Finding Balance in a Heartbeat
The heart-rate monitor of the patient in the emergency ward goes off, and then there’s a mad rush in the ER. If there was peace before, it’s gone now as the doctors and nurses do their utmost to resuscitate the distressed individual.
Rather than one continuous line on the screen, for normal life to function optimally we prefer to see the wave on the monitor go up and down in the normal pattern for a healthy heart.
You see, the heart functions by moving through a series of intense contractions to push the blood on, followed by relaxations for the muscle chambers to open and refill with blood.
If there wasn’t this continuous, rhythmical movement between contraction and relaxation, we wouldn’t be alive. There would be no beat.
What has this got to do with the concept of balance, you might be wondering?
Well, we believe that if we achieve a perfect balance in our life, this constant, beautifully straight line to keep everything aligned in our life, then we will be ok. We would have this thing called life all sussed out.
We tend to want to avoid the messy up and down of a wavy line, as that’s not what balance is all about.
As a well-known doctor, born in South African and now residing in Australia, Dr Linda Friedland challenges this traditional view of ‘balance’. And she’s well placed to do so, as an international author, speaker and mother of 5 with over 20 years as a medical practitioner.
We erroneously buy into the pipe dream of balance. We see it as being the ultimate goal, where we need to find a way to dedicate certain amounts of our time and energy to focus on each compartment of our lives, each day of our lives, and all of our lives.
We see the measuring scale as needing to “balance” where the two sides don’t move, and are in proportion to each other in just the right way.
This elusive work/life balance becomes our aspiration. However, this view often leads to more stress as we battle to manage our time to achieve this steadiness.
Dr Friedland points out that this is an insubstantial and weak view of balance, as life is not like that at all. Our entire human bodies are never totally still or balanced, as some part is always moving, growing, excreting, absorbing, changing.
The state of being in constant flux and motion is the true state of every cell. Even our lungs and heart are always moving, contracting and relaxing.
Instead of having balance as our goal, Dr Friedland suggests we should make peace our objective.
When we want to function at our best, we need both the action periods, and the calm. We should be aiming for moments of peace and calm in between the moments of being active and all fired up.
In Dr Friedland’s book “Having it all” she explains it well,
“Every heartbeat, breath cycle and muscle movement is composed of these two phases: intense activity then refilling. Not the stillness of scales but the peaceful coexistence of action and rest within every beat… What I find fascinating about this heartbeat is that the two phases- pumping and then refilling- are not equal! The pumping phase is significantly longer than the refilling.” (pg. 103)
The aim of the body is not an absolute calmness, but rather a state of harmony, also known as homeostasis. It’s the kind of equilibrium that is vital and fluid – it moves constantly, aiming for peace and harmony.
The more useful approach to our lives is thus to know that there will be times when we need to exert a lot of energy and focus on just one activity or area of our life. And then that will be followed by a time to focus on another area, or to rest or refill, or even to play.
Peace will come more from moving gracefully from each focus point. It’s less likely to come about if we get stuck on just one area, or move between areas prematurely or so abruptly that we don’t end up accomplishing much or being present in the moment and enjoying ourselves in the process.
Flatlining versus Living
When we talk about having balance in our life, we are better to approach it as making sure we rest after we take action, that we refill our cups after we have spent our energy on something important.
In today’s busy world we need to be able to go full speed when needed to meet the deadlines, to focus on a project or deal with a family crisis. And instead of beating ourselves up for not being able to focus on other areas of our life at that particular time, we should rather prioritise to focus on those areas when the deadline is over, the crisis is averted, or the project is launched. And then follow through on those priorities.
If we just keep pushing, or put all our focus and energy in only one area of our life, it would be like our heartbeat flatlining on the monitor screen, going “beeeeeeeeeppppp”. And that’s a sign of death, not life.
Peace, this sense of true balance or harmony, comes from the ‘lub-dub’ sound (contraction) of our hearts which is followed by a moment of quiet (relaxed expansion of the heart muscles.) And isn’t this life? The messy and wonderful, the noisy and quiet all the same time.
The Pulse of Life
So, feel your pulse right now and recognise that you are alive.
As you feel the duality of your heartbeat, know that it is a sign of life. And that life is neither just calm, nor just chaos.
This fluidity between these seemingly contradictory opposites means that you are still here, and can continue to experience life and be a resource to this world, while aiming for more harmony and peace wherever you go.
Your pulse: the perfect balance of the heartbeat of your life.
Telana is a Courage Coach and author, helping people to be brave and shine, and live a life they love. She coaches executives, individuals and entrepreneurs to have conversations that count by finding their authentic ways of communicating and expressing themselves and their inner potentials. She specialises in true self-esteem, controlling emotions, overcoming self-consciousness and the fear of failure, handling conflict, fear of confrontation and developing relationships. She is fascinated by consciousness evolution and goes on adventures to push her boundaries and preconceptions. She is also a possibility believer and is currently turning one matchstick into an office, to help start ups overcome the fear of failure.