In my previous post I wrote about balancing our energy like a professional dancer (to use Diane Mariechild's analogy in Open Mind -- Women's Daily Inspirations for Becoming Mindful), relating it to how we with chronic pain must learn the delicate balance between pushing ourselves too much and giving in to the pain too much. The analogy of the dancer using just as much energy as she needs -- no more, no less -- works just as well for finding balance in emotional and spiritual energy.
It is easy, even tempting, to allow our emotional and spiritual pain to weigh us down, make us feel helpless and hopeless. In terms of balance and the dancer analogy, we are using less energy than we could. On the other hand, it is easy and even tempting to charge through the pain and seek solutions without reflection: we are using more energy than we could. One could also say that in these two extremes we might be applying the right amount of energy, just in the wrong place.
"The spiritual life, learning to be present to each moment, opens us to the fear, the terror, the joy and the ecstasy of the world. This presence is the courage to open to the pain...When supported by equanimity, this [presence] doesn't weigh us down: it allows us to do what needs to be done with a light heart." Diane Mariechild, reflection for May 1
As Mariechild sees it, presence -- being open to and aware of the world around us -- is balanced by equanimity -- the "ground for wisdom and freedom and the protector of compassion and love" -- in such a way that the equanimity supports our ability to remain present to a world that can be so frightful.
With equanimity we are able to discern just how much emotional energy we need to give to the relationship that seems to be exploding; to the sorrow we feel about bombings and drone attacks; to the horror of sanctioned torture; to the anger we feel about priests and other authority figures molesting children; to the helplessness of watching someone die. This balance does not come in a moment. It is the result of trial and error and a deep understanding of our own, very individual ways of relating to the world.
As for the joy and ecstasy of being present to the world, equanimity teaches us just how much emotional and spiritual energy we need to put into the new car or cute outfit; with what zeal we attack a good meal; becoming honest about the hold our addictions or codependence have on us; excitement about the upcoming vacation or concert. Because an imbalance of joy's energy, although it certainly feels much better than an imbalance in pain's energy (not to mention being revered by our society), is just a destructive to our spirits.
When we are not forever swinging uncontrollably between upset or anxiety or depression to elation or exultation, we are able to live more deeply and broadly: the change in energy is the difference between the water bug skittering on the pond's surface and the trout living in the pond's depths.
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Carol D. Marsh
- With a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Nonfiction degree (Goucher College, August 2014), I am looking at a new phase in my life. From 1992 to 2009, I served as Founding Executive Director of Miriam's House, a residence for homeless women living with AIDS. I left this position when Chronic Migraine Disease overtook my ability to do my job. Now I hope that a writing career will both accommodate the migraines and give me a creative, productive outlet. And soon, September 4, I will launch my Inkshares author page in a bid to hit the 1,000 pre-order goal in 90 days. The book I want to publish is "Nowhere Else I Want to Be," a memoir of ten of my years at Miriam's House.