As we enter the third week of March, and near the Spring (or March …or Vernal) equinox , the idea of Balance , and the desire to achieve Balance, becomes stronger each day. I have been thinking about all of the areas that people attempt to find balance in (spouse/children, home/work, active time/leisure time, parenting/self) . They are all relevant, but none of the areas feel universal. As people, with varying ages, commitments, work schedules, and lives in general, there is no particular blend of priorities that speaks to us all.
But....and this is a big Butt ( parents of younger kids might get the reference to "Finding Nemo ")….we ALL struggle with the notion of balancing our giving with our receiving. After reading several articles, listening to podcasts, and doing the always painful yet necessary work of evaluating my own life, it seems apparent that most imbalances in our lives stem from a misappropriation of our giving and our receiving.
Take parenting, for example. The beautiful journey of becoming a mother (or a father) is the most rewarding road I have ever travelled down. BUT (there's that Butt again) it is months before the hours of care taking , the sleepless nights, and the 24 hour entry level job rewards you with even a hint of a smile. Parenting , especially in the early years, is almost entirely give, and very little take. That is why being a parent is so difficult.
I'm pretty certain this same theory applies to marriage, to our careers, and to our leisure activities. So, what can we do to ensure we are maintaining equilibrium between our give and our take? And why is it so important ?
One of the simplest ways to create harmony between the energy that you give, and the energy that you receive, is to keep track of the tasks that you do, and note how you feel after the tasks are completed. For example, if you spend 3 hours every week grocery shopping for your grandmother, this week make a mental note , or even keep a hand written list, of what you did, and how you felt afterwards. Was the giving done with an open and eager heart ? Did you have the time to shop, or was it a huge burden? Did you feel great about delivering the groceries, or were you so short on time that you rushed right into another chore?
While helping out a family member can sound noble, and even feel like an expectation, if you truly do not have the time, money , or energy, then you should not be giving it ( I am not suggesting you abandon your Grandmother, perhaps you subscribe to Insta-Cart, ask a neighbor to shop for/with her, make a rotation of other family members , or contact your local Meals on Wheels service. For every example, I promise there is a practical solution that conserves your energy while meeting the needs of the other person).
One of my favorite family therapists summed it up beautifully when she told me "Always give from your excess." We cannot give what we do not have. And when we try, we feel terrible afterwards. Being honest about when we aren't able to give, especially at the beginning, can be very difficult. But it will become easier as you develop self awareness . Like yoga, giving and receiving is a practice , and improves with time and repetition.
Speaking of Yoga, for many tried and true Yogi's, excessive giving along with a total lack of being open to receive, seems to be a recurring theme. This also rings true for most teachers, medical professionals, social workers, and the like. We give and give until we have nothing left....and that, my friends, answers the question of why harmony between give and take is so important. Because it can literally destroy our jobs, our hearts, and our empathy .
So how do we open ourselves to receiving, in order to to equalize our giving?
According to YogiSuprise.com, "We all recharge in different ways. Making a mental list of how you can ensure the giving and receiving equation is as harmonized as you can make it, is self-care at it’s best."
To me, this means noticing when I am feeling overwhelmed, resentful, out of sync, or even taken advantage of. Next, I need to identify what specifically caused me to feel so crummy (usually it is a list, i.e. taking on too many extra projects at work, not asking my family to help with household chores, doing things I feel I should do, not things I want to do ).Finally, I need a counter list, of all the ways I can refill my own cup. This list should be direct and easily accessible. My own list includes doing 15 minutes of yoga, taking a walk outside, visiting the library, and dressing in a favorite outfit, complete with hair nd makeup. It seems silly to write these down, but when we get overwhelmed or emotionally distressed, it becomes really difficult to think about what we need in that moment.
The list will be different for everyone. If you have trouble coming up with activities that recharge your battery, think back to the hobbies you had as a child or a teenager. You can also call or text a friend or family member, and ask them to go for a pedicure, keep your kids for a few hours, or drop off a meal . Know that giving and receiving is constantly changing for everyone, so keep in mind that a given individual may not always be available to give what you need. Be resourceful in this situation, and respect the boundaries of others, just as you ask them to respect your time and energy. While your sister may not be free to pick up milk for you, maybe your Father or your neighbor is . Don't give up on this practice, know that it is always changing, and that you will get better and better at Balance, the more you do it.
Oh! And when it comes to receiving, practice saying "Yes, please." A neighbor brings you flowers just because.. Yes, please. Your parents offer to keep the kids while you enjoy a night of quiet...Yes, please. A girlfriend calls and offers to take you out for lunch... Yes, please.
I wish you all the best in your Physical, Mental, & Emotional Life. If you live here in Vermilion or the surrounding areas, I invite you to join us this month at Tranquil Lake Yoga & Wellness, as we continue to bring Balance into our lives, both on and off the mat.
If you're unable to see us in the physical studio, here is a short sculpt sequence featuring balancing poses. Enjoy!
Namaste , Megan