The Myth of Balance

Perfect balance: that elusive state of being, sought by disenfranchised human beings everywhere.

Everyone wants it. Few claim to have found it.

Maybe this is why: When you think about it, balance means an equal distribution of quantity among two or more separate things. We balance items on a scale.

Remember the old Indian story of the two friends who bought a hunk of cake in the marketplace? Excited about their purchase, they found a comfortable spot under the shade of an Ashok tree and attempted to split it.

But one piece was larger than the other, and the two friends began to bicker over who would get which.

A crafty monkey was in the tree overhead, and, overhearing their dispute, came down and offered to settle the matter.

The friends agreed.

“This piece is a little larger than the other,” the monkey conceded

(in Bengali, of course),

so he broke off a small piece to even them out and ate it. Unfortunately, now the piece from which he took was oh-so-slightly smaller than the other, and the friends were still unsatisfied.

So the monkey took a small piece from other chunk –just to even them out– but now it was, again, slightly smaller than the first.

On and on it went, the friends bickering and the monkey nibbling, until all of the cake was gone. Before the two friends realized they’d been duped, the monkey scampered off with a full belly and a broad smile.

To attempt to achieve perfect ‘balance’ in our lives –among, say, work, recreation, relationships, spiritual pursuits– means we’re looking at life as pieces of a cake and trying to make each the same size.

They’ll never be the same size.

Alternatively, yogic vision sees an integrated relationship among all of life’s pieces, with the common denominator being the ubiquitous energy of the Supreme.

Instead of frustrating oneself in a futile attempt at making two pieces of cake exaaaactly the same, an adept will simply see the common denominator that holds everything together.

And that will hold her, or him, together.

From day to day, and even from hour to hour, there will be different areas of our lives which need our attention. Chunks of the cake will be uneven. Such is life.

Perhaps a better way of thinking of balance, then, is not as equalizing disparate parts but as simply finding, and tending, the center. Surfers do this to stay on their boards. Migrating birds do this to fly in formation.

Heroes do this when they forget themselves.

I need to remind myself that it’s not balance, in and of itself, that I’m seeking but the agility to adapt, with balance being its natural byproduct.

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