Keeping Your Balance
We forget how incredibly difficult it was to learn how to walk when we were little children. Anyone who has had children can remember the difficulty they have learning to stand upright on both legs and keep their balance.
When you move forward you actually have to swing to one side and shift slightly off balance to move one foot forward. Then to move the other foot you swing across to the other side. And so on – moving from side to side, swinging across your balance point, moving your left foot, then your right foot.
We have taken this so much for granted that we don’t even notice it anymore. But imagine what it would be like if you were taught that one foot was good and the other was bad, and you were only allowed to use the good foot. The results are hilarious when students attempt this.
And yet, this is exactly what we are taught emotionally. As a simple lesson for children I agree that it is necessary, but in adults it can have absolutely crippling effects. We tend to be afraid of sadness and grief for example, and every emotion which we look on as “down”. These emotions can be seen as embarrassing, inappropriate and weak. For busy people even tiredness can be seen as a weakness and be repressed. Everyone, somewhere in their lives, has had a situation where they felt that the only thing they could do was to cope and push on, doing their best to deny the feelings in their body.
It all starts with being balanced
When you learn to ride a bike, are trained in a sport or the martial arts, the first lesson you learn is how to establish the point of physical balance. We know that if we don’t do this that any move we make is not going to work – we’ll probably just fall over. The same actually applies emotionally and mentally.
Meditation is the tool for discovering and keeping our emotional and mental balance. One of the most wonderful things about meditation is that you discover what it feels like when the body, the emotions and the mind are balanced at the same time. This is the natural point of balance of our entire system, and you find when you discover this that it is an extremely blissful state to be in. This state of natural balance is the resting point of our lives, the point of deepest relaxation and the point of maximum potential. It is relaxed and poised, with all the senses alive and open.
Everything which goes up must come down
In the physical world we completely take for granted the fact that when something goes up the next thing it does is to come down. It has no choice – this is a physical law and everything is subject to it. We understand this because we are taught it and can observe it.
However, when it comes to our emotional lives, we don’t really have any formal training at all. Nearly all of the common disorders from which so many people suffer, starting with stress, come from having no real understanding of how emotions actually work.
In the same way that coming down always follows going up in the physical world, so any emotional high is followed by a low. As a culture we love being “up” – it’s exhilarating, joyful and energetic. It’s good – and we tend to believe that this is what happiness is.
I like to sum up our cultural tradition as “onwards and upwards”. We are very good at it. But we don’t see that life doesn’t always work this way – it’s only half the story. As every move we make eventually balances itself, everything that goes up comes down. But we never learn how to let go! This is the skill, above all, which the tool of meditation is designed for.
However, after being up, we have no choice but to come down. And we believe that a “downer” is not good – something has gone wrong. Yet everything is going right. Our emotions are just following a law to which they are subject just as much as anything else.
So the other half of the story is “inwards and downwards”. Meditation provides a way of learning how to come down, gracefully and enjoyably. You can learn to go inwards and downwards just as masterfully and elegantly as we learn to go onwards and upwards.
The relief of coming down
When you experience this, it dawns on you that being stuck in having to be “up” all the time is actually a very painful position to be in. Becoming unstuck is extremely blissful. It gives a sense of enormous relief, as you discover that the feeling of going in and down accompanies the process of the mind and body regaining their natural balance. Your energies are restored and refreshed.
When you know how to be emotionally balanced you can ride this move from “up” to “down” smoothly. Each time you move from one to the other you cross your balance point, moving from side to side, up and down. Spending energy as you go up, and restoring it again as you come down. As you spend energy, sharing it with others, you experience the joy and delight of communicating, and as you restore your energies you experience the bliss of coming back into your own body. You literally learn how to walk emotionally.