The Balancing Act

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In January, Yoga Journal had a wonderful article about how to use yoga to bring your life into better balance. I don’t remember what I was expecting, but I don’t think I anticipated what a wonderful tool I was being provided. This article describes the four purusharthas – dharma, artha, kama and moksha – and ways the concepts apply to our everyday lives.

To sum it up very briefly – and the YJ article does it far better than I do, so please read it if you have a few minutes! – oh, heck, let’s use bullets.

  • dharma – the work we do, what is necessary, getting up in the morning and taking care of our families, fulfilling our roles as members of families and society
  • artha – prosperity, how we feel about our wealth, and how we manage it, the means we employ to fulfill our dharma
  • kama – pleasure, what brings us joy and fulfillment, the sweeter things in life, from sunsets to good food
  • moksha – freedom, the freedom “from” and the freedom “to”; yoga and meditation are the main tools of the yogi, which bring their own sense of freedom from demands of the ego and of the outside; but can also mean freeing yourself from situations that are holding you back

Okay, I didn’t look while I was writing that, so please forgive my klunky, novice descriptions. After five months of working with these concepts, though, I feel comfortable with the general ideas and some things have become really clear to me.

One of the big changes in my life recently has been releasing a vice. In the article, someone says that kama (pleasure) is necessary, but that the flipside is vice. He said the way to tell the difference was to ask yourself, “Is my pleasure taking me in the direction of my highest self or away from my highest self?’ That was definitely an “ah-ha!” moment. It became crystal clear that I needed to give up my vice, because that wasn’t who I wanted to be at all.

It’s also become clear to me that my life is imbalanced. My secret perception has long been that because I don’t have children or a boyfriend or very many people at all demanding my time, that I am kind of lazy. I thought, “All I do is hang out with my cat,” and I usually felt like, no matter how many to-do lists I complete, I never quite get enough done.

So I was a little surprised to find that my concentration on a weekly basis is 90 percent dharma and artha. Between working two jobs, teaching weekly at Gold’s, meeting family commitments, taking care of my household accounts and just generally managing my life, I do an awful lot of work. I’m not saying I’m special. I know most everyone in this day and age tries to do too much. I just thought I was different, because everyone else around me looked so much busier than I felt.

But I’m not different. I work hard, never feel like I’m getting enough done, and don’t put aside nearly enough time for myself to just have fun, to relax… and not even to do yoga and meditate. My daily meditation practice is about 10 minutes, when I know even five more minutes would make a world of difference in my mental well-being. I used to have a daily yoga practice, but now I’ve cut that down to two times a week (not counting BodyFlow) in favor of cardio workouts.

So I know now I need to have more fun. I am trying to take more time with friends, and to enjoy the little things throughout the day that bring me joy, like throwing the ball for my cat (yes, cat, she loves to play ball…) and knitting. I also want to schedule more time for yoga and meditation, but this is where I come to a dilemma. If I schedule my fun time, will it start to feel like just another obligation I’m not keeping up with?

I’ll have to think about that more and get back to you.

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