Thursday, June 12, 2008


To live a refreshed life, to reduce our risk of stress, balancing our life among these four areas is essential. However, the reality is that at any give point of time one or more of these areas will likely be receiving a disproportionate amount of our time and attention to the neglect of the three others.

A mother with a new born baby, for example will be investing her time in her new family and thinking little about her job, her sexual relationship or her personal interest in antiques. A forty year old executive who suddenly finds himself downsized out of a job will likely find the bulk of his energies flowing in that direction, but if he suffers a heart attack suddenly his own personal needs will take ascendancy over making love, finding a job or remembering to phone his sister on her birthday. Similarly a young couple in love may shut out the world and think of nothing but each other.

These and a thousand other facts of life will, must if we are living at all, keep our metaphorical table top in relative flux. However, if we have been wise and have invested the time and the energy in all of these four areas across our lifetime, then when a crisis or some other life circumstance, focuses us exclusively in one direction, the other areas of our life won't let us down. A table with only three legs won't fall and can even withstand a reasonable amount of weight over the area of the missing leg.

A strong intimate relationship can easily survive the months of abstinence required by childbirth; family and our partner will support us through job loss and illness if we've been there for them; and work, family and personal interests understand and rejoice in young love.

It is not a rigid life we seek, devoid of motion like a table bolted to the floor. We cannot live a fresh life, only a re-freshed one. The suffix "re" means "once more". We are constantly in need of "once more" balancing a life that is inevitably destabilized by the dynamic flux of growth.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Forth Leg: Exploring OURSELVES

Finally, and too frequently forgotten, there is ourselves.

We need time for us, time for those aspects of ourselves that we don't share in common with our families or our lovers. We are such complex and multifaceted individuals that no one person or group of people can ever meet our needs. We need time for those things we share in common with no one in our immediate circle.

We also require time just to be on our own, to know who we are apart from our partners, our families, our friends, our work places.

This is our life we are living and it requires time on our own to understand it and to know where it is going. This can be as simple as needing time for a relaxing bath, or to exercise, or attend classes in a subject of unique interest only to us, or to stroll the beach on windy day, to read a book or write one.

All too often we get caught up in the social and productive needs of our lives and forget about ourselves.

We are the forth leg of the table and to the extent our needs fail to get adequately met, the whole table is shaky.

Monday, June 9, 2008


The third essential for emotional stability is intimacy. More than an outlet for our sexual energy (but vital for that as well), we are a specie that craves a relationship with at least one other person that goes much deeper than friendship.

In the Bible the term often used for intimacy was "knowing". We crave a relationship in which we are known, where we are freer to be ourselves, where we can be seen both psychologically and physically naked and know that we are loved.

Because life is inherently risky, our survival is significantly enhanced if there are two of us. If something happens to me, you will be there to catch me, just as I will be there for you. And if I want to celebrate my success, share my joys, it's not much of a celebration if I am all alone.

It is in intimacy that I get to express my sexual nature and learn to see the world through the eyes of the opposite sex in a way that allows me the depth of vision that only comes from binocular vision, and can never be dreamed of in an ocular world.

A loving, prolonged and sexual relationship with a person different from ourselves broadens our understanding of life and is a vital part of a balanced life.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


The next leg is productivity. Productivity is essential to our material survival, as an outlet for our creativity, for pride in our place in society and as an underpinning for self-esteem. It doesn't matter if we are working for a living in a 9 to 5 job, blazing a career for ourselves in the field of our choice, devoting our lives to a cause or volunteering our time for a worthwhile end, as long as we are involved in some meaningful way with the world outside our families. It is through productivity that we achieve independence and self reliance, that we get the knowledge of making a difference in the world and to the world.

Productive work gives us an outlet for aspects of our selves and our energies that would otherwise remain dormant, whether we be organizers, or managers or artists, or scientists or doctors; whether we entertain or market or test or assemble we are called upon to exercise skills that can only be honed in the marketplaces of our world. And besides, for most of us, without the money we derive from work there'd be literally nothing to put on the table and that would lead to a really unbalanced life.

