Do You Lead A Balanced Life?
In a modern world of technological bombardment, as well as work, family and economic stresses, how do you know if your life is in balance? How many of these can you say “Yes” to?
- I wake up feeling inspired and glad to be alive
- I live more in the present then the past or future
- I can cope with difficulties and see problems as challenges, opportunities to learn and grow
- I can offset negative events with positive events
- I can be happy without any reason to be happy
- I can be happy working and playing equally
- I can be myself and like the person I am
Keep in mind, that a life out of balance and clinical depression can feel similar. If you think you may be suffering from clinical depression, please seek professional evaluation. Otherwise, here are a few ways to assist you in putting your life back into balance:
Ways You Can Bring Balance to Your Life
- Disconnect from electronics (phones, computers, tablets, etc) for some time each day, especially before bedtime
- Set limits. Say “No” to whatever or whoever is not essential or does not add something valuable to your life. Simplify as much as possible.
- Make your health a priority. Choose healthy food in the right amount, move your body, practice good sleep hygiene, etc.
- Surround yourself with positive, supportive people. Avoid “toxic” people (complainers, whiners, negative people who “zap” your energy). In situations, such as work, where this is not always possible, learn to protect your energy. (I teach you exercises for doing this)
- Spend time alone, in nature if possible. Just sit quietly for a few minutes each day. Give yourself permission to relax.
- Set aside quality time for your favorite family members, friends or partner. Connect with those you care about.
- Nurture yourself with activities or hobbies you enjoy – follow your passions
If you describe yourself as a nurturer of others, a giver, a peacemaker, etc. (this can be a wonderful quality)- just make sure you spend equal time nurturing yourself, giving to yourself, making peace with yourself.
Remember, happiness and balance in your life is a choice and a practice. Life is short so have fun because you can and most of all, feel like you deserve it! Hypnotherapy and the skills you learn with Nancy can assist you in this process.
“Happiness is not a matter of intensity but of balance, order, rhythm and harmony.” Thomas Merton
What Ancient Symbols Indicate Man’s Search for Balance and Harmony?
The quest for balance and harmony in the history of mankind is nothing new. Symbols reflecting this search are ancient and go back to man’s first communications through written format.
The following are some well known symbols that demonstrate the concept and quest from a different historical perspective:
The Mandala As a Symbol and Tool for Balance and Wholeness
The mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol, originating in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the Universe. The word is of Sanskrit origin, meaning “circle. It also been interpreted as “wholeness,” a cosmic diagram reminding us of our relationship to infinity, extending beyond the physical mind/body.
In various traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid for meditation.
In common use, the mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically – a microcosm of the universe. It can represent wholeness and divine, our relationship to eternity and unity between the world within the mind and body and the world outside. Whatever the pattern of the mandala, it has a concentric structure. Mandalas offer balancing visual elements, also symbolizing unity and harmony.
The of design a mandala is meant to be visually appealing so as to absorb the mind in such a way that the mind’s busy thoughts can ease which can then lead to a higher consciousness or awareness. The mandala can be seen as a hypnotic tool allowing the creative right hemisphere of the mind to be more open, while the analytical left hemisphere can take a little nap.
In the Buddhist tradition, there are many forms of mandalas, each with different lessons to teach and blessings to confer (beyond the scope of this article). One well known one is the ancient Tibetan sand painting mandala, thought to originate in India and transferred to Tibet in the Middle Ages. Over a period of several days or weeks, the sand painting is painstakingly created on the temple floor by several monks who use tubes to create a tiny flow of grains. An intricate diagram of the enlightened mind and the ideal world is formed. Most contain a host of deities and symbolic archetypes. When finished, to symbolize the impermanence of all that exists, the colored sands are brushed together and poured into a nearby river or stream where the waters carry the healing energies throughout the world.
