As a life coach, I get a lot of queries from people who are interested in improving their work-life balance; people who are exhausted and unfulfilled and feel certain that if they could just steady the cosmic see-saw then they would achieve a sense of satisfaction.
To which I say: Bullshit.
A life lived in submission to balance is a life that separates and categorizes things. Work and play?–not the same. Spirituality and relationships?–two wholly different concerns. Physical health and cultural health?–nothing to do with each other. Separate. Categorize. Compartmentalize. Give each area its own individual time and attention in order to achieve some equilibrium. Everything in the name of BALANCE! It’s no wonder we’re so exhausted when we’ve created a zillion different concerns and domains that need tending. And because we view everything as separate, feeding one will not feed another. In fact, it actually depletes attention from the other things. The pie gets smaller and smaller. The pot of available resources dwindles.
So, if the end goal is balance then we are doomed to fail because the energetic relationships between all the areas in our lives will never be equal. But if we focus on INTEGRATION then everything changes.
When we abandon balance and strive for integration then everything becomes related–one expression of our purpose and desire. Things are intertwined and working together in a way that allows them to feed each other, in the same way that streams feed the rivers that feed the ocean. No longer will we feel so desperately unfulfilled when we cannot devote as much attention to any one aspect of our lives because with integration that aspect can still find expression and nourishment elsewhere.
For example, let’s say you’re having a crazy busy week and getting to your regular physical practice of Aikido is the only extracurricular activity you have time for. Luckily, Aikido also appeals to you on a spiritual level so there’s no need to feel desolate about missing your other regular spiritual practice (i.e., meditation group, church service, sabbat dinner, women’s circle, etc). Additionally, you’ve also taken the time to get to know the people in your Aikido class by spending some time with them before and after sessions. This helps you feel connected to community even though you won’t have a chance to get together with close friends over the next few days. With integration in mind, now you leave this class having satisfied three of the things that are most important to you: connecting to your body, your spirit, and your community. And you did it all in one place!
Integration is about living a life in which all of our actions are done in service to the same thing. It requires thinking of our lives and our bodies as a system. A system in which all that we think and all that we do are connected. This is a key premise of Integral Coaching–that our whole lives and our whole selves matter. There are no parts of ourselves, or our lives, that are unimportant or discardable. Not even those 8 hours a day we trade for a paycheck!
What would happen for you if you got off the balance beam? If you lived your life in a more integral way, what would be at the core of everything you did? What would you live your life in service of? And let’s be grand here–truth, beauty, healing, love, family, compassion. Big words make for big lives.