You know one thing that gets me sometimes? It’s the number of blogs out there with a 1, 2, 3 step list to [insert achievement]. It could be how to achieve happiness, success, money, etc… As soon as someone promises me that I’ll discover the secret in 3 simple steps, I gently close the browser tab.
This simple-step approach couldn’t be further from the truth for developing wellbeing. In my experience of working with myself and many course participants, there is no one silver bullet, no one method, no one book and least of all, no one article that can unlock the secret to emotional wellbeing.
And the same goes for inner balance.
What I do hope from this article (and all of my blogs) is that you may be inspired to learn something and learn more; to then follow your own path with inner balance, piecing together the things that support you along the way.
So, what does ancient philosophy tell us about balance?
The closest word or subject to inner balance from a historical context of the world’s ancient philosophies and religions is ‘equanimity’. This is a state of psychological stability, which is undisturbed by experience of, or exposure to, emotions, pain, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind.
Another way of explaining equanimity is ‘standing in the middle’– we can be surrounded by turmoil but remain centred. This inner balance comes from emotional strength or stability. Indeed, Buddhist philosophy talks a lot about the middle way, a place where extremes are rejected. This is close to Aristotle’s concept of the “golden mean” whereby “every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice.”
All sounds pretty impressive, you might say.
So, how do we go about all of this?
It’s interesting that the physical definition of balance is ‘an even distribution of weight enabling someone or something to remain upright and steady’ (Oxford English Dictionary) can be so applicable to our inner world. Perhaps we might call it an even-handed-ness or level-weighted approach to our experience – not indulging in the extremes of our emotions.
The power of observation
So, if we’re not indulging in our thoughts and feelings, what are we doing? Well, this is a path of observation, of noticing. It’s stopping and saying to yourself ‘what is going on right now?’ – noticing thoughts and feelings and dropping into the body to see what’s going on here – not to judge our experience but to allow it to be just the way it is, to offer a friendly curiosity to our experience.
With some of these Mindfulness themes, it can be easy to feel inadequate and stories may run through your mind such as ‘how do I cultivate inner balance when I feel tired, strung out or imbalanced?’ or ‘all of this sounds beyond my capacity’.
In this instance, it’s about coming back to where you are in that very moment – of tuning in as described above. Allow yourself then to focus on the breath for a few moments, allowing a pause. You can use our Pressing Pause guidance if it helps you.
Equanimity or inner balance doesn’t mean that we don’t experience difficulty, pain or discomfort. It’s more that there is an allowance of it to be there. This is not a resigned acceptance but an acknowledgement. This creates a new relationship with our experience which, when cultivated over time, is powerful.
‘Equanimity is the freedom or balance we experience when we’re not grasping after anything and when we’re not pushing anything away’ ~ Tara Brach
Where does all this get me?
It’s very common that people apply the same kind of ‘striving’ and achievement approach to meditation and Mindfulness as they do to other aspects of their life. That inspired me to write from striving for happiness to radical acceptance.
Perhaps the conundrum with Mindfulness is that striving to ‘achieve’ something with the practice will get you nowhere. In fact, it’ll only tie you in knots. Instead, the opportunity lies in practising ‘being with’ our experience – being in those moments when we’re just simply being – no tinkering, no adjusting – just being, whatever that feels like.
I may not be able to tell you the 1,2,3 steps to inner balance (I don’t think anyone can) but what I can tell you is that there are fruits to your labour if you commit to these practices.
Be sure to let go of the outcome (as best you can) and explore and experience the middle way for yourself.