating healthy, staying hydrated, moving your body and getting enough sleep...you’ve heard that a million times, right? Well, there’s a reason for that! Even in my darkest days during my 2+ years of leukemia treatment, I made sure I did some form of exercise and ate food that was clean and full of nutrition. I would walk the long hallways of the hospital during my month-long stays, or do squats and lunges and push ups in my hospital room. Even if I could only do 5 reps, it was SOMETHING, and it boosted my mental (and physical!) wellbeing tremendously. Furthermore, eating clean, whole foods fed my body the nutrients it needed to help process the chemicals that were bringing into balance the production of white AND red blood cells (leukemia is a blood cancer where your white cells overproduce and take over your red, oxygen-delivering cells).
These are just a few suggestions that serve as a reminder of some of the actions you can take to take control of your life. We can still accomplish all we want or need to accomplish if we give ourselves the tools to process and accept ALL of the pieces of our quilt. Think of these “tools” as the sewing machine that stitches the quilt together. When your sewing machine is broken, so is your quilt. YOU have the power to take control of your destiny. All it takes is finding the right tools to keep YOUR quilt together, and allowing yourself to bask in the perfectly imperfect you.