In this instalment of 45 Things to Live Well we look at a few things which can bring some healthy balance to our lives. Balance is not always the easy way through but also some things that may cause us to stretch in healthy ways. The danger I think is when we get one-sided instead of understanding at various times in life we engage and at times withdraw, we serve others but need to care for our own personal needs as well. The Sufi mystic Rumi wrote "Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings." As Rumi states poetically, the balanced life is a rhythm of contracting and expanding. The Christian saint Aidan of Lindisfarne speaks of this rhythm as well using the imagery of ocean tides. He writes:
Leave me alone with God as much as may be.
As the tide draws the waters close in upon the shore,
Make me an island, set apart,
alone with you, God, holy to you.
Then with the turning of the tide
prepare me to carry your presence to the busy world beyond,
the world that rushes in on me
till the waters come again and fold me back to you.
To this end we wade into the next 5 practical ways to live well. Remember these are a part of a whole life, a part of a Rhythm - your rhythm. With this I am reminded of a song by Psalmist Kevin Prosch where he sings a lament to God when he cries "There is a harp in my heart but only you can play it!"
- Network with people. With each new person we meet we can learn something new, see something from a different perspective which can help us do what we do better. It is also an opportunity to meet people who may have complementary gifts and skills that we can collaborate with. Don't confuse this with "schmoozing". Schmoozing is faking an interest in other people for solely self-seeking purposes. This kind of glad-handing will not often become authentic healthy relationships. Be yourself, be honest and friendly and resist the temptation to perform.
- Don’t worry too much about what other people think about you. Be careful not to get too caught up caring about what people who don't care about you may think about you! The reality is you can't please everyone and in trying to do so, or at very least worrying whether others are okay with you will wear you out fast! It can be helpful to consider credible critiques and then discern for yourself if a change is warranted. If it is not, let it go!
- Spend time with nice people who are smart, inspired, and like-hearted. The reality is we cannot always pick the people we share life with. Sometimes, some of these people can be life draining instead of life giving. While it is important to be able to encourage others it is also important that we have some encouraging, inspiring people in our lives as well.
- Exercise every day. Physical activity is life giving in many ways. Not only is it good for physical health but also for stress management and helps with clearer thinking. Ideally, it could be something you enjoy doing regularly, that gets your heart rate up, puts a smile on your face, but simply taking regular, long, relaxing walks can have positive effect. Take care of yourself , be good to yourself!
- Let go of things you can’t change.Concentrate on things you can. Learning this lesson can be tough for many (yours truly included). I am convinced this is a grace to do this well. Remember the prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference."