This is the time of year when we in the northern hemisphere rush headlong down the wave toward winter, at least in terms of losing our daylight. At latitude 38 where I live the change is about two minutes per day or one hour in a month. In that dive there is a very brief moment when day and night are equal all over the earth, hence the term equinox (equal night.)
The other balance points in our orbit around the sun are the solstices where the amount of light stays relatively the same for weeks. When the “sun stations” in the height of summer and the dead of winter the light change is only about 10 minutes in a month’s time.
On a graph this is your classic sine wave which is steep on the rise and fall and nearly flat on the peak and trough. The top and bottom are sort of natural resting places while the the inclines rush right past the moment of equality. So we have two kinds of balances, one where you can take your time and one where you’ll miss it if you blink, one of rest and the other of action, one of stillness, one of motion.
A main complaint of our modern life is that it requires so much action we barely have time to rest. So the general advice we get is to carve out more time for rest & relaxation. But there is another way, one that sounds impossible to our conditioned minds. That is to find relaxation and balance while we are in action, to find stillness in motion.
And just how do you pull off such a contradictory feat?
1. Well, let’s say you’re engaged in a physical activity like dancing, running, cycling, doing the housework, anything really. What you do is find a place in your body where something can always remains constant, always the same. You just assign it the job of being a home base, a center around which the universe can revolve. There’s no particular magic to it; anywhere can be the center of the cosmos, but certain places lend themselves to it better. Depending on your personality it could be your brain, your heart, your belly or your feet. It needs to be a place that makes sense to you since you’ll return to it whenever you you start to feel off kilter.
This trick comes from Ba Gua, a marital art where you walk in circles, constantly changing direction to confront or evade another opponent. When you do it as meditation you are creating a place of stillness within chaos. It’s also a part of the art of twirling as in whirling dervishes and belly dancing. There the obvious constant place would be your central axis, assuming you can find it.
2. You can always monitor and change your Breathing, of course. Anxious breathing is quick, forward moving, and high up in the lungs because anxious energy rises up and rushes forward. Calm breathing is slow, back, and lower down in the abdomen. The beauty of breathing is that it’s very easy to control for almost everybody. Almost anyone can learn to direct their breath to their lower spine and even into their feet. (from the Tai Chi Classics: “The wise man breathes from his heels.”) Next time you’re in a crazy place see what this will do to your sense of equilibrium.
3. Another thing you can do calls for a higher level of awareness. You can tune into the essential underlying flow of whatever it is you’re doing and keep it constantly going in some part of your mind. For example you could ask something like, “What is the primary purpose in this endeavor?” It’s a very practical question because it requires you to distill out some basic clarity while dealing with a host of other relevant questions. Whether you’re preparing a dinner or running a company or cultivating a relationship there is an underlying purpose that can serve as your stability amidst the many particulars that come up. When you’re in tune with it all your particular activities can go in that direction. There is a sense of balance in chaos.
By way of exercise examples there are many Tai Chi and Qigong/Chi Gung exercises that move in continuous circles. Typically there are several elements that go into that basic framework such as grounding, breathing, relaxing, clearing meridians, pumping joints and organs, moving energy in and out, controlling blood flow, etc. Keeping track of all that can be confusing and chaotic which makes the exercise less effective. So you could choose as your stability point just Making Smooth Circles.
Yes, that sounds contradictory in nature but if you can experience motion itself as stillness you will have accomplished something remarkably useful for any season.