In this, my second reflection about the ‘Peaceful Warrior Experience’, I will present my thoughts on Dan’s presentation of the ‘Law of balance’. Surprised? Yes, I changed my mind; Instead of writing about my intuition, I decided to trust it and start with an article about balance. Hope you don’t mind.
After you finish this article you will have learned that peaceful living depends on actively reconciling opposites. I will share with you a technique from Dan on how to improve at sports and other endeavours; and how to use the same principle for personal development.
Understanding the Law of balance
The law of balance says that anything we do, we can under-do or overdo. It’s corollary is that unless we’re dead, we can not forever stay in a centred state. Like the girl walking on a tight rope, we can only achieve balance through the active application of effort.
In the first day of the workshop, Dan encouraged us to Embrace the ‘And‘. To be in balance, we first need to recognise the extremes: Science & Religion; East & West; Inspiration & Perspiration; Male & Female; Peace & war. As we become better at recognising extremes, we can then move into transcending them and embracing them both. Sounds impossible; almost crazy, doesn’t it? But like the Peaceful Warrior, who chooses a peaceful heart and a warrior spirit; We too have ways at our disposal for integrating two seemingly exclusive extremes into a balanced, unified perspective. Extremes only appear to exclude each other when viewed from one-dimension. But we are three-dimensional beings; if we choose different aspects of our lives to apply each extreme, we can effectively integrate them.
Acknowledge life is change: Strive for a Balanced life
Yes, life is change. As Socrates (a character in Dan’s novel) said, “Everything dies & changes, even radiators” (source: Way of the Peaceful Warrior). Life is movement; Life is change. Achieving balance, therefore, is an active enterprise. Some eastern traditions suggest the way to enlightenment is to meditate in a cave until you find balance through stillness. But to be enlightened and fully alive, you need to learn how to do this while fully engaged in your daily activities.
The girl walking on the tight rope achieves this by carefully monitoring her condition, and making adjustments when required. If you observe her walking, she will always be falling to the left, or falling to the right. The difference between her and most of us is that she becomes aware of her direction, and in a split second will correct the fall with a movement in the opposite direction. Immediately; Seemingly effortlessly. In doing so, she achieves the necessary amount of balance to stay on the line, and advance just a little bit closer to the platform at the other end of the rope.
Overshoot if you want to hit the mark quicker
Unfortunately, we are not as skilled as the little girl in the picture. If we were to get on a tight rope and try to do the small, incremental corrections she does, we probably will fall very quickly. How can we then achieve balance, and avoid falling over when there is no safety net below us?
Dan’s advise: If you’re undershooting, will yourself to overshoot. Don’t try to make a small correction, aim to err in the total opposite direction. By forcing your brain to try the exact opposite, you will experience what the centre feels like; and your body will quickly store this knowledge and use it. Call it body wisdom; Call it crazy talk. Either way, it works.
Don’t believe me? Grab a baseball bat, a ball and a friend. Ask him to do some pitching, and swing the bat. Notice whether you fail because you swing too high or too low, and then try it out: If you swint too high, try missing the ball by swinging too low; and viceversa. You will really surprise yourself. As you do this little exercise, try to become aware of what happens. You will notice 2 things happening:
1) Despite your best efforts, you will never swing as high (or low) as you were willing yourself to.
2) In a shorter time than you thought, swinging too high (or low) will feel less weird, and at that point in time, you will suddenly and effortlessly find your centre, and hit a home run.
Like Dan said: overshoot when undershooting and viceversa; it leads to a balanced state far quicker than any other technique.
How to achieve a balanced life
We can apply the same principle to any aspect of our lives. Feeling too drowned and stressed out by work? Will yourself to sit calmly into stillness. Finding yourself too focused on your own needs and not those of others? Go out of your way to give, give, give. Whatever makes you feel you are not in balance, try the extreme opposite, and watch the impact this corrective action has in your life.
Why balance is so hard: The law of inertia
One would think that as we practice to have a more balanced approach, it would eventually become easier to achieve it effortlessly. Some religions call this state Nirvana, others call it Heaven. Call it what you want, truth is it can’t be achieved forever in our present life. Why? Because of inertia. The law of inertia states that when a body is moving, it will tend to keep moving, unless you apply enough friction to make it stop. Because of this, if you have propelled yourself to move in a certain direction, it will take energy & effort to stop the inertia of that movement. Whilst life provides some of the friction necessary to slow you down a bit,it will usually takea long time before you stop.
Unfortunately, passively waiting for life to bring you into balance is as futile as trying to achieve your goals simply by thinking about them. You must become more aware of your Self, and apply effort to achieve the state you desire. Otherwise, the life of inertia guarantees you will continue in an unbalanced state for a long time, maybe forever.
Achieving balance requires energy, so save it!
In summary, life is movement, and the best way to stay in balance is to keep moving; assessing here you are; and then correcting. Because of the law of inertia, over-compensating will often provide a quicker way to come back to the middle. Whilst you will sometimes over shoot, you will soon become an expert at quickly assessing where you are and compensating for any imbalance. And just like the little girl manages to retain enough balance to go from one platform to the other, you will achieve enough balance to go from one life milestone to the next.
It sounds pretty tiring, doesn’t it? Think of all the energy you will need!! Well, not all is lost; If you want some tips on how to energise yourself, subscribe to this blog and wait for the next article in the Peaceful Warrior Series, where I will discuss Dan’s approach to energising your body and your life.
‘Till next time.
- Peaceful Warrior Series, Introduction: An evening with Dan Millman
- Peaceful Warrior Series, Part 1 : A Peaceful Warrior weekend seminar
- Way of the Peaceful Warrior, at Amazon.com