State of Balance

I hear the term “work life balance” all the time these days. In academic and corporate wellness programs, at professional conferences of all kinds, on the mommy blogs, and even at the PTA. Yet none of these workshops or articles feels satisfying to me. The concept seems targeted to women pursuing success, as though we are the only ones responsible for righting balance in a world dominated by men and built on a work paradigm that stifles creativity, individuality, and femininity.

Don’t get me wrong, there are tons of organizations making efforts to do things differently and to “disrupt the status quo” of the employee experience, and I do think that’s great.

But still…

I am crying BULLSHIT on this as an individual goal. This is a societal goal.

It is not all up to ME to solve this problem of balance.
Our work and social paradigms need to change, too.
We need to rely on our colleagues and professional networks, our domestic partners and extended family, to contribute. Balance between livelihood and family is not achieved by one individual alone.

What IS my job is to know CLEARLY what I BELIEVE in,
To live my life in ALIGNMENT with my beliefs,
To set intention and live according to my OWN priorities,
And to TELL others what I need, when I need it.

For me, this has been the key to understanding BALANCE and living TOWARD it in my own life.

The balance is in my EXPERIENCE, it isn’t something I have to DO. And in my experience, I apply my own priorities, moment to moment, to guide my decisions. If I notice that I am weighing a decision based on what others expect of me, I must dig deep and respond to my own PRIORITY.

Of course, I want to take ACTION with integrity and respect. But the decision itself, from moment to moment, must come from my core VALUE, and not from the value of the system.

This can be really hard to do.

It can be hard to take action from within your OWN values and priorities, especially if you (a) aren’t clear on what they are, and (b) give your power away to the values of the SYSTEM within which you work.

For me, the first priority in life is to raise my son to be a strong, sensitive, resilient, and successful man. To do that, I need to be FULLY PRESENT when I am with him, and also to be PERSONALLY GROWING every day – which I do through my work.

In any given moment of CHOICE, I will seek to take the action that is most ALIGNED with this truth. Being a fully present mother does not diminish my dedication to my work; in fact, it enhances it. And being a kick-ass business woman does not diminish my ability to be a good mother; in fact, it enhances it. Realizing this has given me the GUTS to define SUCCESS for myself.

I think this is balance.
And I think balance is a state that allows for success.

What do YOU think?

What are the top priorities in your life that define your BALANCE?
What does SUCCESS mean for you?
How do you feel when your actions are not ALIGNED with your values?

The Space Between

My son and I love listening to MUSIC in the car, especially in the summer with the sunroof open! He likes to listen to those “music through the decades” channels on satellite radio to learn which year the songs came out.

As we were doing this today, I had a thought that often comes to me when I listen: No matter how you feel about our musical cannon, you still have to marvel at the TRUTH that there are INFINITE POSSIBLE COMBINATIONS and divisions of sound components, with new ones still being created every day.

And layered on top of that are the INFINITE UNIQUE APPROACHES and renderings of each writer, musician, producer, and performer, all of whom are completely UNIQUE INDIVIDUALS bringing something NEW to every performance and recording.

If this is true for the music you hear every day on the radio, then it can be true for EVERYTHING we humans do and create in our lives. And you don’t have to be an artist or a musician to have access to this principle.

Just take a moment to let that sink in.

There are INFINITE POSSIBILITIES available to YOU at ANY GIVEN MOMENT.

The SPACE where something NEW is formed begins with a CHOICE. You have the POWER to create ANYTHING out of nothing in every moment in your life, by making a CONSCIOUS CHOICE in the empty space –

The space between thought and action,
The space between impulse and sensation,
The space between nothing and SOMETHING.

This is possible because there are infinite versions of Universal Light in each individual being.

Only YOU can bring the particular combination of SPACE and MATTER that you are – and only your UNIQUE energy signature can create what you are CALLED to create inside that space.

Are you LISTENING for that CALLING within you?

It is there, waiting, in the spaces between.
Between now and later,
Between old pattern and new pattern,
Between waiting and doing,
Between FEAR and ACTION.

I know it is hard to see. I still practice every day to look for the SPACE, and not for the WALL. It must begin with STILLNESS. Because in order to make a new CHOICE, I have to NOTICE what I’m choosing now, habitually, but cannot see because I’ve been on auto-pilot.

If I can do it, you can too. 

Take a few minutes every day to just be STILL and WATCH your thoughts. Take some deep BREATHS and FEEL your body. Don’t ask yourself for any more than this at first. Just begin to LISTEN.

What you will eventually find in that space is the TRUTH of who you are: the only person who can be YOU.

I am 100% the cheerleader for THAT person. Because we need you and your special cosmic MUSIC. I need your #differentdifference as much as you need mine. Together we are part of the SYMPHONY, and we should be out recruiting other beautiful instruments to PLAY their BEST SONGS every day.

If we all lived this way, how would the world look? 
How would it FEEL? 

I want to know what you imagine. Because this is the place I am working to CREATE.

Got Compassion?

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Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling very magical this week.

After two weeks of travel, illness, and non-vacation “vacation” days, I have fallen into the trap of feeling sorry for myself.

Can you dig?

It’s in these moments that I get stuck in the flypaper of negative thinking. Focusing on everything that isn’t the way I want it to be. Everything I think I need to “FIX.”

The flypaper gives me the ILLUSION I’m in control, because I can get angry at everything and everyone, including me, and wave my tiny fists in the air and make a lot of noise.

But in the end, this really only leaves me feeling POWERLESS.

Powerless to CHANGE,
Powerless to GROW,
Powerless to feel JOY,
Powerless to CONNECT.

For me, the only way OUT of this situation is IN.

Even as I type this, I stop for a moment, close my eyes, take a few breaths in and out, and GET STILL.

Here’s what I feel right now, in the stillness:

My feet on the floor, butt in the chair…
Congestion in my chest, tightness in my shoulders…
A slight headache knocking at the door to my temples.
My son is playing a Weird Al Yankovic song while watching the World Cup on TV and getting cracker crumbs all over the couch.

I feel annoyance rising like a warm fire from my solar plexus.

As I breathe, I can see there is A LOT going on for me right now that I’m struggling to hold. It’s not just the crumbs.

My work is going very well, and may well be about to explode into some very big, exciting projects, which is awesome but also overwhelming. My son is home for the summer with tons of different camps and activities we need to coordinate, making me feel stretched. My mother is visiting, and I can see that she isn’t well, and that saddens and frightens me. And my husband is healing from a challenging illness himself, so the BALANCE of the family is kind of “off.”

But, I also realize that I am SAFE in this moment. I tell myself this, literally, out loud: “I am not in danger right now. I am sitting in my chair, typing an email.”

…and that’s pretty much it. All those FEELINGS are interpretations I put ONTO what’s actually happening.

[Deep breath in and out. Feel my body in this chair.]

There’s a lot going on in this moment, and it’s no wonder I’m feeling like a trapped fly!

But, guys — it’s only in the STILLNESS that I’m able to SEE that I have CHOICE right now. 

I can choose the accessible responses of anger, frustration, or SELF-JUDGMENT: “I can’t get anything done and I feel like crap, I should just give up right now, drink wine, and go to bed.”

Or I can choose COMPASSION: “All that I’m feeling in this moment is fear. Fear of not being able to handle all that’s in front of me. These feelings are my body’s alarm bells warning me of ‘danger.’”

And knowing this, I can talk to my body (and my ego) — not to make the feelings go away, but to EMBRACE them as a natural part of being human.This is my body protecting me from a sensation it has tagged as dangerous in my life: “If I can’t handle it all, I will fail; and if I fail, I will be rejected.” Whether or not this is TRUE is irrelevant to the body. Its sole purpose is to keep me alive at all costs.

Knowing this, I can lean into my higher mind, my prefrontal cortex, my spiritual core, and offer my body some GRATITUDE and COMPASSION. I can speak to her like the little girl she was when she programmed these patterns.

“Thank you for all that you’ve done to get me in this life.
I cannotlive here on Earth without you. 

I understand how you feel, and I feel it too.
But we are safe right now, and we’re going to make the choice to explore, not to suffer.
I’ve got this now. I am safe.
This moment is heavy, and full of many emotions.
But I am not in danger. I will not die.
I can feelsadness, and frustration, and worry,

and I can also feel joy, and excitement, and freedom.
This is life.”

I choose CURIOSITY about my inner world over FEAR of it.
I choose to make friends with my SHADOWS, in order to bring it to the LIGHT.
I understand that I am NOT powerless. I simply AM.
That’s the place to start.

In every moment, this is the place to start.
Get STILL.
Get CURIOUS.
Get COMPASSIONATE.

Do try this at home! Let me know what you discover. I would love to hear your experience, too.