According to the Tibetan monks of Drepung Gomang Monastery, mandalas have outer, inner, and secret meaning. On the outer level they represent the world in its divine form; on the inner level, they represent a map by which the ordinary human mind is transformed into the enlightened mind; and on the secret level, they predict the primordially perfect balance of the subtle energies of the body and the clear light dimension of the mind. The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on these three levels.
The Mandala in Western Psychology
Many believe we owe the re-introduction of mandalas into modern Western thought to Carl Jung, the Swiss psychoanalyst. In his pioneering exploration of the unconscious through his own art making, Jung observed the motif of the circle spontaneously appearing. The circle drawings reflected his inner state at that moment. Familiarity with the philosophical writings of India prompted Jung to adopt the word “mandala” to describe these circle drawings he and his patients made. In his autobiography, Jung wrote:
“I sketched every morning in a notebook a small circular drawing, which seemed to correspond to my inner situation at the time….Only gradually did I discover what the mandala really is:…the Self, the wholeness of the personality, which if all goes well is harmonious.”
—Carl Jung, Memories, Dreams, Reflections, pp 195 – 196.
- G. Jung called the mandala a symbol of the soul. He was interested in the psychological significance of symbols, and he called the circle the most powerful symbol. He began painting his personal mandalas and his fantasies around 1914, and collected them in what he called the Red Book. Jung’s first mandala, Systema Munditototius, resembles a Medicine Wheel. The painting depicted the microcosm within the macrocosm, with personally significant figures at the four points of the compass. For example, at the north point of the wheel is the figure of a young boy in a winged egg, which is balanced at the south point of the wheel with Abraxas, representing the world of shadows. Jung described his mandalas as cryptograms concerning the state of the self. He believed the mandala represents the self, the world, and the wholeness of the personality.
Jung asked many of his psychotherapy patients to draw and paint mandalas, and he examined them to discover their unconscious thoughts. By analyzing the pictures, Jung thought that patients could develop a new sense of self; once freed from unconscious feelings and complexes, the person could begin the path toward individuation – the process of harmonizing the disparate elements of the self, and bringing them into balance
The SacredCircle in Native American Healing Practices
- G. Jung traveled in the American southwest and visited with representatives of Indian tribes. He noted the similarity of the Tibetan Buddhist mandala to the dry sand paintings that are a part of Navajo healing ceremonies Hundreds of different sand painting designs have been recorded, and each one is used in a particular ceremony. The colorful, highly stylized sand paintings are created to help restore health and harmony to the patient. The process of creating a sand painting is thought to contribute to healing because the process of drawing the symmetrical, orderly images focuses the thoughts on balance and harmony. The Navajo believe that the healing power of the sand painting is due to the depiction of the Holy People, who are thought to be present in the images; when the patient comes in direct contact with the images of the Holy People by sitting on the sand painting, they enter the patient and promote healing. Powerful circle symbolism is seen in Native America medicine wheels and shields. Medicine wheels represent the universe, change, life, death, birth and learning. Such great circles are considered the lodge of our bodies, our minds and our hearts. Although there are many parallels to the Tibetan mandala, Native Americans never used the word “mandala” to describe their sacred circles.
As Timothy C. Thomason, a Professor in the Department of Educational Psychology at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona says,
“At a minimum, the archetypal circular shape of the medicine wheel could be interpreted as a reminder that it is important to see life and all creation as a whole. The center of the wheel can be seen as representing the unitary self, while the spokes reach outward to other people and the rest of the world. The cardinal points on the perimeter of the wheel imply the great diversity of creation, and the opposition of the points implies the need to integrate the opposites to find harmony. In its evocation of balance the medicine wheel reminds us to focus on what is most important in life.”
The Celtic Tree of Life As A Symbol of Harmony and Balance
The concept of ‘tree of life’ is found in many cultures including that of Celts. The crosses of Celtic and Northumbrian origins incorporate tree symbols in their designs. The Celtic tree of life symbolizes the forces of nature coming together in perfect harmony to maintain the balance in the universe.
