Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Balance 2: Transformational Balance
Copyright Lance Kinseth, 2012
IN BODYMIND PRACTICES, improving balance can come to reference literal physical balance. And so studies of health benefits of practices such as tai chi and yoga report gains in physical balance that prevents falls and offers better mobility. And yet, this sense of balance is facile, missing the heart of balance.
There are, for example, yoga practitioners who can assume amazing feats of physical balance, and yet, may be quite imbalanced in terms of relatively high anxiety levels and/or limited skills and interest in calming and quieting.
Bodymind practices that concentrate on providing an “antidote” to hectic everyday life are likely to be far more beneficial, both physiologically and psycho-spiritually, than gains in physical balance.
When you cross a threshold into a space where gentle bodymind practices are occurring, there can be a major, dramatic shift from the fast pace of the everyday that offers an important sense of balance.
And yet, such an “antidote” tends to be rare. When balance in the everyday is pursued, popular efforts tend to be a “physical workout.” “Working out” may be broadly touted as countering the stress or imbalance one experiences in everyday life. And often, “working out” stresses physical intensity to exorcise frustration and stress. And the generic report is that one feels better, but somewhat paradoxically, post-workout from an endorphin rush, and one can retreat home and rest.
There is physiological evidence that vigorous exercise produces body chemistry changes that are associated with stress reduction and mood elevation. And yet, is not “working out” somewhat akin to stress producing “working.” We become our words. One begins to presume that stress-reduction is, paradoxically, shorter bursts of stress to overcome the dastardly effect of long runs of stress. Slowing down and quieting and calming may become anxiety provoking, and endured for perhaps minutes only. Why? Because one seems to be doing nothing, and how can nothing be good.
Intensively working out—especially finishing the workout—may be somewhat akin to coming down from the highs of summating a mountain. Too fast, one is quickly back in the everyday, with no transformation to a more regular state of emotional balance. The antidote for work is a workout.
At some point, a bell sound might be heard. It might be the clack of a stone on the cobbles. It might be weariness in facing the start of another “workout.” There might be a moment where “release” comes from doing next to nothing. And this release is, somehow, balancing. And this “doing nothing” is more complex than heretofore imagined. One might begin to feel like a rat on a treadmill, chasing survival. But now, there is something qualitatively different. It is not about survival. It is about thriving and optimizing, and repeating the same behavior might be sensed to be circling on the exercise wheel.
Life is change. Open. Graced. And this is health—open, graced. Suddenly, there is a sense of permission to still, and calm. And nothing stops dead. Rather, the streaming of the universe may be touched.
One surrenders, takes refuge, and is bolstered up by everything. Not needing to be in charge, but rather, following, freeing rather than controlling.
One bobs in a vast ocean of support rather than is alone. Each breath is fresh and overfull of oxygen. In tadasana [mountain pose], Rodney Yee [Yoga: The Poetry Of The Body, p. 57] writes of offering ( likely costly piece of a yoga workshop with him) permission to lean this way and that—“falling and recovering”--as an aspect of experiencing the asana—“bobbing” as I might say, being held up by the whole ocean of existence and being. Each step and each step is, in Zen practice, a fall off a cliff, never hitting bottom, due to life being a constancy of change.
And so bobbing, not really touching bottom, is the swim of authentic balance. And it requires stilling and calming to perceive the way to fall and recover. Tomorrow, an ache on awakening, snowfall perhaps or oppressive heat, the call of bird, sun shadows painting the wall, a new sound and then another, respiration and elimination and digestion, the turn of a planet and the flight the sun, unending—all wondrous and magical and, in our sway with it, transformational balance.