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All Work and No Play

Even metal sculptures need to play.

The Work is Work

As much as I love The Work, it is still work. It requires some effort and discipline and focus, and it can be tiring even when it is freeing.

Of course, this effort is beneficial. Without this focus and attention to detail, The Work is just a theory. It doesn’t touch me. Without actually putting in the hours and doing The Work, I may be “in the club” of The Work, but I’m not getting much benefit from it.

On the other hand, if I focus exclusively on doing The Work, I can burn out. Diving deep is great but it is not everything. If diving deep becomes my only focus, then my life becomes imbalanced.

Life Has Many Facets

Going deep is one. Playing is one. Taking care of the body, having a social life, managing money, resting, and being entertained—all of these are important parts of life. And just doing The Work is not enough to manage all these areas.

The Work is for unraveling my stressful thoughts in any area of my life. It is my life raft. But I cannot live in the life raft exclusively. I have to get out and live and then come back to The Work. I cannot make The Work my life if I want any balance.

Of course, there are times when I do want to go exclusively into The Work, and I often spend long hours doing The Work. And during some weeks or months, I do spend a lot more time doing The Work. But extremes cannot last for long, nor should they.

What Else Do You Do Besides The Work?

For me, in the past year my favorite diversion has been the amazingly fun sport of pickleball. When I found it, it solved several problems for me simultaneously. I was lacking balance in several areas: I was not getting enough exercise, I was not doing much socially, I was not doing much fun stuff with my partner, and I was not getting out of the house.

I was doing The Work a lot. I was running my business well. I was cooking good food, doing good meditation, and getting good sleep. But it was not enough. When I discovered pickleball, I watched my life open up. Suddenly, I was getting out of the house, meeting new people, doing something fun with my partner regularly, and getting physical exercise. Best of all, it was just plain fun.

I have always done exercise that was tedious, grueling even. I was a swimmer when I was young, and I know how to put in long hours of practice over many years. But now, with pickleball, I get exercise without even thinking about it. Two or three hours fly by on the pickleball court without me noticing.

I literally feel like a kid. I never want it to end. I frequently hear myself and others saying “Oh, come on, just one more game!” And in the summertime, we play outdoors in the evening until we can no longer see the ball.

Pickleball Is Not Something Deep

Though it has layers of subtlety that keep it interesting, pickleball is just play. But that’s why I need it. It grounds me. It is the opposite of diving in. It is about coming out to play.

Both going in and coming out are necessary—as necessary as breathing in and breathing out. If I only breathe in, I can suffocate just as quickly as when I only breathe out. It is the balance between the two that keeps me healthy.

So What’s Your Balance?

Are you not doing enough of The Work (getting caught in the loop of stressful thinking)? Or are you doing too much of The Work (getting caught in the loop of too much inquiry)? Only you can find the balance point for you. Each of us is different, and each day, each week, each month, is different.

Are you listening to yourself? What is your balance?

Have a great week,

“You can’t have an up without a down. You can’t have a left without a right. This is duality. If you have a problem, you must already have the solution. The question is, Do you really want the solution, or do you want to perpetuate the problem? The solution is always there.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World.

Further Reading: If you Think Balance of Mind is Hard, Try Riding a Unicycle

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.