In Pursuit of Balance: How to Join Heaven and Earth
Friday, June 1st, 2007
Working as a Maya Healer since the mid-nineties in diverse communities from the Mayan South of Mexico to the Tibetans of North India, the modern Western world of Australia, North America, Europe and more recently my native England, I have observed a universal struggle to find balance amongst all cultures; balance at all levels – psychological, physical, emotional and spiritual. It seems human beings have forgotten how to nurture themselves and their environment. Just as the world revolves on a tilt in order to maintain its trajectory through space, perhaps we as humans need to be held between two diametrically opposed forces in order to keep going and not plummet off into a dark void ourselves. High versus low, left versus right, past verses future, here versus there. Whatever means we employ to harmonize the conflicting aspects of our lives – ceremony or anti-depressants, religion or science, art or therapy – all of us are caught up in this struggle at some level.
Whatever our life situation, something always seems to be missing or out of place. What we have is never enough – whether its money, love, popularity, time or understanding. “I feel anxious!” is a common complaint, along with “I’m stuck” or “I cannot sleep”. The list is endless, for no matter how hard we try, we find our own suffering irresistible, like biting into a delicious cream cake. We are quick to look outside ourselves to find the cause of our problems – the recession, climate change, the phase of the moon or our partners or family. Absurdly, we prefer conflict over resolution. The other day I spoke with a young man, suggesting that instead of putting so much energy into hating his father and the world at large, he let go of whatever quarrel he had and move on. After careful consideration for several days he said, “I really wanted to go round and make peace but I just couldn’t do it, I would rather commit suicide!” This “poor me” approach to life is rooted in fear and attachment and is a recipe for unhappiness. Fixating on what we want and how we would like the world to be goes against the natural flow of what is. Resisting the way things are creates tension and anxiety. In order to be free of this anxiety we must let go of trying to control the world and surrender to what is. The idea of renunciation means we are willing to sacrifice that which harms us, being free from self-condemnation. We must also be willing to celebrate the inherent richness of life, rather than bemoan the imagined poverty of our existence.
In spite of ourselves, the human condition can be worked out. Or put more plainly, the conditions of our neurosis can be overcome. If we can give up our self-analysis and self-criticism we can cut through the fixation of “poor me” and begin to relate to life situations directly without self-sabotage. Genuiness comes from our desire to communicate with the world as it is, without the trappings of self-importance and personal history getting in the way. Balance comes from making friends with Heaven and Earth, Earth as a grounding force and Heaven as open space.
Earth is the ground that supports and promotes life; the place where we grow our food and build our homes. It is what ties us to our origins and traditions. It is our physical body, our daily routine and our connection to our families and friends. It is our basic life support, for whatever calamities may come our way we only have a few feet to fall back to solid ground. There is a story of a pilot who lost the use of his legs when his plane crashed. Step by step, he learned how to walk again, defying medical science. However lost in our own suffering we become, the trees and rocks, winds and rivers lead us back to our true essence. The more we separate ourselves from this divine connection, the more we lose our way. When earth is grounded in us we feel stable and confident, open and trusting. If we follow the rhythms of the Earth and the seasons we will be happy and successful in our lives and enjoy the benefits of a balanced mind and body.
Heaven is the boundless open sky, the realm of the Gods. It represents our experience of vastness or sacredness. The vision of Heaven is what inspires human greatness and creativity, our dreams, ambitions, ideals and aspirations. It is also this experience of space and openness that dispels fear and anxiety. It is an awareness of and willingness to act for the benefit of the universe. It is that which takes us out of our personal selfishness and problems and helps us act for the good of others. It is what makes us decent human beings.
To embrace Heaven fully we need to cultivate a spacious quality within and around us. A space so generous that our problems can be resolved and illnesses cured; a space that is compassionate and forgiving enough to dissolve all our negativity before we react to situations and engage in conflict; a space to give up the drama and abuse; a space big enough to forgive the world or to make time in our day for meditation, yoga or simply connecting with the people around us. When Heaven is balanced in us there is room in life. Whatever manifests can be accommodated. We no longer resist what is happening but begin to let go. There is enough time, enough understanding and enough space for our emotions to breathe. We can allow sadness and joy, hope and fear to come and go without attachment. We can enjoy life without clinging to it and embrace change when it comes. Above all, we can learn to appreciate the miracle of the here and now.
Wisdom is what joins Heaven and Earth, mind and body. In our daily lives we must find a way to harmonize the opposing forces that prevail. The sitting practice of meditation is the main vehicle to accomplish this. Just sit upright on the ground and let the breath flow. Earth is our gravity and Heaven is the breathing space where we can lift up our chest and shoulders. Inhale; expand…exhale; dissolve. Joining Heaven and Earth means we can experience sacredness in ordinary activities. Whatever we do, we can do simply and directly, with great dignity. Making tea, morning meditation, or commuting to work all become pursuits of happiness. Since our state of mind determines our experience we must celebrate our state of mind. Daily practice and enlightenment are one. We should learn to walk with one foot in each world – the absolute and the relative, the universal and the particular. If we can learn to live in harmony with the principles of Heaven and Earth, then the four seasons and the elements of the world will conspire to help us find balance as individuals and as a society.