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What Exactly Is Balance?

“Left! Right! Right again, HARD! Left!”

The guide for your whitewater rafting trip calls out for you to paddle. He is practically screaming over the sound of the raging river. The water is splashing on your faces as you navigate through the turbulence.


Suddenly, there’s a big drop, and for a moment it seems that all will be lost. The bow of the little raft shoots up, and feet go in the air. Then, with a thud, the raft comes back down. Luckily, it lands right-side-up. You regain balance, reposition yourselves in the raft, and continue your adventuresome ride.

In Whitewater Rafting Balance Is Everything, And So It Is In Life

Nothing feels more scary than losing your balance in a fast-moving river. The consequences can be dire. When you’re in the river, your life depends on your ability to maintain balance.


And the same holds true for life in general. When the river of life hits turbulent times, you’ve got to maintain balance somehow. Your sanity depends on it.

What Is Balance?

I’m talking of internal balance here. You know balance by the way we feel inside. There is a recognizable steadiness when you’re in balance. There is a genuine sense of safety. A sense of easiness, knowing that you’re okay. It’s the opposite of imbalance, which feels like stress and fear.

So What Causes Balance And Imbalance?

Emotionally fighting with reality is what causes internal imbalance. Adjusting emotionally to reality brings balance again. Balance depends on your relationship with reality. If you fight the river, you capsize. It’s as simple as that.

This is because reality is always bigger. So when you fight emotionally with reality you start to lose your balance. 

But there’s an additional problem.

Reality Is Always Changing

Just like a raging river, life is always changing from moment to moment. Paddling to the left one moment may bring balance. But the next moment continuing to paddle left could kill you. It is always different.

In other words, balance is not a static thing. It’s not a one-time deal. It’s not like, “Oh, I think I’ll get balanced, and then my life will be great.” You can guarantee that as soon as you get your life balanced, reality will have shifted again and you’ll need to change your direction once again to create balance.

Sound Hopeless? It's Not

Maintaining balance in a fast-changing river might sound difficult. But only if you are unwilling to keep changing with reality. If you’re willing to keep adjusting as reality changes, it’s just a matter of being present with each step life gives you.

Why are we sometimes unwilling to adjust to this ever-changing reality? At times it’s just laziness. At other times it is because we believe that we are right and reality is wrong. We think that life should be different than it is. And so we fight with reality. And we lose.

So How To Maintain Balance In This Ever Changing Reality?

First of all, I have to notice when I’m out of balance. I have to pay attention to my stress. And then notice the thoughts that are holding up that feeling of stress. And finally, I need to question the thoughts I’m attached to.

This Is Called The Work Of Byron Katie

The Work of Byron Katie (The Work) is a simple process. And it works to find internal balance. But why does it work?

It works because it gets you to give a very honest assessment of the state of your imbalance. Only you can assess this. Writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet for example is an amazing way to get the details of the state of your imbalance on paper.

The Work takes an honest assessment of imbalance and very gently brings you to a place where you can consider the opposite of what you believe.

Maybe You Believe You Should Turn Right

And the river of life says, “Turn left.”

You fight it by thinking, “I want to go right.” Your life starts to go out of balance because of your unwillingness to adjust to the ever-changing course of life. You feel the stress.

The Work gently gets you to look at your thought, “I want to go right,” and to notice how much imbalance it brings when you believe it. How much it makes you fight against life. And how much more balanced you would be without that thought.

The Work invites you to consider the opposite of what you believe. Could the opposite be as true or truer? It expands your mind to consider the possibility that maybe going along with reality (turning left), instead of fighting it, might actually work better for you.

In This Way The Work Gently Brings You Back To Balance

It frees you up to paddle with the river instead of against it. It helps you pay attention to the viable option you may have been resisting.

So you turn left to flow with the river. And when you’ve gone too far left, you’ll feel the pull of imbalance again. If you’re stubbornly attached to paddling left, The Work can open your mind again to consider going back to the right again for the sake of balance.

You start to paddle left, right, left, right, and left in an appropriate manner. You become alert to the ever-changing flow of the river. This brings a greater sense of balance that carries you down the river freely and safely. It’s fun to paddle in this way.

As You Culture This Alertness, You Start To Catch The Imbalance Earlier And Earlier

When you know how to maintain balance through the roughest waters, you start seeing the indications to turn left or right earlier.

In fact, when you get good at it, you start searching out rougher and rougher water to test and refine your skills. When you’ve been doing The Work for a while, you get excited by turbulent times. You love the adventure of those class V rapids. Because you know how to come back to balance even if you completely flip out of your raft.

This is why I love The Work as a way of maintaining emotional balance as I navigate the river of my life.