When the body is out of sorts, it’s a sure sign we are out of balance. If you add to that feeling depressed, unhappy, or cut off from active participation in the world’s work, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate the Mind/Body connection.
Truth is, balance is a moving target. If it were a fixed place to grab onto when I’m falling down, like a solid sofa-back, life wouldn’t be so uncertain. What’s more, I’ve noticed that I only hold on tight to things or ideas when I’m already off balance. When all’s well I let go and take balance for granted, available for whatever’s going on, rather than overwhelmed by it.
So let’s take a closer look at what creates balance. For one thing, a clear mind to see and even foresee what’s happening, as well as a body that’s tuned up and ready to engage either in action or repose. There’s also a sense of contentment when the heart participates, so, at that point, three worlds come together — mind, heart and body. I can be present here and now, protected by the knowledge that I am not alone (there is always help if I turn to it), and the recognition that I’ve been able to handle a helluva lot of stuff in the past.
But what’s difficult to accept is that, in fact, we’re always moving off balance. When we were four-footed creatures, down near the earth, we were steady on four feet, our thoughts alert for danger and centered on where the next meal was coming from. Now that we’re upright, sometimes tottering forward or reeling back, we are uncertain in body and stressed in mind about just where and how we are supposed to be. The solution may be to learn how to tack, like a sailboat in a gusting wind, so as not to be blown over. In any case, attention must be paid both to our vehicle and to outside circumstances.
So if your body or mind seems too foggy or, on the other hand, too over-vigilant, take it as a warning sign that stormy weather’s coming your way. Or maybe you’re just headed in the wrong direction, away from where the winds of your life want to take you. Let me share what I’ve found as a pretty foolproof solution when mind or body is off balance and I don’t know what to do or which way to go:
- Focus first on your feet on the ground as if they were rooted in the earth. Remind yourself that there are 26 bones in each foot, all seeking a right relationship with each other and the ground.
- Then, to add more balancing power, imagine a tripod at the bottom each foot, at the center of the heel, on the pad of the big toe and on the pad of the little toe.
- Next, remind yourself that the earth is coming up from below to support you so you can stop holding yourself up. Just let yourself go, tuning into the sensation of the flow of gravity down from your head, through the bones, and into the fee
- Oops! Could your ankles and knees be locked even as your feet release into the ground? Let them go. As you do so, you may notice a slight movement throughout, sometimes scary at first. But it’s a sign that your body/mind is free to move in any direction at an instant’s notice. Alexander Technique teachers call it the Standing Dance.
- As your thoughts focus on your feet and your physical tension releases downward, you may begin to perceive an equal and opposite flow of energy coming upward, perhaps from the center of each sole — Bubbling Spring in Tai Chi, and Kidney One in acupuncture. As your mind follows the movement of energy in both directions, down from the head through the bones, up from the earth toward the head, you’ll begin to have a sense of your whole three-dimensional Self, standing there between heaven and earth, like the Taoist ideal of True Man.
Mind and body are now united in one breathing human being and, at the center, your heart can rejoice in your own presence on this earth. As Jon Kabat-Zinn said, “In Asian languages, the word for ‘mind’ and the word for ‘heart’ are the same. So if you’re not hearing mindfulness in some deep way as heartfulness, you’re not really understanding it. You could think of mindfulness as wise and affectionate attention.”
Wise and affectionate attention. What better way to activate oneself when off balance?