Monday, June 2, 2008


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.