Some call it the head and the heart, others call it the left and right sides of the brain, still others call it intellect and instinct, mind and spirit, or ego and soul. Whatever you call it, one thing is clear: until we achieve balance on the inside we will never achieve balance on the outside. One way of doing that requires access to a new kind of intelligence, spiritual intelligence. Want to raise your SQ? Then this is one Provision you won’t want to skip over.
In the course of our busy lives it is easy to get out of balance on the inside. When we encounter issues and challenges in our Work / Life Balance, most of us respond by thinking.
Sometimes we get caught up in our thinking. We worry about whether something will happen or not, or we struggle to untangle a knot of thoughts and feelings in our head. After a while, we start to feel worse than before we started. And what do most of us do when we get this way? We find ourselves thinking even harder. When this happens, we are out of balance on the inside.
We can try balancing things on the outside, but if we are out of balance on the inside, it all comes undone. Learning to practice inner balance will generate sustainable, well-rounded balance. And it can be achieved in a second.
As we practice inner balance we get better at it and it serves us well. If we practice enough, it will serve us when the stakes are high. As a practicing student of inner balance, I hope to share with you a simple practice that changed my Work / Life balance and it can change yours too.
So, what is inner balance? There are two sides to the story of inner balance: The practical, scientific side and the spiritual side. The spiritual side is the essence of inner balance and is a fun place to start because it begins with a story. But first, it is important to note that by spiritual we do not mean religious, we mean another form of intelligence.
In addition to rational intelligence (IQ) and emotional intelligence (EQ), there is spiritual intelligence (SQ). This issue does not explain SQ, but it does explain how to access our SQ through the practice of inner balance.
The wonderful story by Ram Dass in The Pilgrimage of Awareness illustrates the two star players of inner balance. They are our mind and spirit, sometimes referred to as our ego and soul. Here is the story:
“There is a horse-drawn carriage, he said, the kind with a driver up on top. The driver, who has been guiding the carriage all throughout a long trip, gets to thinking that the carriage belongs to him. Suddenly the person inside the carriage knocks his cane against the roof and says, ‘Stop here.’ The driver says, ‘Who do you think you are?’ The Man answers, ‘I own this carriage.’ But the driver says, ‘Don’t be silly • this is my carriage.’ The driver, the ego, has been having too much fun guiding the carriage to surrender control to the real owner, the soul. But once the soul has awakened and established its control, the ego can begin to play its role as a wonderful servant.”
Inner balance becomes possible when we learn that our mind is a wonderful servant to be used in balance with our spirit. Eckhart Tolle, the author of The Power of Now, explains that the mind is a superb instrument if used rightly, but that we often don’t use it at all because it often uses us. Instead of us using the mind to learn a new skill or solve a problem, too often it uses us to rush around or worry for no reason.
Inner balance viewed from a practical, scientific side is illustrated well by Dr. Richard Carlson in his book Stop Thinking and Start Living. Dr. Carlson explains that our thought system’s job is to think, compare, contrast, and analyse. It is always trying to improve things for us. It does this by comparing us with others, analysing how we can make things better and then checking if we have done so.
Dr. Carlson observes that the operating guidelines of our thought system are inconsistent with happiness, enjoyment, and balance. Once the mind’s conditions for being balanced or happy are met, its job is to start all over again to create new conditions that must be met. If the mind was in control all the time, we would be doomed to a life of frustration and anxiety!
How do we tell if we are out of balance? We are stuck in our thinking. The kind of thinking that “lowers our spirits” and leaves us feeling worse than before we started. Another way to tell is through our feelings and emotions. They are an accurate guide to how we are thinking. Feeling irritated, afraid, angry, confused, or overwhelmed is a good indication to being out of balance. These kinds of emotions are valid and need to be acknowledged. But beyond that, they offer a clear signal to remove control from our servant to restore balance.
Your practice can begin by noticing how often at work and home your thoughts take you out of balance and into stress, doubt, fear, confusion, and so on. Regardless of whether our emotional mind or rational mind causes the imbalance, our errant servant will be found running our thoughts again!
And when this happens, we lose access to our source of wisdom, creativity, and greater intelligence. This is the source of those “Aha!” moments, the source of finding the right action at the right time and knowing how to take it.
