A balanced life is the corner stone of well-being and true success in life. If we push too far in any direction, every area of our life will suffer.

So what is it to be in balance? How do you define balance? 2020 and most of 2021 saw many of us facing a strange way of living. No contact with our family or friends, a virtual social life, blurred boundaries between home and work, and for many on furlough or who even lost their jobs, it meant less money too. Finding balance in these circumstances is challenging. Yet, not impossible. As Buddha said, “Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without”. Even when life feels difficult, we can find balance and inner peace. But how do we do that?

But before we jump in at the deep end, the first steps to creating balance are practical. We do need to get our house in order by looking at our lives and asking, where is my life out of balance before taking a deeper look at what’s motivating our choices. So, let’s look at the wheel of life. It’s a good tool to begin.

Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10 how satisfied you are with the following 8 areas of your life. 0 being totally dissatisfied and 10 being completely satisfied.

  • Relationships – family, friends, community, support
  • Partner – communication, sex, connection, intimacy
  • Work – performance, fulfilment, creativity, growth
  • Money – income, savings, investments
  • Health – diet, eating habits, fitness, sleep, relaxation
  • Lifestyle - home environment, location
  • Fun and social life – hobbies, passions, joy, laughter
  • Personal and spiritual development – awareness, education, connection, creativity, spirituality, wellbeing, attitude

You are looking for what’s out of alignment. What areas are you neglecting? And be super honest about that. Look in the mirror properly. What energises you? What depletes you? Now, the next stage in the process would be to help you to create goals to bring more balance, more energy into those areas that you need to address. So go ahead and take some time to think about that.

  • What goals could you set?
  • What new habits could you create?
  • What old cobwebs in the mind do you need to clear out?
  • What isn’t working anymore?
  • What would you love to try instead?
  • What are the first small steps that you could take?
  • What first steps will you take? 

The Wheel of Life is really sensible and a good first step to bring awareness of how you’re creating issues in your life. Balance requires this kind of ongoing attention to every aspect of your life. But it’s not enough to create real balance within. It’s not deep enough. It’s not getting to the root of what drives you to neglect these areas of your life in the first place. We’re not getting to cause of the disturbances of soul that throw us off balance. In my last podcast no 11 on Boundaries, I discussed the need for a healthy ego and an ongoing daily connection with our true essence, our soul, in order to create real transformation in our lives. The same applies to creating balance.

My own issues with balance meant a deep journey into healing patterns of addiction to work, achievement and material success at the expense of my relationships. As a father’s daughter, I valued typical masculine traits such as drive, nerves of steel and worldly success at the expense of feminine qualities such as nurture and intuition.

We may have money, nice things, lots of friends and a well-paid job but still feel empty. That was me, way back in the late 90’s. I hadn’t a clue who I was or what I really wanted in life. I just knew how to work bloody hard and strangely, I never thought about happiness. I just got on with life, wore my Amazonian armour and didn’t reflect on who I had become, only on what I had achieved. Until it all came crashing down. This God business is anything but fluffy new age nonsense. To quote Thomas Merton, “Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance.”

The rotten roots behind all of my imbalance have been a lot to get to grips with over the years but my dedication to my own healing means I’ve learned a great deal. I’ll share some of what I’ve learned about what I know of true balance and how to create it.

What I’m really talking about here is about moving out of survival, fear-based ways of thinking, to thriving and growing - by listening to your soul – even when external circumstances are a train crash. The only way we can do that is to find a place of true refuge within ourselves. So, the pivotal question is, what do you believe? If you have no belief in anything beyond the material world, then it is impossible to find true refuge. Why? Because there is nothing unchanging and eternal within you to hold onto. You have no eye in a storm.

How do we find that inner refuge that helps us manage the storms more effectively?  I’m an experienced vipassana meditator and have practised now for nearly 10 years. Listen to podcast 9: Meditation in a Modern World if you want to learn more. The depth of my practice is such that I know on a profound level that balance, true balance comes from being capable of accepting and dealing with fear and desire. Fear and desire are the two core drivers of chaos and poor choices in life. We are always running away from something or running towards something – craving or aversion. That’s it. It all boils down to those drivers. So, what motivates your choices? Are you really aware of what’s driving you?

To illustrate all of this from a personal perspective, I’ll share two recent dreams which occurred within a week of each other.

Thursday 18th March 2021             Exorcism

I’m walking along a street in a city in England. Don’t know which city. A woman is standing in a narrow doorway and asks if I want to view a designer flat. I’m relaxed and say OK. As we go upstairs, she says not many people come up here. But when I get into the flat, I notice black feathers on the floor, a red carpet and candles full of ash. The candles are not lit. The woman is looking out of a tiny window. She suddenly turns and throws ash from the candles into my face. This place is evil. I close my eyes and begin to sing a hymn. ‘God’s spirit is in my heart.’ I keep singing and try to get out of the flat but its like moving through thick fog. I really had to focus on my faith and God in order to push through it. When I get outside, I look up and the side of the building now has a huge hole in it. An evil tiger is looking down at me, getting ready to pounce and kill me. I levitate, rise into the air with my arms spread as if on a cross and begin to banish to the tiger. The tiger leaps at me but I keep exorcising it. It becomes dust on the ground and blows away.

