I’m imagining that as he stepped down off the curb, his foot struck some ice and he was thrown off balance, unable to recover. By the time I neared him, only seconds later, he had gotten to his feet, and with his body no doubt bruised along with his dignity, was already across the street. The sight of him falling stayed with me all day, and in my mind, I still see him going down. It happened so quickly; it would have almost been impossible for him to stay upright.
In the middle of this week, after a delay due to the recent cold and snowy weather, the company we hired to put up Christmas lights on our tall front lawn tree, arrived. Jim and I used to decorate our trees ourselves when we lived on the acreage. It was almost a full-day activity. We had over ten trees we liked to adorn with bright lights. Our driveway was lit up, as were trees on the front and back lawns. In our final year living there, we knew we were reaching our limit in terms of how many more years we could decorate the trees ourselves. It had nothing to do with the number of trees, or the cold, or the length of time it took. We simply could no longer reach the highest trees, even with the hand-crafted extension Jim jimmied up on the sixteen-foot extenda-pole! So, when we moved into our new-to-us house in the city and saw the over thirty-foot-high tree on the front lawn, we knew we had more than met our match! Hence the hiring of the light installation company.
They were just getting started when I pulled into the driveway after my short but successful shopping trip. I noticed them unhooking long ladders; one of the men was pulling on a harness and some fancy boot grips. My home office is at the front of the house and when I came in and got to work, I couldn’t help but periodically sneak a peak at the action on the front lawn. My breath caught when I looked out to see one of the installers almost at the top of the tree; the other high up on a step ladder with his own extension pole, passing the strings of lights to his partner.
In our final class of yoga on Thursday, our most wonderful instructor, Mona, was setting us up for a pose. She said, ‘Don’t worry if you lose your balance.’ In my mind I wondered what she meant. Balance was required for this pose. We needed balance. She continued, ‘If you lose your balance, just stop and regain it, and start again. You won’t be able to do the pose properly unless you have your balance.’
There it was again. All week it there have been signs of it in my life in one form or another, but Mona’s comment really brought it home for me. When we first think of balance, what comes to mind is often a mental picture of us trying to do many things, all equally well, all at roughly the same time. We may even use the expression, ‘I have so many things to balance.’ And of course, each of us know this is almost impossible. When I think of balance in this way, it brings on a feeling of urgency, and anxiousness and as sense of ‘I just need to get this all done’. None of this is what I strive for in my life. And yet, I do strive for balance.
Mona’s comment spotlighted that this is not what is meant by balance. Balance is how we ground ourselves. It is how we get centered and focused on the task we are about to undertake. Balance has a physical component, but much more important than the physical, is the mental awareness required. When we are only concerned with ‘getting it done’, we often rush headlong in, attitude askew, awareness of others turned off, and adrenaline on high alert. It is only when we are finished our mad dash to the end of the task, that we pause. If we are very lucky, we then take the time to notice how our wonderful ‘balancing’ has impacted others. If we are not so lucky, we keep pushing ahead with our list of important things, leaving behind us collateral damage.
This Christmas season there will be many balancing acts available to us. There are parties to attend, deadlines to meet, gifts to buy, friends to visit, families to host, games to play, houses to decorate… the list goes on and on. Rather than trying to plow through each one, noting the check mark in my coil notebook as a sign of success, I’m going to change things around. Before starting on a task, or two or three as the day demands, I’m going to take a breath and think about what spirit or attitude I’d like to adopt as I approach my busyness. I’m going to find my balance before attempting the pose.
No doubt I’m going to wobble. I’ll expect this, then I won’t be so upset when the wobbling appears. It will be as though it’s a normal part of things. As Mona said, ‘Don’t worry if you lose your balance. Just stop, regain it, and begin again.’
Wise words from the master.
My inquiry for you this week is ‘What needs my balance?’
Elizabeth is a certified professional Leadership Coach, and the owner of Critchley Coaching. She is the founder and president of the Canadian charity, RDL Building Hope Society. She works with corporations, non-profits and the public sector, providing leadership coaching. She creates and facilitates custom workshops for all sizes of groups. She has particular expertise in facilitating Strategic Plans for organizations. Contact Elizabeth to learn how to find balance.