How can we practice inner balance? Spiritual teachers and psychology professors have the same message: by detaching from our errant thoughts, the ones that run off without us asking them to.
This is done by becoming aware of our current thoughts and then watching them go by without making any judgement. Or, as Dr. Carlson suggests, we can refuse to follow our negative thoughts by choosing to acknowledge them and then to dismiss them. Instead of fighting our thoughts, we let them drift away. Becoming aware of our ability to do this is all we need to begin practicing inner balance.
Inner balance is not something we have to learn how to do. We already do it, at least some of the time. A friend of mine finds that he can create inner balance on the golf course. Off the golf course he gets caught up in his thinking, but on the golf course his mind is still unless he is intentionally calculating a strategy. Otherwise, he is clear-headed, free of anxiety and no longer feels driven by his thoughts. He already has the ability to practice inner balance.
But how do we practice inner balance on demand? There are many ways, but the best way is the one that works for us. Here are two good examples to get started: Because the mind is always occupied with something in the past or the future, Tolle suggests we use the power of now to bring intense attention into our thought or emotion. He suggests that balance will be restored when we do this without applying judgement. Dr. Carlson suggests something similar by saying we do not need to be afraid of our thoughts, but can choose to watch them go by.
Another way to practice inner balance is to take our attention out of our head and down into our body. We can do this by simply taking a nice, long deep breath — the kind that goes deep into our belly. It may sound like yoga or meditation, and maybe it is in a portable way, but giving it a go without thinking about it or judging it is cheaper than going to an executive retreat for a month after experiencing corporate burnout!
As you read this, your mind may be dismissing inner balance as an overly simple form of denial. Or, even if it seems feasible, your mind may wonder how this would work when the stakes are high. How could we not think, at times of high risk and high stakes?
The answer is: There are no exceptions. Any thinking that leaves us feeling worse is thinking that is taking us out of balance. When the stakes are high, getting back into balance is the best thing we can do. Where would you rather solve a high-stakes problem from: Thinking that leaves you feeling confused and worse off, or from a state of clarity and wisdom?
Inner balance is not denial. It is a choice to acknowledge but not to dwell on thinking that leads to problems. It is the wisdom to use thought as a great servant, but not be used by it. This wisdom is realised by exercising the courage to trust our inner balance to find the right answer or action. Remember, inner balance is the engagement of both mind and spirit in balance.
Having our intentions set while letting go of compulsive thinking is what spiritual teachings call detachment. Deepak Chopra identifies detachment as one of the Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. He explains that we don’t have to let go of our intention. We don’t have to let go of our desire. But we do have to let go of our attachment to the result. The mind’s obsessive thinking creates our attachment to the result. And it comes at the cost of fear and insecurity.
So if success means detachment, then we have to get comfortable with uncertainty and the unknown. Chopra explains that the known is actually our past (our memories, and conditioning). And our past is by nature in a state of decay. Real opportunity and possibility lies in the unknown. Chopra suggests that if we relinquish our attachment to the known, we have engaged the wisdom of uncertainty.
The bottom line, as Chopra writes, is “that in every moment of your life, you will have excitement, adventure, and mystery. You will experience the fun of life • the magic, the celebration, the exhilaration, and the exultation of your own spirit.”
Practicing inner balance is a great form of self-maintenance, and maybe even self-mastery. It is a choice we make on a daily, hourly, and moment-by-moment basis. It is an experience not a thought, a practice not a theory. It is a choice to be a certain way for no good reason, because having no good reason is beyond the mind’s comprehension.
Coaching Inquiries: When have you experienced inner balance? Which thoughts can you easily choose not to follow? Which ones challenge you? How could you practice inner balance regularly? What ideas could you come up with to shift yourself from being out of balance to being in balance?
This Provision, and each Provision in our series on Work / Life Balance, is written by Michael J. Alafaci of www.SolutionMaps.com • Copyright Solution Maps 2005. All rights reserved. You can contact Mike by email or phone, in Australia, at 61-7-3311-5361.
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LifeTrek Readers’ Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, Email Bob or use our online Feedback Form.
I am writing to say a very big personal thank you for the excellent Provisions that I look forward to receiving every week. I have been on a personal journey back to my light over the past 18 months, brought about by the “smack around the head” of divorce after a 23 year marriage.
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