Balancing act

Do you ever get too upset? Too angry? Too greedy? Do you ever eat too much? Sleep too much? Watch Netflix too much?

I do. Like most people, I am also guilty of getting caught up in the extremes every now and then, whether it’s a snappy comeback rising from a place of severe irritability or a lazy day spent entirely on the internet. But the truth is, I don’t really feel guilty. I accept those occasional lapses and don’t spend too much time worrying about them. After all, nobody’s perfect. We’re allowed to have our moments of weaknesses, right? Because we’re only human.

But it is for that very reason, that we must try to be balanced. Science tells us that our bodies constantly strive for homeostasis. American government tells us of the importance of checks and balances, so one branch doesn’t get too powerful. Physics tells us that balanced forces on an object result in a state of equilibrium. Our minds should work the same way.

I had the honor of eating breakfast with a very renowned and knowledgable sage, and he gave me some perspective on the complexities of life (okay, so I actually just read a book called Breakfast with Buddha by Roland Merullo).

I read Merullo’s novel for a monthly book club, and we all had a blast discussing it. We were able to find humor in Otto Ringling’s character, a typical American man and “confirmed skeptic” stuck on a road trip with Rinpoche, a calm, all-knowing guru. This East- meets-West-philosophy story was insightful, without being preachy.

I initially shared Otto’s cynicism of being “converted,” but I admired and found comfort in the fact that Rinpoche refused to give his lifestyle a name, or an “ism” (like Buddhism, Hinduism), as he called it. I appreciated the disregard for labels because I personally would much rather focus substance.

My favorite Rinpoche moments came from his enlightened and dignified approach to living, disguised under a lovely mask of quirkiness and childlike joy. He reminds us that sometimes we sweat the small stuff too much. And sometimes we’re too busy being busy worker bees.

So if you have a moment after your hectic job, after paying the bills, after picking up the kids, after buying the groceries, after that dinner party, after shopping online for things you don’t need, after that cooking class, after doing everything short of securing world peace, if you have one free moment to spare, think about this: why are you doing it all? I mean, you could say you have higher career aspirations or familial responsibilities, but what is it really?

I asked myself that question and found that I try to do it all because it seems to be the norm. Rinpoche compares balance to a clear glass of water, while imbalance—anger, greed, hate, “eating too much,” “sexing too much”—is like a glass with muddy water; it distorts your perception. It seemed normal to be stressed out and frustrated and discontent because I assumed everyone’s glass was muddy. But I was wrong. It is possible to have that clear glass, that balance, that greater awareness. And that’s the kind of clarity that results in long-lasting gratification.

So next time you’re teetering on the verge of an impatient outburst or manic fit, about to slip from that precious concept of balance, just take a breath and remind yourself of Rinpoche’s central question: “Why so angry?”

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