What matters most in life? If you had just a few days to live, how would you spend them? If you had one phone call you could make before your life ended, who would you call and what would you say? If you had two minutes to gather what would fit in a small carry-on bag before fleeing your burning home, what would you pack?
During moments of crisis, or even just imagining a crisis, you often come to a crystal clear realization that you wouldn’t miss your finest possessions, or your hardest won financial security for a second if faced with death. You realize that what really matters are the human moments of care and connection. The most amazing thing about these crisis moments is that you realize how full your life already is. You realize that you have been taking your abundance for granted. You have been starving in the midst of plenty, drowning in the calmest ocean of love.
Try this experiment, or at least think of it as a visualization. Take a large and empty jar and fill it with tennis balls. Is the jar full? It appears to be full but its not. Pour some pebbles into the jar. After shaking the jar, the pebbles roll into the open spaces between the tennis balls. Is the jar full now? It seems to be but it still isn’t full. Pour sand into the jar. The sand moves into the empty spaces between the balls and the pebbles. Is the jar full? Still not. Lastly, pour some liquid into the jar. The liquid spreads around the jar, moving into the empty spaces between the balls, pebbles and grains of sand. Now the jar is finally full.
Your life is full of something, so make sure its things you can be proud of and people who make your heart sing. The things that matter most to you are the tennis balls; your family, your inner peace, your friends, your creative freedom, your health. If there was nothing else in the jar but these things, your life would be abundant and joyful. The things that are important but not essential are like pebbles. Maybe the pebbles include your job, your house or your changing beliefs. They move around more easily than tennis balls and may be important at certain times more than others. The sand is the really small stuff; the distractions, the petty grievances that claw away at your inner peace, the anxieties about things that may or may not be problems. Like sand in your mouth, the petty things aggravate you and get in the way of your appreciation of the truly important things.
If you put the sand in the jar first, then there’s no room for the tennis balls. It’s the same in life. If you fill your life with things, jobs and petty grievances, you have no room in life for what matters most. Life is short and precious. Allocate your time according to what matters most. The rest of life is sand. And make sure you pause often to appreciate the incredible fullness of life that is already yours.
If your life feels out of balance, set about correcting the imbalance.The beautifully reassuring thing is that the human body is built to restore balance. I love the fact that our balance center is in the inner ear because it suggests that we have inner wisdom if we are able to “hear” it. In other words, you have within you the wisdom to know how to restore balance in your life.
What is your current challenge with balance? Maybe it’s the balance between work and play. Maybe it’s the balance between justice and forgiveness. Maybe it’s the balance between self worth and humility. Maybe it’s the balance of your own needs and the needs of others. Maybe it’s the balance between changing what you can change, and accepting what you cannot change for now. Maybe it’s the balance between striving and just being.
The wisdom of balance is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other, and you can change from one moment to the next. Some problems are not meant to be solved, just managed. Even the tennis balls sometimes need to be juggled. Imagine yourself juggling a number of balls; work, family, health, friends, economic crises, global suffering and your own needs– and you’re keeping all of them in the air. If you drop some of them, they just bounce back. But sometimes the balls are more like glass. If you drop them, they may be damaged, or even shattered. They may never be the same. Take greater care with these.
Strive for balance in your life. Know what is most important, what is negotiable and when action is important. At your core you have a balance that is neither rubber nor glass. It is not rubber because it doesn’t bounce around with circumstances, and it’s not glass because it can never be broken. It’s more like water which can be both gentle and yielding and tough and corrosive depending on the circumstance. It knows what to do and when to act. It is the source of your deep seated inner wisdom. Think once again about the jar analogy. The water is the source of your life and it fills everything else with meaning and gives all your relationships and plans a higher purpose.
When you feel out of balance, listen to the voice of your inner wisdom whispering truths about balance and inner capacity. When despair grows in you and you feel overwhelmed by the burdens of life, feel the reassurance of your own balanced spirit. When confusion reigns and tragedy strikes the world, may the earth and all of its people be restored to balance.