I’ve always believed people should live balanced lives: you know, mind, body, spirit. I learned this was important through life-long yoga practice, reading philosophy, and talking to wise ones who successfully practiced this path to peace and contentment. However, I’ve NEVER been able to achieve it–not even for one whole week. I live a life of never-ending to-do lists, schedules, alarms, and obligations. I even make to-do lists and schedules to make sure I schedule time to relax, but no matter how hard I try, something important is always neglected.
I am naturally motivated to improve my mind. For this I need no prompting. I don’t have to try very hard to make time to learn something new, read, or write. I once spent an entire summer studying philosophy and theology. Because I am a teacher and a writer, it is easy to justify time spent on these activities. But I recognize that there is more to life than my intellectual pursuits. The first thing that drops off my list is usually physical exercise.
I wasn’t always a sedentary person. When I was younger, I was an enthusiastic runner, I took Karate, yoga, and figure skating lessons. I used to dance. I admit that I never liked team sports or traditional working out at the gym. Actually, I loathe it. But running and skating cleared my mind, yoga relaxed me, Karate–well, that kind of sucked, but I liked the idea of being able to defend myself. However, after four knee surgeries, my doctor told me that I was not allowed to run, skate, or do karate. Ever. To avoid major knee reconstruction (which would involve breaking my legs and sitting in a wheel chair for almost a year), I was told to take up cycling. The doctor told me that even swimming would be too hard on my knees, and walking should be kept to a normal strolling pace. So I bought an exercise bike and have been pretty good about riding it on a regular basis. The only thing that motivates me to do this is that I literally cannot walk if I stop for any length of time. I also still practice yoga, but not with any consistency. Needless to say, my daily 20-30 minutes on my exercise bike is not really meeting my aerobic needs.
As for the “spirit,” I tried meditating and yoga, which does relax my mind and body. I also nurture my inner self by spending time with people I care about and by pursuing my artistic interests. I think I need to spend time outside in nature as well, maybe even be a little adventurous. I need to spend quality time with my husband, family, and friends. I need to just do nothing sometimes. I long to do nothing, but I am really NOT good at it.
So, as usual, summer vacation from teaching was the time when I planned to regroup and get my life back in balance, as if it ever were. I immediately made preposterously unrealistic goals, to-do lists, and schedules to accomplish everything to attain this balance. Of course, I thought, it would be balanced because I made sure to include something from every area on which I wanted to work. It turned out to be the opposite of balance. Before I knew it, I signed up for three courses to help me with a new class I’ll be teaching in the fall, I started writing a new book, and I’m helping some students create an e-book short story anthology. I have about 15 books on my must-read list. I’m riding my bike (a real one) daily, spending time outside walking my dog and gardening, fitting in time with friends and family, staying up really late with my husband, trying to fit in a few hours of writing every day, re-organizing and cleaning my house, and basically going crazy trying to keep up. And there is never time to do nothing. This is worse than working full-time. Well, almost.
My husband tells me that I need to prioritize, that I can’t do it all. But isn’t that the point of balance? Doing it all–at least some of everything? Making sure that I meet the needs of all the different aspects of my being? When I try to prioritize, everything seems like a priority. I don’t get this balance thing. I think I am incapable of it. Or perhaps I just need a better schedule. I’d better get right on that.–Christina Knowles
What I love about reading philosophy is that it makes me consider the “important” questions from a logical perspective and come up with my own philosophies, so I think I do some of what you suggest. You make a good point about analyzing why I have a need to structure my life so much. On the surface I feel like it is because I have a lot of responsibilities that I have to take care of, but those responsibilities are not the things in life that are important to me, and I want time for both. However, it is probably something much deeper than that. Thanks!
Very good blog, I enjoyed reading it. Some feedback on the issues you seem to be having. I would say give up philosophy all together, you won’t find answers from “wise” men. Instead seek through personal honesty and self reflection, knowledge and understanding. I would say your unusual desire to forcefully structure your life even to the point that the structure is chaotic, is a good place to start. Why do you do that. Why do you REALLY do that? When did it start? By tracing the issue to the root you then begin to understand it. Once you understand it, it’s no longer an issue.
I hope this does not come off as offensive, I simply want to give you another perspective. One based from personal experience.