In the First Installment of the work “Twenty-First Century Treatise” we examined the idea that our current way of living has allowed us to become distant from Nature and we’ve forgotten some of Nature’s Laws in the process. We discussed the notion that no matter how complex our civilizations and societies become, we are still bound to the Laws of Nature in the same way the stars, the weather, and our fellow four-legged animals are bound to them and even our social constructs must conform to those Laws. Two of the most important Laws to which we are subject are those of Dichotomies and Balance. Nature is ubiquitous with various forms of light and dark, positive and negative, male and female. Nature is also constantly striving for balance among the multitudes of those opposites. Our personal lives are no different, we struggle for balance in this area as well, just check out the self-help section of any local bookstore.
Beginning with our physical being, our selves demand balance. Consider that our bodies work diligently to keep our temperature at a toasty 98.6 degrees. If we do not keep a balanced sleep to wake ratio our brains do not function right, we are irritable and prone to make poor decisions, even to the point of putting ourselves or others in life threatening situations. Our bodies work best on a balanced diet and any weightlifter knows the importance of getting in their ‘leg days’ in order to keep a physical symmetry.
While our bodies automatically balance themselves, because we have a conscience, we also seek balance between our body and mind, our work and home, and within our relationships. In this day and age however, it takes almost no effort to become imbalanced in our personal lives.
There is an interesting issue hidden within the idea of mind/body balance that’s important to understand, and its the reason we become imbalanced so easily. This particular kind of balance wasn’t really a big deal until our societies became so complex that we work mostly indoors. Remember, until just two or three hundred years ago, we were living much more intimately with Nature, our work schedules followed the cycles of Nature as we worked mostly in the summer and during the long daylight hours. We also engaged in a much more physical lifestyle: we had to labor over the soil to provide our food and we walked or rode to our destinations. (Interestingly, and I would submit in natural reaction to our less physically demanding work, we’ve created an entire industry of exercise equipment and gyms in an effort to give our bodies the workout they miss with our new sedentary way of life.) Our brains and minds developed in concert with our bodies over millions of years of intimate, consistent interaction with Nature. The mind and body balanced without effort. Now however, our constructed way of life allows us to completely defy Nature’s cycles of night and day, summer and winter. We keep to a rigid 8 to 5 schedule, every day, regardless of the season and the light. We ignore our internal rhythm, wired by millions of years, and pull the ‘hoot owl’ or graveyard shifts (we aren’t meant to be a nocturnal animal). Scientists are finding out that workers who pull the ‘third shift’ have significantly more health problems including messed up metabolisms and increased risks of some cancers and heart problems. Our disconnection with Nature and discordant lifestyle inherently leads to mind/body imbalance; I surmise that many of our health problems are manifestations of the stress related environment in which we currently find ourselves.
It’s an honest observation to make that just a couple hundred years isn’t long enough on Nature’s timeline for our physical bodies to adapt to our lightening speed civilizations. Should we wonder why many of us in industrialized societies are prone to psychological, emotional, intellectual, and physical imbalance? I believe it’s a fair assertion to claim that some (most?) of the psychological issues we deal with today – depression, A.D.H.D., bi-polar disorders, and addiction – are really symptoms of our struggle to cope with this new life without sufficient time for physical adaptation. Children manifest this idea fully – in just a few short years we have wrangled them into cookie cutter classrooms without allowing, or at least acknowledging, that doing so completely violates the way our brains have developed: that is to be free to be curious and ask questions, to learn by doing and experiencing rather than repetition and performance. I am of the opinion that most children we deem problematic aren’t really so, they are merely struggling to adapt to an environment that runs contradictory to their Natural wiring and their brains have not yet figured it out. They are out of balance with the world they are born into and that imbalance demonstrates itself in behavioral problems.
I do understand that some of the psychological illnesses we suffer from are the result of chemical imbalances in our brains. Science has been brilliant at illuminating how the brain/mind works. There is strong evidence however that many of our psychological problems are not naturally inherent or physiological issues, rather they are the result of living in our advanced civilizations. For instance, high stress levels interfere with the serotonin levels in our brains and can cause depression.
