The air is cooler this week, and precipitation is falling in the pacific northwest! The light is waning as summer ends; the equality of day and night will soon succumb to another autumn.
I was in Florida last weekend on the Emerald Coast when I remembered the approaching equinox (this Friday, around 1pm in Seattle). The unique pairing of tropical weather with the shift of seasons caught my attention, and my thoughts turned to the concept of balance.
For me, balance has been elusive lately. Despite that there is no one “else” responsible for my schedule but me — no one to look to for relief from labor but me, the locus of responsibility for workload, schedule, etc. could easily be “out there”: the economy, seasonality of demand, local market dynamics, fill in the blank. But that’s not the problem. I am just a little obsessive about my work. I am grateful this passion is not fueled by a concern for money, itch for external approval, or need to meet someone else’s deadlines or expectations. Rather, my obsession, and consequent lack of balance, is due entirely to my Belief System: that my chosen work is part of my human purpose — like a calling. I feel connected and in my purpose when I am doing all I can to create the most positive effects and transformational life changes with others. These are the reasons I sometimes find myself working more than restoring myself, and therefore craving and seeking balance.
Specifically, being in Florida did not keep me from my work. I read materials according to my plans, continued to book sessions remotely through Skype, and occasionally followed up on general (non-urgent) business affairs… Although I felt the squeak of the powdery white sand under my feet and noticed its tiny black specks, was stung by jellyfish and amused by nephews, and was toasted in the sun and renewed by the humid air of the salty Gulf, I wouldn’t say I had balance. Our brains can tire even from creative, positive thought! And although I knew and felt my tasks were meaningful, I also felt a tiny little voice requesting me to be more present during the vacation with family I see so rarely. Maintaining a consistent mix of work and rest at all times, somehow feels like I’m not doing either. After the “vacation” was through, I truly wondered what is the logic in balance? I thought I was maintaining balance, but even this modest mix of work with family around seemed out of place.
Balance for me brings a picture of scales — of moderating — in truth, of more work. It’s effort to keep a balance when life is about ebbs and flows, just like the tide. Just like the seasons.
I recently learned something that now seems obvious, but also counterintuitive to me: As winter approaches, and days grow shorter than nights, and darkness stretches like a shadow longer and longer, until the dusk of the year has settled on the northern hemisphere, our melatonin production doesn’t decrease to offset our sleepy feelings through the lack of light — it increases, making us even drowsier! LiveScience quoted a doctor of circadian biology (didn’t know such a thing existed) some years ago on the topic. Check this out:
Scientists have known that humans and other mammals have an internal clock that governs our sleep-wake cycles, among other daily functions. Light provides us with nonvisual cues that influence things like our pupil dilation, alertness, melatonin levels, and heart rate modulation, according to Iggy Provencio, a circadian biologist at the University of Virginia. Light receptors in the retina of the eyes – rods, cones and a third type called intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells – pass along nonvisual information used to reset our circadian rhythms… Light “resets” this internal clock, so our bodies are in synch with the time of day, according to Provencio… While other factors, such as locomotion, can influence animals’ internal clocks, humans’ rely primarily on light…
My own biology shows me that I am encouraged to participate with the receding light, not fight against it. Put another way, in winter, it’s not time for summer! It’s a different season… a time of rest, renewal, regeneration, hibernating, tucking in, nourishing, and storing — heat, fat, energy for the long season of cold (or drizzle). Nature’s idea of balance seems to be about rhythm, not parity, not seeking balance. Rhythm doesn’t put us at odds with our environment or ourselves. Rhythm doesn’t exact two balanced sides of a scale, or suggest sanding out the extremes of our experiences using our own struggle and effort as the sandpaper. The picture that rhythm brings to mind is cooperative, easy, fun. Just being, moving in flow, with the tides of life, not holding onto that last high-water mark with white knuckles. Resting when we rest, working joyfully when we work, and swimming fully in the Now.
The day and night will only be of equal length for a moment this fall, and in the blink of an eye we’ll be in pumpkin pie season (or pecan if you prefer…). Life pushes and pulls on us all the time — like the seasons change. I’m going to focus on keeping my perspective big, and slowing down when it seems right. When I pan way out to the big picture, and take a Universal view, rhythm looks like balance to me, too.