“B” is for Balance

By , on July 5, 2014


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I am not the type of person who goes with fads, trends, or this-and-that latest craze. Never have been, never will be.

I choose, instead, to blaze my own trail, and hope that I don’t burn anything down, in the process.

Like the time I decided to go vegetarian.

It was Manila, 1991, and vegetarianism was virtually unheard of. In a city of fried pork loving people, I may as well have said I was Santa Claus. “You’re WHAT???” Vegetarian. “WHAAAAAAAAAAAT???” VEGETARIAN!!! This was the usual back and forth between me and some bug-eyed incredulous person, and it would normally end with me walking away in frustration, and they raising their hands in surrender. And disbelief. With a hint of confusion.

My veg days stretched on for 21 years, including 9 years of going vegan.

Until one day, on assignment for a travel magazine (the publishers of which would usually call the resort beforehand to explain – more accurately, apologize for – my dietary restrictions), it all came to a grinding halt.

The Executive Chef, a big and burly Austrian fellow, had prepared a four-course meal for me to sample. As each dish was served, I grew more and more suspicious that the call from my publishers had not been made, this time around – each dish somehow had a smidgen of meat. Third dish comes around, the pièce de résistance, presented by no less by big and burly Austrian himself. “And now,” he said with flourish, “for my ‘SPECIAAAALITY! MOROCCAN LAMB SHANK!”

My heart sank lower than the restaurant’s Grecian-inspired tiled floor. What was obviously intended to be a big “TAH-DAH!!!” moment was a huge “OH NOOOOOOO!” moment, for me. I felt I would pass out, from panic. My daughter (who was allowed to tag along) kicked me several times underneath the table; eyes wide with alarm, thought bubble reading: “MAMA!!! What now???”

Well. What choice did I have? I timidly took a tiny-ish piece, with the excuse that I was already stuffed from the previous courses. Of course, big and burly Austrian would not have it. “No, no no! THIS is how you eat it!”, dumping a huge piece onto my plate, then drowning it in lamb drippings.

Next day, on the 8-hour drive back to Manila, I was all shades of green; as I lay on my daughter’s lap. It was not a pretty sight at all. I knew then that I had to adjust. Between that experience – and being called into my publisher’s office for the whole “You know, we are having a hard time sending you out and now you have to choose…” speech – I knew one thing had to give. My lifestyle /diet of choice, or my travel writing.

I decided I was not yet ready to give up traveling, so…

I have since gone back to meat-eating, slowly re-integrating it back into my diet, but still eat heaping amounts of veggies and fruits, with much smaller amounts of animal anything.

And this is how I have found a balance between career, and personal life choices; such as diet. I’d like to think it has made me more stable, in all aspects.

Yin and yang, I suppose. Balance. One of the most basic building blocks of a healthy, happy life.

A balancing act

Beyond this-and-that latest craze, balance should be the ultimate goal. A holistic kind of health which permeates spirit, soul and body. Finding balance is vital to health, and to happiness.

As American writer and mystic, Thomas Merton said: ““Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance and order and rhythm and harmony.”

In today’s world, balance is often as elusive as Wonderland’s White Rabbit, leaving us wondering where it has gone and why it is seemingly beyond our grasp. Daily life, as hurried, high-pressure and harassed as it generally is, can leave you feeling exhausted, frustrated, anxious, stressed out, depressed, unfulfilled, and unhappy. And, needless to say, but I will say it anyway, these all take a toll on your health. Many “modern-day illnesses “are borne of these negative conditions: panic and stress-related disorders, depression, insomnia, fatigue, to name a few.

Finding balance; CREATING it in your life, is a must, for a healthier and happier you.

Inside and out

The aspects of our life that require balance can – according to Harvard-trained cardiologist, internist, health advocate and author, Dr. Cynthia Thaik – be divided into the internal and the external.

“Internally, you need to find a balance for your mind, heart, soul, and health. Externally, you need to balance your work, social life, family, friends, and hobbies,” she says.

So here’s the key to finding balance, in a nutshell: we must pay attention and nurture each aspect of our lives in as equal amounts as possible.

For instance, feed your mind by making sure to devote some time daily to reading (my personal goal is one book a month, at least), or working on word puzzles and brain activities – that sort of thing.

Commit to exercise and a healthy, natural as possible diet, to keep your body in shape.
Take time to meditate, pray, commune with your spirit.

Take on a interesting and enjoyable pastime, as well – something you enjoy doing.

Appreciate the little things in life. Maintain a thankful heart.

Connect with family and friends as often as you can. Maintain a healthy social life and communication with the people who matter most to you. I personally look forward to spending time with my daughter, movie dates or brunch dates with my dearest of friends, and such.

These are just some things you can do to create balance in all aspects of your life. I find that mapping it out – making a schedule and keeping to it – is an effective way for me to stay on track.

Tips to creating balance

To expound on some of the points mentioned above, here are some useful tips to help create balance in your life, as detailed on the Essential Life Skills website:

• Know yourself and how much rest, food and exercise you need to function at your best. There are many good books and websites that give great advice on diet and exercise. Decide what works best for you and implement it into your routine.

• Keep your mind alert and in shape. Try to learn a new piece of information each day. Read, and read some more. Converse with others; talk about new discoveries you made in the day, or events that transpired.

• Stay connected with family and friends. At the end of the day share with your spouse and children how the day went for each of you. We lead busy lives but we should never be too busy to connect with and make at least one phone call to a parent, sibling or friend during the day.

• Do something spontaneous. Our lives can be too regimented at times so it’s a good idea to do something out of the ordinary every now and then.

• Make time for yourself. At the end of each day, take time to unwind and devote some time towards yourself.

Benefits of balance

In the process of creating balance in our lives, we often find that we are able to focus on all the important areas of our lives, and move away from the unnecessary stuff. This, in turn, helps to make our lives more meaningful and fulfilled.

When balance is created, and the important things are in focus, this allows us to overcome if and when negative things do happen – which they do, life being what it is.

Furthermore, establishing balance in your life will enable you to be more productive and successful – and make you a whole lot healthier and happier.

Dr. Thaik points out that: “Living in balance is very important and extremely rewarding because your life becomes more joyful, serene, and vibrant.”

Plus, it enables you to keep your job and eat your Moroccan lamb shank, too. Without offending big and burly Austrian chefs, or turning green, for that matter.