Charles Hogg explores the trick of maintaining a balance in life
incidents in childhood leave deep impressions. I have a deep memory of
a television programme showing a tightrope walker crossing Niagara
Falls. I was fascinated as he carefully placed one foot after another
in a state of total concentration. Sometimes he stopped to re-balance
and reassess his position. Only one slip or slight imbalance and he
could have fallen hundreds of metres into the turbulent white waters
below. It was breathtaking.
Some of us feel life is similar.
Finding our inner balance while living amongst many extremes, like the
tightrope walker, can be precarious. It can create extraordinary
tension. We live in a world of duality, and at every second we have to
make decisions about where we sit between so many extremes. Should I
tolerate the situation in silence or should I face it and express how I
really feel? Am I coming from a point of self-respect or am I just
being arrogant? Am I being selfish or am I just being sensible and
looking after my own needs? When should I let things be and when should
I push for what I want?
Taoist philosophy expresses these
dilemmas in the ancient Ying Yang symbol. At almost every second we are
faced with the duality of opposites. Unfortunately, there is no formula
for finding the right balance. Each situation requires a different mix
of seemingly diametrically opposed forces. Some situations require us
to be totally assertive and express how we feel. Other situations
require us to let go in favour of others’ needs and desires, and at
other times a mixture between the two. Every situation depends on our
ability to objectively view a situation and discern the middle path. In
my experience, the middle path means to find a point of silence from
which I observe all the tides of influences and opinion. From that
point I clearly see the path I need to take.
Most of us find
life a constant juggle in which we try to fulfil many different
responsibilities. Firstly, to our family and friends—most of us do feel
relationships to be the highest priority. Secondly, our
responsibilities in our chosen career. Thirdly, to our other interests,
whether they be community service, sport or just our own recreation.
Neglecting one can create stress.
The greatest stress does not
come from overwork, but from the worry that we are neglecting an area
of our life. It’s common knowledge that workaholics who may be
brilliant in their field often use work to escape areas of their life
they find difficult. Perhaps there’s conflict at home, or even a lack
of self-worth. Going to an extreme is usually a sign of covering up a
lack in another area. We seem to pursue the things we are good at, but
very cleverly create our life to avoid those things that challenge us
or we find difficult. A renowned public speaker once told me he had so
much confidence in front of a crowd, but when it came to one-to-one
communication he often felt totally inadequate, so he avoided it. The
I took up the practice of meditation when I
was just twenty-one years old. One of the wonderful benefits of
meditation I discovered was the art of objectively viewing myself, like
a member of an audience watching my own performance on stage. As I
watched myself I could see how hard I was trying to please others,
constantly compromising what I really wanted or needed. It was more
important to seek respect from others than from myself. The result ...
So, do I have a responsibility to myself, and
what is it? How many of us reach a point where the anxiety of juggling
our various responsibilities reaches an extreme. It’s often at this
point I reassess my priorities. An Australian social researcher, Hugh
Mackay, described the 1980’s as the “anxious 80’s”. He observed that
many people were opting for the “inner journey”; a total change of
attitude where one begins to look internally to resolve anxiety and
extremism. Blaming others and situations is the path of self-deception,
but taking responsibility for how I feel is my true path. I neither
resist the challenges that life brings me nor am I overwhelmed by them.
But how do we find our point of balance in each situation?
need to extract ourselves totally from the influence, opinions and even
past perceptions and take the ‘helicopter view’. From there we can view
the whole picture with clarity. Detachment has always been the mark of
great thinkers because it is only when we see the situation as a
detached observer can we perceive the real truth. Otherwise our
emotions, desires or attachments cloud our clarity. Detachment is so
necessary to find true balance, but to many of us it can tend to feel
clinical, or lacking in heart. That is why the first and foremost
balance is love and detachment.
Love is the greatest need.
Those who always express their love with a pure motive will always feel
full of love. But to be truly loving we need detachment. When we are
detached from others we are not irritated or affected by their actions,
so we can maintain our love. Our love isn’t conditional to others’
responses. We are not trading in the business of love which says, “If
you do this, only then will you receive my love ...”
we have to show total love and support but other times we have to stand
back and allow others to stand on their own feet. Here, our detachment
can be a form of respect, where they can do without us. Being loving
and detached is like a protection from different influences and
atmospheres, where others’ moods, inaccuracies and perceptions cannot
disturb our clarity.
The practice of meditation takes you into
the ‘helicopter view’ naturally. From there you can see the complete
picture and become a more balanced person. Some of the areas in which
you will find balance are:
Analysis and Acceptance
situations require clear analysis, but analysis does not end the
matter. The mind repeats events again and again and we try to maintain
our objectivity. But acceptance can clear subjective feelings and allow
us to get on with life. Acceptance does not mean denial or suppression
but a deeper wisdom that realises nothing more can be done. All we can
do is take the lesson from whatever has happened and progress into the
Humility and Authority
When we have
self-respect, our words and actions express humility. Some say they
admire humility, yet feel that humble people can become doormats. But
true humility is a point of gentle strength and authority. This is
self-authority, not an authority that imposes control over others. The
one with humility will speak with truth but their authority will not
hurt the hearts of others. Others will admire the dignity and
self-assurance of such a person. The balance of humility and
self-authority is the foundation of a great leader.
Satisfaction and Ambition
people are never satisfied. No matter how much they have, they want
more. It is a cancerous type of inner peacelessness that never allows
them to be quiet and enjoy the present. Others seem to have no
motivation to improve on any level. One of the gifts of meditation
practice is discovering a deep awareness of our spiritual self and our
relationship with God.
This cools down the ambition for
recognition, and creates a feeling of fullness and contentment.
However, even with this inner satisfaction, there can still be the
ambition to improve our own lives and to help others. But this is not
an ambition that seeks the approbation of others, but comes from a
point of genuine benevolence.
Charles Hogg is the Director of the Brahma Kumaris Raja Yoga Centres of Australia.