Many people seek balance in life. Balance in relationships, in resource usage of time, energy, attention, mind etc., in emotions, in physical activity, and the list goes on and on. While balance is a delightful experience and worth aiming at, it seems important for one’s perspective to remember that it is a rare event in nature to be perfectly balanced. For instance the Equatorial plane of the Earth is the only region of the Earth’s surface that is close to seasonal balance year round. For the rest of the Earth, there are only two moments per year that the Sun’s rays contact the surface of the Earth at a relatively balanced angle, and the closer one gets to the poles the more cold and static it is. In the northern hemisphere, we just passed the Spring Equinox, and in the southern hemisphere, the Fall Equinox. For most of the Earth, at these two brief moments out of an entire year, Nature comes into ‘balance’ and we are reminded of the goodness of new life and the relief of life passing on. The rest of the year, Nature is moving ostensibly toward and away from ‘balance.’ My point is that what looks like imbalance from one perspective is part of a larger system of balance that keeps life in its diversity moving forward and evolving.
According to Samkhya, the cosmological system that feeds into Yoga and Ayurveda, Nature (Prakrti) has three modes (gunas): Rajas or kinetic energy, Tamas or inertia, and Sattva, the dynamic balance of the other two. For Nature to have an overall balance that can sustain healthy life, as we know it on Earth, all three must be at play from the subtle or micro level to the gross or macro level. At the micro level for example, take the relatively stable proton (Tamas) at the nucleus of every atom in the known universe in relationship to the amazingly active electron (Rajas) whizzing around the nucleus at unimaginable speeds. This relationship allows atoms to be in dynamic balance (Sattva) and evolve into molecules, chemical compounds, and eventually minerals, plant, and animal tissues. On the macro level take a look at the Sun. It rises and life activates. Most people get up, go to work or school or go out into nature to do activities. When the Sun sets, generally activity slows down and people go to sleep. The morning and daytime is naturally more rajasic and the evening and night more tamasic.
When a person flows with Nature’s flow in this way they tend to have more balanced resources of time, energy, attention, mental focus, emotional balance etc. When a person goes against this flow, the body tends to develop either exhaustion (excess Rajas) or congestion (excess Tamas). We see that both exhaustion and congestion are at peak levels in a lot of societies, particularly the one I live in, the USA. With the advent of electricity and the advancement of technology we can fool the sense organs of the human body into misperceiving Nature’s flow. Lights from the city, computers and other Internet devices, TV’s, etc. stimulate the sense organs and a person’s mind can be trained to ignore Nature (i.e. Las Vegas, “the city that never sleeps”). In this state, the glandular system of the body can work overtime and cause any number of imbalances, particularly in the mental and emotional fields, as glands are the source of hormones and thus are directly related to mood stability, focus, and attention.
Another macro example of life out of balance is our solar system. The Earth happens to orbit at just the right distance from the Sun while having a relationship of chemicals (native or foreign does not matter) to elicit life. The orbit is not balanced perfectly. It fluctuates and is in the shape of an ellipse, not a symmetrical circle. The Earth is tilted on its axis and wobbles on a 22-year cycle! So much imbalance and yet, life!
One amazing example of balance is our Moon. The moon of the Earth has a rotational period that is equivalent to its orbit. That means that it takes the same amount of time for the Moon to spin on its axis as it does to orbit the Earth, thus we only see one face of the Moon! If that is not outstanding enough, even though the Moon is about 400 times smaller than the Sun, from the point of view of the Earth’s surface they are nearly the exact same size in the sky!
When faced with what appears to be an impossible task of balancing the aspects of one’s life in relationship to the ever increasing speeds of social, political, and technological change, one might start to see and feel that things are only getting worse and that immanent doom is on the horizon, a ‘setting Sun’ vision of the world if you will. It seems to me that we want balance and at the same time are unwilling to see the lessons in front of our face that obviate what healthy choices are for our life. The practice of Yoga is meant to bring the individual into communion with self, Nature, and Reality. By no means is to say that we are going the wrong way. It is to say that there is always a chance, a choice, an opportunity to align with a message of sincerity from Nature that aids in seeing and feeling life from the heart. It is to say that there is a vision that is possible that can render compassion for those whose lives are terribly out of balance and see that they too are participating in the larger and more comprehensive balancing act of life. This is the ‘rising Sun’ vision. A vision of life that is based in the real and maintains the courage to see what is good, that things are getting better and that it is possible to live with kindness, compassion, and generosity towards all life. This is not a false optimism, or idealistic thinking. This is not a concept. It is a tacit knowing that comes from experience, intuition, and an instinct that is refined through practice.
Udaya means ‘Rising Sun.’ To me it is a symbol that whoever you are and wherever you come from, you have a chance in this life to participate in a communion with the Earth and the inhabitants of the Earth to bring about more goodness. By your very presence of being and the way in which you look out into this world and upon everyone you meet along the way, whether it is a short glance, a helping hand, turning the other cheek, or a loving embrace. The choice is yours.
By Brent Kuecker: Yogi. Musician. Educator
Join me at Udaya Live, Yoga and Music Festival this Summer in Borovets, Bulgaria. Nature in the Rila mountains is overwhelmingly available and ready for communion to regain a sense of balance and grounded connection to life. Her vastly untouched beauty is breathtaking and moves my spirit with even the slightest remembrance of my last visit there.