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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Article: Finding Your Balance, Pt. 2

by Liana Laverentz

Okay, are we ready with our Mind, Body, Heart and Soul lists? To refresh, here are mine:

Mind – reading, writing, learning new things, helping my son with his homework
Body – exercise, karate, Yoga stretching, housework (yes, housework)
Heart – my relationships with my son and significant other, being a friend, community service, making soup
Soul – practicing my spirituality, my writing, listening to music, engaging in intelligent conversation, cleaning

You know and I know that Life just loves to take over and blow our perfectly organized schedules to bits. I don’t think a single day has gone the way I’d hoped it would since my son was born. Life just works that way. The first year of his life I was mentally kicking and screaming to have my old life back. Finally I decided to give up and relax into the flow. That didn’t work, either, as “me” time was not part of the flow.

So I came up with this idea. I decided I wouldn’t be greedy. I’d only ask for two hours a day to work on balance. Two out of sixteen. Sounds reasonable, right? That’s just over 10% of your “awake” time. Especially if you don’t get a full eight hours of sleep. Is that too much to ask? Aren’t you worth ten percent of your own time?

Damn right you are.

My idea was to start small, shoot for 30 minutes in each area to be happy. Mind? Thirty minutes a day of reading, or researching, or helping my son learn something new.

Body? Go to the Y, go to karate class, or yoga or Tai Chi class. No time to drive anywhere? Stay home and stretch a bit. Or pop in an exercise video. Just do one exercise-related thing every day, and keep it varied so you don’t get bored. We spend so much time in the chair, we need to keep our bodies at least flexible to avoid major problems when we get older.

Heart? Call a friend, reach out to someone in need, make soup and take it to someone having a rough time. Some people like to bake for others to show their concern. I love to make big pots of soup and share it. It settles me. My motto is, “When in doubt (about anything, actually), make soup.” There’s nothing like the aroma of freshly made soup wafting through the house to let me know all is right with my world.

Soul? Half an hour of spiritual reading, or meditation, or good conversation—remember how I said conversation is sex for the soul? J. (Come to think of it, sex could qualify in all four categories—can you imagine the possibilities?)

Okay, back to business. Writing is most definitely a soul activity. (But it also qualifies under heart and mind, so there you go, an hour and a half, and you’ve covered three in one day!) I’m also one of those oddball creatures who needs to have a relatively clean house before she can write. At least the common areas – living room, kitchen, dining room. My home is always open to friends in need, and should one show up, I don’t want them to be greeted with chaos. I don’t much like walking into chaos myself, when I come home from work.

So guess what? Cleaning comes under the heading of spiritual in my book. One, I am taking care of, or being a good steward of, what the good Lord or the universe or whomever you choose to call Him has bestowed upon me, and two, a clean, organized house settles my soul. That’s just the way it is for me. It also counts as exercise, a bonus! Half an hour of cleaning, and an hour and a half of writing, and my four areas are covered for the day. Woo hoo! Amazing how that works J.

You have to decide what works for you. If you’re not into housecleaning—that’s fine. Just decide what you are into, and make that a priority. As your life situation changes, you can expand these times to fill in your free hours. And be sure to update your list of priorities. This is not meant to be set in stone. I review mine annually. But keep the number of priorities you choose the same. This list is not meant to be added to. For this to work, if you need to add something new, then you have to take something off. And then you have to remember to say a guilt-free NO to anything that is not on your list.

I hope by now you can see how pretty much everything you do each day can fit into one of these four categories, based on your list of priorities. To recap, my priorities are my son, my significant other, work (by necessityL), writing, exercise, my spirituality, and my friendships. Volunteering comes under spirituality. Driving a sick parent or child to the doctor counts, too. It all depends on your perspective. If you do it with love, not impatience or annoyance or frustration, it counts as spiritual, or heart work. Just relax into the moment and enjoy some quality time with your loved one.

To keep it all in balance, I use the three-day rule. If haven’t cleaned anything in my house in three days, that moves into priority mode for the next day. If I haven’t been to the Y in three days, that moves to the top of my list for the next day. If I haven’t read anything in three days, I’ll choose that one next time around. If I haven’t spoken to a friend to ask how he or she is doing in three days, I will call someone. If I haven’t had some quality time with my son or significant other in three days, I will make time for them. If I haven’t written in three days…

You get the idea.

There are times when you won’t make all four items on your list each day. Things happen. That’s okay. Don’t waste time beating yourself up about it. Just start fresh the next day. The only moment you have is this one, and the question to ask any time you find yourself wondering what to do next is, “What is the best use I can make of my time right now?” Pull out your short list of priorities and pick one, preferably one you haven’t spent time with in the past three days. Because if you aim for just two hours a day of something to feed your mind, body, heart, and soul, and keep to the three-day rule, you will find that at the end of the week, you will have hit each of your priorities at least 2-3 times.

And that makes for a very balanced week, despite a day or two that might have gotten away from you somehow.

Two hours a day for “me” to replenish my well, is all I ask. When I get more (and quite often I do, with this system), I am thrilled, but I need at least that much to keep from feeling overwhelmed by all I have to do. I’m a single mom. I work, run a household, and am trying to get a writing career off the ground--for the second time. The first time, fifteen years ago when my first book came out, I let my fledgling career get derailed by Life.

This time, though, I have balance J.

LASR has decided to make the first Thursday of each month Balance with Liana day. Starting tomorrow, on the LASR yahoo loop, I will be available for an open discussion on Balance and what works for you and why. Everyone is welcome to join in. Come for ideas, support, encouragement or just to relax with friends or expand your mind a little. If you use this method, it counts toward your “me” time.

So join us, and remember to do it guilt-free. You deserve to spend 10% of your own time on yourself.

At least.

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