Like many people, I am forever on a path towards balance. Of course balance can mean different things at different points in one’s life. But ultimately equanimity should be achieved without straining, come naturally and never be forced.
A balanced diet, enough exercise, work that I love and time to play—these are all things I have to get right in order to feel good about myself and about what I am doing with my life. And yet, it never seems easy. Even when I have the best intentions to start and stick to a good routine, life seems to get in my way.
I live and work in New York City. It’s true what they say: this is the city that never sleeps. I’ve learned that it’s up to me to maintain the right balance of rest to go along with the city’s never-ending activity because it can swallow me up if I’m not paying attention. New York City never tells me to stop and take a moment to breathe or allow my mind to find inner calm. Your cities or towns and jobs are always ready to gobble us up, to race us to the next best thing, to sweep us up in a frenzy until we land exhausted, drained and stressed in a heap. Sometimes, we move so fast we don’t realize how stressful life has become.
Stress keeps us from being who we really are. It exacerbates illness, creates disease, fuels anger and feeds horrible habits. Stress even produces a chemical in the body called “cortisol” that has been linked to anxiety, high blood pressure, weight gain and even heart attacks. Stress is the underlying balance-blocker.
In my experience, balance doesn’t come from the outside. The desire to be a better “me” has to be found within. The strength and adaptability to weather any storm and not get tossed around like a beach ball on the surface of waves comes from a sense of inner calm. You have to be anchored deep inside yourself and manage your stress on the inside in order to manage everything else on the outside.
The single most effective tool that I have introduced into my life to reduce stress and create balance is the practice of Transcendental Meditation (“TM” for short). TM is a simple, natural, effortless technique that I practice for twenty minutes twice a day while sitting comfortably with my eyes closed.
It’s not difficult to do. It’s not a philosophy nor does it require me to change my lifestyle. The technique provides the body with a profound state of rest, which actually reduces cortisol.
It’s common to hear about different types of meditation and what they entail. Usually they require concentration or control of the mind or some form of guided visualization. Sometimes the techniques are complicated and frustratingly difficult. TM is the opposite. With a little guidance from a certified TM teacher, you can feel confident that you are practicing correctly, and you will see the benefits in your daily life.
The deep rest I experience in every twenty-minute practice allows my body to naturally dissolve stress. I notice that I react more calmly when faced with tense situations. When things get chaotic, I can usually remain focused.
I’m not the only one who experiences these benefits. Over 600 scientific research studies have verified that the daily practice of the TM technique produces a wide range of positive effects on a person's mind, body and behavior.
Finding balance is always a process. I don’t think anyone can find absolute equilibrium in his or her life, but I do know that when you nourish the root of a tree, all the branches grow and flourish. Similarly, nourishing oneself at the deepest level and giving one’s body profound rest will naturally create behavior that brings about the evenness that we all so desperately crave and deserve.