ALANDA GREENE explores how to bring balance into a polarized world, even the polarized nature of the environment, climate change and politics. It all starts with us as individuals.
A friend from Switzerland called recently, and we shared stories about our respective extreme weather conditions. He was sitting in a down jacket in a late afternoon of mid-summer, a time when he would usually be in swimming shorts at the nearby lakeshore, warmed by the evening sun. I was sweltering in our unprecedented heat even as thick smoke and unsettling dry conditions threatened fire. We joked about how to balance things – trade some of our heat for the persistent rain and coolness where he lived.
Later I considered how these polarized environmental conditions – fire and flood, heat and cold, dry, and sodden – mirror the social and political situations of our world. Conversations regularly include discussions about the polarities of the times: stances extreme, positions locked, words and tempers volatile.
When conditions are highly polarized, balance is difficult to maintain. The spinning top spins smooth while the center of gravity is aligned with its physical center, but begins to wobble and crash as the balance moves toward the periphery. Not a perfect metaphor, but you get the meaning. In Chinese Medicine Philosophy, the basic yin and yang energies are part of all aspects of the world. The path to health and well-being exists with the balance of these two functioning in harmony.
Considering this widespread imbalance, I know that the first step to restoring balance must come from me. Until it is present within myself, how can I recognize what is needed to restore it in the outer environment?
Here, I turn to the teachings of hatha yoga where balance is a key offering. Hatha is a combination of two syllables: ha meaning sun and tha meaning moon. The word combines the masculine and feminine principles, the active and receptive.
In the deep stillness of relaxation at the end of a series of poses,
balance, harmony, and centeredness is restored.
Breathing in, breathing out: one breath, two processes in harmony. Balancing the inward and outward aspects of breath brings immediate and palpable influence to my mind. I move to center, feel harmony and peace. Moving through various poses or asanas, my body and mind work together, bringing balance between the left and right sides, between tension and relaxation, between action and rest. In the deep stillness of relaxation at the end of a series of poses, balance, harmony, and centeredness are restored.
Systems thinking shows that a very small change can ripple out to have a large and significant effect. Returning to the center, to the balance and harmony within myself, can be this small change.
Illustrations by LAKSHMI GADDAM
Alanda Greene lives in the Purcell Mountains of British Columbia, Canada. Having a deep connection with nature, she and her husband built their house of stone and timber and a terraced garden, and integrated their life into this rural community. Alanda’s primary focus is the conscious integration of spirit with all aspects of life.