On balance

August 22nd, 2007

I gave a talk last week about Work-Life Balance at a corporate retreat. Truth be told, it was my first. The audience was politely attentive. Going in, I wasn’t sure that there was much to say about the topic. Going out, I don’t feel that much different. Perhaps you can illuminate the way better than I can.

You see, our lives are never out of balance. They can’t be out of balance. Where are the mountains toppling? Where is the sun sliding out of the sky? Of course we think our lives are out of balance nearly all the time. We think that way except for the split second every other year in which we feel–ahhhh!– okay.

So this work-life imbalance that we give such credence to is nothing other than the nature of human existence. It is what the Buddha termed in his First Noble Truth as “suffering.” Life is suffering. The word he used was dukkha, or unfulfillment.

Yes, we’re unfulfilled. Can’t be otherwise as long as we operate our lives in separation, in ignorance of reality. By that I mean operating from the egocentric mind, the dualistic mind, the mind of me that repeats over and over in hysterical crescendo “You, you over there! You’re driving me crazy! My job is driving me crazy! My kids are driving me crazy! My spouse is driving me crazy! And you, yes you, dear reader out there in readerland, you’re driving me crazy! All of you are asking too much of me!”

Because so little can be honestly said about how to fix this, this little syndrome that is nothing other than the eternal human condition, I boiled it all down to three little rules. Three rules to restore the balance you think you’ve lost.

3 Rules to Life Balance

1. There is no right way to do anything, only a right now way. Wherever we are, we think of someplace else. I should be over there. No, I should be back here. Here, there, here, there. What is the right thing to do? That kind of thinking is what really makes your head spin. Stop that. Be where you are. When you’re at work, be at work. When you’re at home, be at home. When driving, drive; eating, eat; sleeping, sleep. Get out of your head and tell me, right now, where’s the problem?

2. You have all the time you need for what’s important to you. What is most important? Whatever is right in front of you. Why? Because that’s the only thing that exists! In truth, you already have ample time for what is important to you. It just might surprise you to see what that is. What do you keep putting in front of yourself? Food? Drink? Computer? The average adult spends 28 hours a week watching TV. The average woman spends 8 years of her life shopping. These probably aren’t things that you would consciously set as your priorities, so consciously set your real priorities. And when you do, you’ll see that Rule 3 proves itself.

3. How you do anything is how you do everything. I borrow this from writer/teacher Cheri Huber, who paraphrased my main man Dogen: “If you find one thing wearisome, you will find everything wearisome.” Pay attention, be present, cultivate focus in one facet of your life and you will enjoy it in all facets of your life. Because an attentive person is an attentive person! A happy person is a happy person! A balanced person is a balanced person!

So strap on your shoes and dance.

I can only hope that I have less to say on this topic in the future.


  1. Rule Number One is the one I have to frequently remind myself to follow.

    Comment by Mama Zen — August 22, 2007 @ 9:47 pm

  2. I believe I have found my temple on the Cheerio Road…thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Wendy — August 23, 2007 @ 12:06 am

  3. my second attempt at trying to comment here. First time, and my computer ate it up. oh well.

    Thank-you for this Maezen.
    How much time I have spent wanting to be someplace else, someplace different. How much energy I have given trying to force things to be other than what they are.
    Then some moment will come and I find myself giving my self to it fully. And the whole world cracks open.
    These words were sweet to me today.

    Comment by bella — August 23, 2007 @ 2:27 am

  4. Thank you for the gentle reminder. I think I will tatoo this on my forehead 🙂

    Comment by Shannon — August 23, 2007 @ 11:25 am

  5. I struggle with No. 1 also. Mostly because the present sometimes is very difficult, especially financially, for us. Little things add up, despite feeling happy about everything else. Next thing I know, I’m obsessing about what we can do to change our situation. The husband is very, very, very good at No. 1.

    Comment by Shawn — August 23, 2007 @ 1:18 pm

  6. Number 2 is especially relevant for me now, as I await the transition of attending to a new priority.

    Comment by Kathryn — August 24, 2007 @ 3:51 am

  7. This post has been rumbling around in my mind since you posted it… And I still find I don’t have anything more to say in a comment yet than that — I’ve been thinking about it!

    Comment by Mary P Jones (MPJ) — August 29, 2007 @ 8:27 pm

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