It is important to acknowledge at some point that this shiny new way of living we have evokes some real, negative consequences. It gives us room to be nicer to each other for one; we are all, at some level, struggling as physical, natural beings that live in artificial, unnatural environments. Awareness also allows us the opportunity to find ways that might help us to cope and adapt, such as making an effort be outside and re-connect with Nature, even for a moment.
While we try to maintain a body/mind balance in life, there are times when a life event happens, or we choose to engage in a project and our mental/emotional state becomes out of balance as a result. It’s okay.
When such circumstances arise, it important to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever challenge faces us. Losing a loved one forces us to focus on the psychological component of our being as we wrestle with grief and its inherent wild ride. – we can’t expect to engage our mental resources when we are trying to cope with the emotional swings of grief. If I am in the throes of my last three semesters of a nursing program, chances are that I’m not going to have the wherewithal to delve deep into spiritual matters. If I am a mother and have three children under the age of five, I’m probably not going to be doing a lot of reading (except of the Dr. Seuss variety). We are not built to multi-task on this level. This is a vital concept. Too often we berate ourselves or feel inept because we can’t do everything, all at once, but our beings only have the capacity to cope with only on one thing at a time. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our inability to do something we aren’t equipped to do.
On the other hand, sometimes we can focus too much on one component of our minds to the detriment of the others. One can spend too much time delving into spiritual matters to the detriment of intellectual or psychological growth, for example. Conversely, we can’t ignore our spirituality either. It is imperative to take time to nurture the soul with introspection and evaluating one’s place and role in the scheme of things.
While we wrestle with mind/body balance and emotional balance, we also must work to strike a moral balance within our personal lives. The moral dichotomy engages the elements of good and bad within us. No matter what our choice might be for a moral guide (religious text, doing right for right’s sake and keeping a clean conscious) most of us strive for the light to overcome the dark although it’s hard to believe in this modern age of ours when headlines are fraught with the horrible ways we manage to treat each other. Yet – if we look around us, at our families, our neighbors, our cohorts and colleagues, its seems we find that most of us really do come out on the side of right more often than not. In other words, we humans tend to strike a positive moral balance on the whole. There’s one more clue to this idea that merits some attention: In all our writings and movies and tales and plays, we always manage to make good overcome evil. We don’t know how to write the story any other way. This alone gives me great confidence in our ability to maintain a healthy moral balance. Would that we could own this trait with more surety.
I am thankful to be living in our modern times. Modern medicine alone is worth the price of admission – we’re able to print 3D thyroids for mice! I for one am personally grateful for the invention of smart phones. But within this melee of technology and high speed living, we throw our very beings into a kind of shock wherein we must adapt quickly to new change. Nature doesn’t work on our timeline however, and we suffer from the inability to adjust to our changing way of life. Awareness, as usual, is ninety percent of overcoming any challenge, or at least learning to cope with it. In this case our examination of the effects of a swift changing society gives us some clues as to how we can achieve a better balance in our lives. It seems that regular doses of the combination of exercise and outdoor time is a key component in keeping our personal lives balanced. Exercise helps to replace the not-long-ago vigorous workouts our bodies received the past several thousand years (It also goes a long way towards reducing stress levels). Being outdoors to breathe some fresh air, be aware for a moment of our surroundings to notice a bird or cat or fellow human goes a long ways to re-establish our connection with Nature and the primal element lurking just below the surface in us all.
And while life events force us into imbalanced emotional lives, we can now be aware to give ourselves some grace since we know we simply cannot multi-task on that level. We achieve a good moral balance by choosing what’s right and positive, and most of us do well at this most of the time. We should have more confidence in ourselves and each other considering we consistently come out on the side of what’s good.
We are physical beings, first and foremost. A product of years of fine- and not-so-fine tuning and a blip among the millions of creatures on the tree of life. We are, and will always be, bound to Nature’s Law of Balance just like every other bit of matter that resides within this universe. Since we have become a conscious, aware animal, we must also wrestle with the dynamics of psychological, emotional, and mind/body balance.
May we do so with awareness, and grace.
Look for Installment 3 of Treatise for the 21st Century on March 1, 2016 to examine how Nature’s Law of Balance affects social movements and politics.