Exorcism is an attempt to force an enormous positive change, a need to purify a powerful negative influence in your life. This isn’t the first exorcism dream I’ve had. But this one was particularly significant. Dreams of beating demons means we’ve overcome some great challenge. In this dream, I had finally overcome one of the greatest challenges of my life. Something that I had met many times on many levels before but now it was gone. Resolving the negative mother complex, to use a Jungian term, for some of us can be a lifetimes work. There are reasons why I was a driven father’s daughter disconnected from my feminine spirit fighting to succeed in a patriarchal world.

Notice that to vanquish evil, I did not fight. Hate cannot be overcome with hate. The only thing that stops a demon in its tracks is unconditional love.

To quote Rilke “Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princes or princesses who are only waiting to see us act just once with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything in us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

I was brought up a Roman Catholic and although I’m not part of that community anymore, my religious education in mysticism served me. ‘God’s spirit is in my heart’ is my favourite hymn from childhood. There’s a reason why I sang that hymn in my dream. When we approach our problems with a higher mind of love, we can overcome forces that do not act from love.

Real balance is not possible with demons in the basement. I faced vampires, rapists, butchers, demons and sheer evil in my dreams over the past twenty years. I didn’t run away, I faced it all and discovered I had real inner resources.

A week later, on Friday 26th March 2021, I had this dream - Solid Ground

Dreamt of hauling myself up from a cliff edge using only the strength in my arms. I can feel my strength as I pull myself onto solid ground. I then go and find two women who are with me.

If you listened to my last podcast no 12, on Boundaries, I discussed a big dream from 2003 where my hands were chopped off and an artery removed from my arms and legs in order to save my life. I was to be given bionic hands, yet they weren’t my natural hands. It was the classic mythological tale of The Handless Maiden. Now, 18 years later, I have grown natural hands and use them now to haul myself up onto solid, stable ground. I had created a foundation based on soul not ego.

Dealing with that level of negativity, evil in fact, takes faith. I could only develop that strength of faith by being tested over and over until my spiritual backbone and roots were ready. In other words, I was sufficiently established in the truth, in the root of my own soul, in real love. Without my spiritual practice and faith, I wouldn’t have had the power to overcome those demons.

As we make a deeper commitment to our spiritual life, bigger demons appear from the depths. Without recording my dreams, I wouldn’t have known those demons were there. Only by continually bumping up against issues in my worldly life would I have known something was seriously amiss in my psyche. Now that’s one way to learn but listening to your dreams and working things out on that plane, is a lot more effective and efficient. Changes take place in the outer world as soon as you’ve addressed things on the inner. And I know from my own experience, fact.

Finding stable ground or the eye of the storm is to discover a place beyond desire and fear. To quote Rumi, “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.” This is the place of true love and of real peace. We really do create our own peace and our own madness. There’s a fantastic Pali word – appamada – which means the absence of madness. What a great word!

Absence of madness means being free of illusion, the lies we tell ourselves without even knowing that’s what we’re doing. Seeing through illusion is the only way to achieve a truly balanced mind and heart – and therefore create a truly balanced life. Ajahn Chah, a great Buddhist teacher said, ‘Enlightenment is when the deluded mind rests.’ I saw the evil force for what it was and sang from a sacred place in my heart. I sang from a place of love, the only place that is real. That reduced evil to nothing but dust in the wind. It had no power over me.

This is why a daily spiritual practice is vital if we are to achieve true peace and balance within. My daily practice is meditation (which I’ve done for nearly 10 years) and dream journaling (which I’ve done for 20 years). We need spiritual strength if we are to confront the deepest, darkest places within ourselves, if we are to find true peace. And we cannot do that without a strong spiritual core. The fear-based ego patterns are just too strong, especially if we have had a very difficult childhood. Dysfunctional beliefs from wonky family dynamics run to the core of who we are.

Put simply, balance is about creating a life from soul craving rather than the childish needs of a wounded ego. Yet, many of us don’t realise that even if we are committed to development, we’re doing great with our goals and raising our game, we are often still trying to fill a void rather being filled from the void. This is a vital difference to get to grips with otherwise we can easily fool ourselves and get caught in ego games and spiritual bypassing. Bypassing is thinking you’ve worked out your shit when really you’re running away.

All of this implies spiritual maturity. Spiritual maturity is the ability to sit with paradox and not be caught in the chaos of the external world and yet be resourceful in dealing with the world. So a balanced life does not mean everything outside is always rosy and without difficulty. In fact, the more we grow, the greater problems we are called to solve. Finding the eye of the storm ironically helps us deal more effectively with the storms.

Creating balance means paying practical attention to all aspects of our worldly lives and building a daily spiritual practice to create a grounded and strong centre. Then hopefully you’ll find your challenges are not so overwhelming and that you have more inner resources than you ever realised.

So, I’ll finished with some questions for reflection: How balanced are you in your outer and your inner life?  Have you done the wheel of life honestly? Do you have a spiritual practice? What do you need to change? Will you do it? And will you stick to it?

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