Equilibrium and Balance

No.10, July 3, 2016

Equilibrium and balance: how do we get there?

Musings on wellness from Donna Simmons, Feldenkrais ® Practitioner

The words equilibrium and balance are often conflated to mean the same thing. A typical definition for equilibrium includes the word balance…

However, for this discussion at least, equilibrium may be defined as a state in which opposing forces or influences are equal, thus leading to stasis (lack of movement). A rock sitting on the ground is in equilibrium, the weight of the rock (a function of the gravitational pull of the earth) exactly countered by the resistance of the ground on which it sits. Were this not the case it would be in motion(1).
Balance, on the other hand, is often thought of as a condition that involves motion. A high-wire artist performing a balancing act is constantly in motion. The myriad complex adjustments required to maintain a position on the wire orchestrated and executed without conscious intention but in autonomous response to changes in the relative position of the performer and the wire as well as wind currents, changes in the wire tension, etc., reflect the marvelous capacity of the human brain.
The balancing act that we perform every day follows the same pattern, and when executed correctly, results in a sense of peace and calm, a state where there is a harmony of actions, providing the ability to stay on course while making adjustments to prevailing winds. Thus balance can be viewed as a fluid state.
How do we navigate all that life throws in our path without getting stuck (stasis) or losing our balance? In my work I see many examples of the consequences of a lack of balance as expressed in living, responding, reacting, at one extreme or the other, often unconsciously.
In particular, I have been struck by the tendency to either engage in exercise at a high level of intensity regardless of the demand that it places on our body, or to simply ignore our need (biological and mental) for physical activity and to feel guilty about the lack of exercise (a form of stasis in its own right).
The old discredited slogan “no pain no gain” seems to have lodged itself deep into the American psyche. As a consequence, we are likely to feel that unless we can sit in meditation pose (e.g. Lotus position) for extended periods without succumbing to the discomfort in our back and the numbness in our feet that we are somehow not successful.
We forget the importance of our attitude as we try to be conscious and aware (which is the whole point of the exercise, no?) and come away with a lingering sense of disappointment (a sure sign of imbalance). We give in to the judgmental, critical inner voice mostly with the tone of shaming and rarely in the tone of satisfaction. We create schedules filled with things to do in a particular order and without any room for spontaneity or allowance for rest. And when we fail to meet this self-imposed schedule we tend to increase our stress for having failed.
Where is the balance between work and play, effort and release? How can we achieve a sense of balance without reverting to stasis?
  • First, by letting go of the idea that somehow we have to be a particular way all of the time. (Releasing ourselves from our persona, the one we create or the one that others create for us, is a big deal.)
  • Second, by allowing for small changes in response to the demands of our life’s environment, and by not creating stringent limitations on our time, on our body.
  • Third, by creating the space and time for the movement of stillness, becoming aware of our attitude, by practicing our balancing act with compassion and kindness, and by learning to recognize the extremes and exploring all that there is in between.
  • Fourth, by checking in with all of our senses, not only within ourselves but also in our relationship to others.
And finally, give yourselves permission to be less than perfect; allow for flexibility in your mind as well as in your physical organization. Practice mindfulness with an attitude of openness, curiosity and kindness. I am quite certain that these simple (but by no means easy) steps can help take you to a place that feels safe and balanced without constraints and stasis.
Namaste, Donna

1. We shall leave out, with your forbearance, considerations of relative motion ala Einstein et al.

Donna Simmons

Donna Simmons graduated in 1993 from Berkeley Movement Studies Institute Guild Certified Feldenkrais Professional Training, in San Rafael California, and is a Guild Certified Assistant Trainer. She also holds a JFK Graduate School of Holistic Studies degree from the Department of Holistic Health.

Working with Donna you can learn new ways to move as an essential addition to the treatment of neurological, orthopaedic, chronic pain, and stress-related conditions.