Living The Blended Life
In my travels, consulting work, and private healing practice, one of the challenges of modernity that has come up most often is How To Live It All. I’ve been blessed to talk story with people from all walks of life and they all seem to share the same conflict of wanting to experience more of the choices we have available in modern life, while also wanting less of the stress, overwork, and overstimulation that are the costs for the promised benefits. Like me, they’ve tried in vain to deal with this by striving to live the balanced life, rather than learning to work with the Blended Life.
Every few months, I would reevaluate why I was not living more simply, more mono-focused, or less overwhelmed. No matter how much I tried to have equal parts of spirituality, work, play, creativity, and relationships, my pie slices were always drastically uneven, with some being mere slivers and others super-sized portions. One day, I went to an exercise class in which the adept students would do all kinds of poses or movements atop a large ball. Every act was an attempt at achieving balance. The more I tried to find that still-point in the center of my ball, the less I was able to remain on the uncooperative orb. Toward the end of the class, we were asked to get on all fours on top of the ball and remain there for as long as possible. After falling off several times, I had an epiphany. It was my steadfastly trying to remain frozen in stillness in the middle of that ball that actually was the cause of my not being able to stay on it. But, whenever I made minute adjustments to counter its rolling motion, I was able to remain atop much longer. For so long, I had previously believed that it was the grasping for an elusive stillness that would teach me once and for all to find balance. I thought if I could reach a state of perfection, and do this stillness balancing act just right, I’d be happy and at peace. And, yet in this very simple practice of super-presence, I was able to at last understand that rather than being still or trying to control the surface below me (external circumstance), responding with my own motion (adapting through awareness), is what allows me to remain centered, apparently still, and feeling balanced. In other words, staying in motion is what allowed me to stay in place.
At some point, I had to accept that in order for me to live a fulfilled life, I would not be able to always balance these aspects of my life that at times appear in conflict with each other, but would have to find a way for them to mix together in the various proportions that they show up, and experience the concoctions that emerge. Recently, a master woodworker friend of mine said that his art mentor once told him that if you are going to live a creative life, you have to get rid of the notion of a balanced one. I believe what this wise teacher meant is that living one’s passion means that the road is full of uneven terrain, meandering journeys, and an ever-changing landscape, therefore to reach for balance should not be the primary goal. In my case, I was never going to get those pie slices to even out because at different points and phases in my life, I would be spending more time or effort in certain areas that make up my experiences and less in others. It would always be this way–a moving target that requires adaptability and constant adjustment, just like the ball exercises. I realized that the only way I could embrace a life of spirituality and practicality, creative expression and time management, adventure and contemplation, freedom and stability, was to put them all into a blender and accept that this mélange is my life. There would be times when I may have some say in how various elements show up, and others when I have to be an iron chef and make the most of the ingredient du jour. But, I can best serve myself and those around me, by being conscious of what is before me and choosing how I put it in the mix.
The Blended Life isn’t for everybody, nor do I believe it is a better way to be than to live with fewer slices into which attention and energies are divided. It simply means that I’ve come to understand that I am someone whose attention is captivated by multiple ideas at once, whose brain functions optimally when I have many balls in the air, who moves from one end of an apparent duality spectrum to the other and realizes it was just a circle, and who only has choice in how she accepts this about herself.
If you’re someone who believes or has been told that you need to live differently than what your makeup dictates, that you have to suppress the desire to live more as a renaissance person rather than a specialist, and that you yearn to express as much of the seemingly disparate aspects of your authentic self as possible, then let’s explore together how to journey through these complexities. Let’s find ways to live sometimes frenzied busy lives, contemplatively. Let’s go beyond giving ourselves permission to be expansive and commit to inhabiting a well-lived and blended life as skillfully as we can. The point of such a life is to move around the pie and experience this journey in its sumptuous entirety, rather than trying to divide it into equal parts.
Three things to practice toward Living The Blended Life:
1. Make a list: trying to live a life that does not honor all aspects of yourself can be soul-killing. Rather than judging yourself for not being able to conform to a culture that celebrates specialization and looks down on diversification (à la the famous saying, “Jack-of-all-trades, master of none”), begin to gently explore some of the areas you’d like to incorporate into your life. The first step could be to make a list, so that these may be more in the forefront of your awareness. Hey, you could even try making a life pie, just to get a visual of the delicious things you’d like your life to include.
2. Start slowly: moving from honoring only a few aspects of your life to embracing others, requires some transition time. For example, if you are looking to include greater spiritual practice into your life, you don’t need to give away all your material goods and move to an ashram. You can begin by reading one consciousness-expanding book, going to one meditation class, or following one thought-leader or inspirational figure on social media.
3. Give Up Striving For Balance: Instead of trying to do everything equally well or in equal measure, practice the dance of visiting the various expressions of you and being conscious of where you are spending time and energy on your life pie. This way, you can either make adjustments in the areas over which you have control, and practice accepting and working with the areas that have landed on your plate.
After a while, you may find that you may not always feel in perfect balance, but you will begin to feel more at peace learning about and expressing more of who you have been, who you are, and who you’d like to become.