Wednesday, October 31, 2012

How to Lead a Balanced Life?

Did Mahatma Gandhi lead a balanced life? Did Jesus Christ? Thomas Edison? George Washington?

No, I don’t think any great man or woman can be said to have led a balanced life. To accomplish great things you have to be something of a nut, a fanatic, a zealot. It’s true that few people are destined or even desirous of accomplishing anything greater than living to a ripe old age and not running out of money before they turn in their lunch pail.

Nonetheless the question gets asked repeatedly: how can I lead a more balanced life?

I’m not sure you really can! Think of the millions or billions who live in or on the edge of poverty. Think of those who live on the pinnacle of success. Think of those who slave and toil working with their hands, holding down two or three jobs to support a family. Are they asking that question? Probably not. Why? Because their circumstances don’t permit that question to be one that’s practical to ask.

The odds are you, too, though you may be asking the question, don’t have that much choice. 

Oh sure, you’d like to walk away from your crazy, unhappy, or stressed out life and go out into the woods, or ride off into the sunset of a foreign country. But let’s face it, you’d either hurt yourself or hurt others or otherwise end up doing something you might very much regret and pay for in spades.

So why the heck are you still asking that useless question? Hmmm, you’re no dummy so maybe it’s not entirely useless? Maybe we should give it some more thought?

“What would Gandhi do?” Or, “What would Jesus do?” Or, in my life, I would ask “What would Paramhansa Yogananda do?” Or, “What would (my teacher) Swami Kriyananda do?”

Balanced does not necessarily refer to the order of affairs in your daily routine. Normally we think a balanced life is exercise, rest, learning, working, playing, loving, serving, and eating healthy. I would throw in developing an inner, spiritual life, love for God and service to God in my fellow man. And, golly, who’s going to argue with that logic?

Problem is, we don’t necessarily have free will or choice in these circumstances. Key aspects of our life may be somewhat, or entirely, outside our control.

So I offer to you that a balanced life is balancing one’s inner life with one’s outer life. Egads! What are you talking about? You ask?

It goes like this: you may not be able to do much about the fact that you have a serious or chronic illness or an abusive supervisor in a job you cannot afford to walk away from. But you do have (or can learn to develop) control over your inner environment, to wit, your response to life’s challenges. Remember the book that started it all? “Relaxation Response!” (I never read it.)

Paramhansa Yogananda once went running down the street because he was late for a lecture he was to give. A friend yelled after him, “Don’t be nervous!” His response was, “I can run nervously or calmly, but not to run when I am late would be unconscionable.”

We can work hard, concentrate, and even be required by circumstance to multi-task, but, believe it or not, we can learn to do what we have to do and remain calmly active and actively calm.

A devotee can even better accomplish her duties during the day if she will seek silent and inward God remembrance as frequently as possible by inward chanting or mindfulness. For God remembrance brings calmness and inspiration to bear upon one’s duties.

Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita teaches us (through his disciple, Arjuna) that right action is that action conducted without attachment to the results. Most people work for pay. Few render grateful service to God through his fellow man. “Even a leaf I accept” if offered with devotion, God says through the words of Krishna.

Even in the hard scrabble of investing I have seen that the most successful traders were those who invested “for fun” and who accepted their losses as evenly as their gains. The “small guy” panics when prices drop and graspingly leaps in as prices rise toward their zenith. Why, because he decides based on emotion, attachment, greed or fear.

If Krishna’s counsel is true in the trading halls of Wall Street, how more so on the Main Street of our hearts?

A balanced life is one that gives to God every act in a spirit of love, and conducts each act with honor, dignity, and in response to the call of legitimate duty. A balanced life is one in which we act with as much enthusiasm as with nonattachment. With joy as with calmness. With creativity as with dutifulness.

Blessings to you,
Nayaswami Hriman