I don’t know much, if anything, about cars… vehicles, hunks of metal transporting me from point A to B. My morning commute doesn’t include stoplights, coffee burning my tongue, or manically checking traffic so I make my morning meeting. My commute for work takes on two speeds:
1.) A sleepy shuffle down the hall to my home office, just 20 feet from where I lay my head at night.
2.) An athletic sprint through Denver International while waving my hands at some friendly (but slightly annoyed) flight attendant just before he closes the door behind me for an on-time departure.
In some convoluted way, I’ve started to accept and enjoy these harsh extremes of my bizarre commute patterns as a corporate sales executive. I justify the intense flight patterns and insane hours, because it feels balanced with my work-from-home set-up, and not spending my mornings in Denver traffic!
I’ve been grappling all week with matters of “finding personal balance.” In our closing ceremony with our shaman Sabina, she looked me in the eyes and reminded me of how easily I fall out of balance (yes, I just chuckled at how fabulously woo woo ‘our shaman’ sounds!). Having awareness that I’m a fun-seeker, doer, the first to raise my mother-effin hand, I have the propensity to live on the bleeding edges of extremes, risking my health and sanity from time-to-time. Because I struggle with balance, I promise not to flippantly throw around the word like it’s easy to find…a brand of cereal we can all pick up in the Nameste section of Whole Foods, “it also comes frosted!”
A balanced diet — Work/Life balance — A balanced workout. BAH!
Continuing the week’s theme of digging back into my yoga practice, I wanted to break down a few flavors I’ve found for seeking and staying balanced. I hope you find it helpful, weary traveler:
Think of this bad boy as a tree pose, dancer pose, standing on one leg like the fabulous flaming pink flamingo that you are. It’s about strength and focus, because some asshole is going to come up behind you, honk his horn, and try to scare you off the road.
A few months ago I was in a formidable executive business conference center, suited up to the 9’s, overlooking downtown San Francisco. I painstakingly prepped for my 1.5 hour presentation, and right near the end, my ridiculously rude prospective customer stood up in front of his c-suite peers and announced they already went with our competitor. THE FURY OF A THOUSAND SUNS! I could have blown up right back at him, or worse, retreated to some awful habit to ameliorate my pain, and internalize the public shame. After all, this dude didn’t clip me with his door; he drove a large vehicle right into my left leg without blinking an eye. I channeled my inner badass flamingo, because I knew my foundation was strong; I’m good at presenting, and my product was superior. I added him and his company to my list of a-holes “unworthy to do business with me,” and walked gracefully out of the room.
Foundational balance feeling off, my friend? We all have little “off” days, but a little change in the breeze shouldn’t knock you over on most. Assess the ways you spend your days. Are you in the right career or job? Do you have enough resources, like money, to alleviate stress? If I wasn’t in the right role, or was desperate for the paycheck from this deal, my reaction would have been a lot different. Foundational balance is the BIG stuff, and might require some large expectation shifts or sacrifices. Finding foundational balance might require that you downsize, right-size, take or keep a side job, go back to school, hire a part-time sitter, or relocate. I want to stress that YOU are responsible for your own foundational balance. I get that we can sometimes lean on a partner or family for help, but an inspired life is one where your support is a foundation of your own creation.
After a short sabbatical from yoga for my surgery and healing, my hamstrings have taken on the elasticity of a hunk of metal. Any great instructor knows each pose or shape requires a counter-balance to even it out. A great example of counter balancing poses is Cat/Cow — stretching your back up towards the sky, and then bowing it down to the ground. In counter postures, the body attains equal amounts of strength and flexibility. Weight lifters have similar philosophies, and rotate muscle groups to achieve a balanced physique.
My friend Heidi has a freakin’ fast BMW, and I loooooove pressing that pedal to the ground and accelerating to mach-10. However, there is a counter-balance and I know that breaking in a similarly aggressive way will wear down the break pads. Counter balance is tough for weary travelers with addictive qualities — eating in excess, drinking in excess, and working out in excess, all come with a toll or the potential to crash. Think about our buddy Sheryl Strayed — homegirl had to walk hundreds of miles to counterbalance years of standing still in toxic sludge.
Counter-balancing to correct extremes really sucks, but don’t let fear of the aftermath truncate your exhilarating opportunity to feel the magical thrill. Elizabeth Gilbert says in her new book Big Magic, “fear can come along for the road trip, but he doesn’t get to touch the wheel.” You want to eat all the cake: Doooo it. Fall head over heels in love: Yes! Losing balance for something decadent at one point in your life is part and partial for achieving balance for the whole of your life.
Lastly, something I lovingly made up and call…
The Balanced I — Integral, Integrity, Integration
This is more of an exercise, and inversion. In yoga we go upside-down, into a headstand, and looking at your world from a different view. That’s what I’m talking about here.
*Get a pen, paper, blanket [Insert pet-of-choice by your side — pat, pat, pat]
*Start to make a list of the essentials or what’s integral to your life — people, places, things, ideas, feelings, outlets, concepts, or events.
*Once competed, draw a line under the list on the page. Review your list carefully. Soak in what you cherish.
*In the blank bottom half of the page, start to make big promises and set intentions for your list. For example, if you wrote your nephew down, start to make promises about how you will treat him, the number of ball games you’ll attend to support him, etc. Dig deep and get really real on what you want and/or have the capacity to offer the world you’re creating. Lying to yourself, saying you will go to a ball game when you know you won’t or can’t, will only take us back to square one — feeling shame and unbalanced! Ask yourself: Can I fulfill this promise? Do I want to? Will I lose integrity if I fall through? I find it helpful to circle things, add stars, underline… anything that fleshes out your little set of promises.
* Finish by sitting in your space and integrating your findings to set personal goals. If you promised to make home-cooked meals for yourself 4 nights a week, and this is really important to you [evidenced by the bold, underlined, emojis of a ramen bowl and little guy with heart eyes], but work travel requires you’re on the road 4 days a week, you have a Foundational Balance issue. Spend as much time as you need, or at least until you have to get up to pee, in order to formulate a few manageable goals.
This is easier than it may seem — so don’t over complicate it. What you’re building is a macro priority list or road map for what matters for you to lead a balanced and fulfilling life. What we’re doing is carving out space for the necessities of life, the indulgences, playtime, and growth. Revisit it often, as cities grow around you, people come in and out of your life, and your vehicle will change with age. Set your sight forward and start moving.
I first started writing this blog from 30,000 feet up in the air on a big old jet, sipping a mimosa on my way to Isla Mujeres, Mexico for vacation. Tonight, I’m tired, contented, holding hot tea enroute to San Diego for a quarterly business review in for work. I leave ten women on a sleepy beach, to join ten men in a caffeine-fueled conference room without a window.
I’ve been grumbling for the last several days about shedding my beautifully balanced, sun-kissed yogi identity, to fly right to work to present my territory/business plan. Inspired, I remember that somewhere on my little personally curated map I have some big, fat, important financial priorities. My income from work is part of my foundational balance.Resolved to integrate a bit more, I decided to take a very different approach to the business plan I’m building tonight. I’ve centered my work challenges/success on elements I focused on all week in my yoga practice: flexibility, strength and, of course, balance. I have client stories and goals that fit into each category, and can’t wait for the feedback from the team. If it doesn’t work out as expected, I’ll sprint to catch a flight back to my home office. If it’s epically apparent that my wit, silly puns, and clever 1996-style clip art is not OK, it’s OK to me. I’ll find my little paper and pup at home — and get to work on drawing new lines on my map.
Onward and upward, strange one.