Ancient Celts (Druids) believed that the tree of life, or crann bethadh, possessed special powers. The tribal people of Ireland while clearing a piece of land for human settlement, used to leave a tree in the center; they called this tree the crann bethadh. These people held gatherings and assemblies beneath the crann bethadh. The tree provided food, warmth and shelter to people and to other forms of life such as animals, birds, insects, etc. Therefore, the tree was described as a force which took care of life on earth. The trees represented all of life and its cycles existing in perfect balance-birth through death. Celts only inhabited those areas where the tree of life was present.
In Celtic legends of the Gods, trees guard sacred wells and provide healing, shelter, and wisdom. Trees carried messages to the other realm, and conferred blessings. Even today, trees can be seen in the Irish countryside festooned with ribbons and pleas for favors, love, healing, and prosperity.
Besides the tree of life representing balance and harmony in nature, here are few other interesting Celtic beliefs about how the symbol is associated with different qualities and phenomena.
- The Celts attribute the tree of life symbol to qualities like wisdom, strength and longevity.
- The Celts believed that their enemies would be rendered powerless if their (enemy’s) sacred tree was cut down.
- The different meanings associated with rebirth and the tree of life were derived from seasonal changes which the Celts observed in these trees. The Celts performed various rituals to mark the changes that a tree of life underwent. The changes observed in these trees were tagged as birth, death and rebirth. 4. The Celts believed the tree of life connected the upper and lower worlds. Roots of this tree penetrate the depths of the lower world. Branches grow upwards and stretch out to the heavens. The trunk of the tree of life remains on the earth’s plane. 5. The Celts believed that the growth of the tree of life was associated with spiritual growth. As per beliefs held by Druids, some of these trees possessed magical powers and were capable of carrying messages to the ‘Otherworld’. It was also believed that trees possessed the power to bless people with prosperity.
The Tree of Life exists in many cultures, religions and mythologies, including those of Ancient Egypt, China, the Kabbalah and the Mayans.
There are many other well known symbols, some quite ancient, for balance and harmony. Some examples are the Masonic Compass, the Celtic Awen, the Egyptian Feather of Maat, the Buddhist Lotus, the Scales of the Libra Zodiac Sign. For pictures of these and a complete list of other symbols, Google, “Symbols and their Meaning.”
Yin Yang Symbol
Yin-Yang is a deeply rooted concept in Taoist philosophy, dating back as far as the third century BCE or earlier, representing the constant state of change or duality in the universe forming a whole. It describes how opposite forces are interconnected and mutually dependent in the natural world; and, harmony is only achieved when the two forces combined, are in balance.
Any phenomenon within nature can be understood in relation to another. In other words, all things exist as inseparable and contradictory opposites, for example female-male, dark-light and old-young.
The two opposites attract and complement each other and, as their symbol illustrates, each side has at its core an element of the other (represented by the small dots). Neither pole is superior or inferior to the other, as an increase in one brings a corresponding decrease in the other. Taoist tradition teaches that if we are able to strike a balance between these polar forces and harmonize these two competing polarities within ourselves, order will result within and around us. Succumbing to a perpetual imbalance of these energies results in the experience of suffering and chaotic conditions.
Yin and Yang are continuously changing, and are endlessly transforming one into the other. The circle represents all of creation. A circle is never ending-it has no beginning or end. The two swirls represent change since all that exists is in a constant state of change. The symbol shows the cyclical changes, and the dots inside the white and black halves indicate that within each is the seed of the other.
Yin and Yang are important in Chinese traditional medicine (TCM) as well. When the body is in balance between Yin and Yang health is predominant. When the Yin and Yang are imbalanced, disease occurs. One ancient TCM text expressed it this way “If you can understand Yin and Yang you can hold the universe in your hands.”
For more information on Yin Yang in Chinese traditional medicine see:
The following song, by the Tibetan teacher Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso, makes the same point as the Yin-Yang symbol, and advises us – in the face of the arising and dissolving of myriad forms – to “just let go, and go where no mind goes.”