Monday, June 2, 2008


Considered chronologically, family is the first leg supporting a well balanced life. By family I include friends that become so integral to our lives that they become "family". As babies we survive only because our family fed and clothed and loved and held and taught and played and cared for us. Without them, at this stage we would be lucky to survive even a few hours on our own.

As we grow and take the first tentative steps toward exploring our world, the length of time we can survive without our families lengthens until as adults we can survive, physically, without any family support. Psychologically, however we never out grow the need for "family". Humans are social animals with a strong need to belong, to share and care and rejoice in those close to us knowing that, when we are down, others are there to support, encourage and challenge us. A well balanced and refreshed life requires an investment in and an involvement with our families. This requires an expenditure in time as well as energy.

All too often I hear people saying, "well I don't spend as much time with my family as I should, but the time I do spend is quality time." Nonsense. There cannot be quality without sufficient quantity. Families cannot survive, physically or emotionally without our feeding, clothing, loving, holding, teaching, playing and caring for them in our turn. Nor can our table top remain balanced for long with this leg weakened or missing.


Exploring has its dangers. Its easy to get lost if you don't know how to stay connected.

I remember visiting Paris in my late teens and being really anxious to get out there and explore the city. It was only after and hour of wandering the streets in total amazement that I realized I had no idea how to find my way back to my hotel, and not enough French to ask for directions.

I was so lost in the pleasures of exploration I'd lost touch with my home base. I eventually did find my way back (I'm a pretty good explorer), but I learned a valuable lesson about the need to stay connected and knowing how to retrace your steps.

The urge to explorer needs to be rooted in an otherwise well balanced life. This is not news. The ancient Greeks, two millennia ago, practiced the concept of the golden mean: all things in moderation. Three thousand years before them, the Egyptians believed if the good life could be placed on a scale the weight of evil one did should not over balance the weight of a feather. The Tao teaches that the two prime forces of the universe, the yin and the yang, yearn for balance within each of us.

Even today, when we talk about someone having a mental illness we frequently say they are "unbalanced". Similarly, people commonly speak of very emotionally healthy individuals as being "stable" or "well-balanced".

As a metaphor for a balanced life, consider the humble table. Few things better represent balance and stability than a table top. Supported by four legs, a table can withstand almost any weight that might come its way. As long as the legs are of equal length and strength, few things are in better balance than the top of a table. Similarly, like the legs supporting our table, there are four major areas of life that, if given equal time, attention and nourishment, support a balanced and healthy life.

There is no first among these areas, any more than there is one leg that is more important to the support of a table top. However, at different times of life, one or more of these areas can, and should, be the prime focus of our attention. But a table with one or more legs missing is a table in stress and at risk of toppling over, its appearance of balance an illusion shattered by the first weight put on the corner with the missing leg. To be strong and do its job, a table needs all four of its legs just as we need the support of each of these four aspect of our lives.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

What Is An Explorer's View Of Life?

There have always been explorers from the earliest times of human existence. Sometimes they were driven to explore by desperate circumstances following famines or drought. Most of the time it was just a part of their nature. They couldn't not explore.

Where others were content, they were driven to learn. It was sometimes not a survival trait, at least not for the explorer. For the tribe, having explorers in their midst usually provided an evolutionary and competitive advantage.

In those early times, exploration usually meant seeking out new territory. Learning what was over the next hill, what was around the next corner. Those were the days of the physical explorers whose current embodiment are the astronauts who may soon be living, and dying, on the Moon or Mars.

But there have always been intellectual explorers as well. In the beginning they were the shamans who sought the reasons for disease and misfortune, who wondered about the healing powers of herbs and plants, about the forces that moved the moon and the stars, who wondered at the seasons and the storms, who found the behaviour of animals and other members of their tribes of compelling interest. They guessed at explanations and put those guesses to the test with little understanding of the laws of science or the ubiquity of coincidence.

As always for explorers there is trial and a great deal of error.

But because of their courage to explore, we all learned. Gradually and painfully.

I'm not an explorer in those grand terms. I am an explorer on a more personal scale. I love to travel and love to meet people and love to learn. I love to try new things. I am restless for novelty and adventure. Although usually those adventures are of the intellectual kind.

It makes for an interesting life.