Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Balance

One of the concepts embraced in traditional shamanism is the concept of balance.  While the concept itself is incredibly complex and requires an in-depth understanding of how various systems interact with each other (regardless of whether that interaction is beneficial or destructive), when I work with students I teach them the "bank account approach" as an introduction to the idea.

Think about any situation as having a "financial" cost assigned to it.  It doesn't matter if it's food we eat, a relationship we engage in, or an interaction on a global scale.  Each thing we do either "withdraws" or "deposits" into our larger bank account.  Balance isn't about never cutting down a tree or convincing everyone that they need to become a vegetarian, give up their car, and take up meditation.  The concept of balance is one of never being "overdrawn" in a larger sense of our existence.

"Balance" - photographed October 31, 2007
Continuing to stay in a relationship that demeans us and causes us harm costs us without ever making a deposit.  Laughing with friends or family adds funds to our bank account.  Choosing to live on a fault line takes out a line of credit that will one day need to be repaid.

Balance isn't about not eating cheesecake; it's about not eating cheesecake at every meal and going for regular walks.  It's not about skipping the sale at your favorite department store, but about making sure those purchases are within your budget.  Trees can be cut down and forests cleared for other uses; the concept of balance simply reminds us that there's a cost involved and one that we'll need to pay.  It's not a threat, but simply a bank account that we benefit from seeing a surplus in instead of driving it into the red.

What's more is that for the concept of balance to work, we have to embrace our individuality.  Perhaps playing Xbox for an hour is a way for one person to unwind and it makes a deposit into their personal funds; perhaps another person finds it a waste of time and for them the stress associated with that activity is a withdrawal from their account.  When we allow ourselves the freedom to embrace our own individuality, a lot of the criticism and judgment we direct at other people simply falls away.  We begin to see the person instead of the event they're engaging in and relate to the human need even when we don't understand its expression.  When someone is exploiting a situation for their own gain, that also becomes tremendously clear to us.

When people say, "Oh, you're a shaman," there's a certain "woo-woo" tone to their voice.  If I mention, I'm a traditionally trained shaman, they stop and wonder what that distinction infers.  Ironically, the vast majority of the path is incredibly practical.  After all, in a tribal setting, a shaman was often looked to for guidance and to help navigate families to safety and prosperity.  Like much of what we encounter in our life, a shaman's approach to finding the path to follow isn't about divination or relying on mystical techniques, but is found when we slow down, think, and consider the implications of our actions and the cost or benefit those actions will have in the bigger scheme of our world.

I'm participating in the A to Z Blogging Challenge.  Sunday is a day off in the challenge.  Monday: the letter C.


  1. I agree about the Balance of life - and I love the notion of 'slow down and consider the consequences,' not just as an explanation of the shaman approach to things, but something politicians and world leaders could all learn from!
    Food for thought, definitely.
    Thanks for the post.
    All best

  2. Being well-balanced leads to a happier life. For me when things get off kilter I know I need to center myself and balance things out.

    A-Z Fellow Challenger
    Holly Ruggiero’sPOV

  3. Thank you Jeffrey I needed this today and will read it every day!! :)

  4. Nancy: Thanks! I began my training approximately two decades ago under the guidance of a Native American woman (Nukah). The traditional approach is much different than the workshops and books that are readily available and much of the emphasis is on perspective and community. It's a treat when a good portion of your path encourages you to spend time with your family and children. :)

  5. I always enjoy reading your posts and look forward to reading your book this month.

  6. Great post Jeffrey. I have always believed in the importance of balance. Looking forward to reading what C is going to be!

  7. Great post Jeffery! I eagerly await the rest of the alphabet -=) And hurry up with the book already!! -=P

  8. Very peaceful post Jeffrey. I feel much calmer now as the A-Z Challenge is very overwhelming!

    Looking forward to popping in from time to time for more Balance. Julie

  9. Great thoughts on balance, something I always struggle with. Liking your blog! I am #30 follower, nice to meet you!


  10. Good points about balance. I'll be thinking about this as I love or hate working in my garden.

  11. Great post, it makes you take a step back and take a break from life. We all need to take a step back and see if our Balance is correct.

  12. I love your take on the A to Z Challenge...beautiful 'B' balance photos too. I found you with the 'surprise me' button. I'm a new follower.
    I'd love for you to check out my take on the A to Z Challenge, comment and follow, if you like.
    I'm at:

    Kathy at Oak Lawn Images

  13. Great lesson on balance. I think few people manage to live a balanced life though we try.

  14. Thank you, everyone! For those of you with a blog who commented, I think I found you all and I'm following you there.

    Like most of you, I love the concept of balance - it's the daily implementation that is sometimes a challenge. I don't know about you, but I often feel like I'm trying to balance while standing in the surf. As the waves ebb and flow, I can feel the pull and it sometimes takes some conscious focus to maintain that balance. :)