This time of year, as darkness starts to run neck and neck with light, I’m tempted to think about the balance of things. Balance is a nice idea, but not terribly achievable. Life is in constant, pulsing transition. The yogis (Kashmiri Shaivists if you want to get technical) called this spanda. There is movement in everything which ultimately emanates from the consciousness of the universe.
Buckminster Fuller gave the idea of perfect pause a mathematical name – the vector equilibrium. “Zero pulsation in the vector equilibrium is the nearest approach we will ever know to eternity and god.” The idea that there is a constant pulsing that comes from the core of the universe really throws the idea of achieving balance, well, out of balance. Bucky said that this “zero pulsation”, “…will never be seen by man in any physical experience.” So why try to be balanced if it’s impossible? Perhaps balance is not necessarily something you can find, but it is something that’s okay to keep looking for. The breath, your heart beat, the thoughts in your mind and your need to move your body, time – it’s just the ebb and flow of life. Balance or pause is something that is beyond these fluctuations.
But if it is the experience of eternity and god, then why shouldn’t we try to attain it? Perhaps we need to look at balance as more of a practice than a state. In Sanskrit, one of the words for balance is sattva. And the yogis argued that it’s something we can work towards.
Sattva also means “clarity.” If the search for balance is also a search for clarity – then, like a diamond, the more it’s worked, the more brilliant it becomes. Sattva is developed through the conscious application of the practices – they are the polish. Like a diamond, you don’t get clear just because you want to be, it happens through the effort of practice. And one of the things I love about yoga is that there is a spectrum of them – it’s not all somatic, or cognitive, breath centered, pranic, meditative, or devotional – it’s all of that and other stuff too.
The other evening I heard a rumor that I was sure was not true. Steam began to pour from my ears. I wanted to scream – unfair! injustice! travesty! j’accuse! There was nothing remotely balanced about my mood. But then I thought that maybe I should eat something and get a good night’s sleep. Maybe the drama would seem less dramatic tomorrow.
The next morning I sat for a long meditation and got clearer – I felt less inclined to blow a gasket. Doesn’t mean there wasn’t some anger and I still needed to do something about it, but I could act from a place of greater balance rather than channeling my inner steam roller. When situations and events threaten to the dull our inner shine, the practice is there to bring clarity.