Written by Lydia DuBois, AmeriCorps Member serving on the Capital Area United Way Team at Capitol Middle School.
In an article for Yoga Journal, Roger Cole explains the concept of balance well: “When we balance, we align our body’s center of gravity with the earth’s gravitational field. Quite literally, we place ourselves in physical equilibrium with a fundamental force of nature. But we can’t achieve this harmony by remaining absolutely still. Instead, we must refresh our balance moment after moment.” Although the realization that darkness impedes balance came to me in a candle-lit yoga class, I think most people have found its truth through different outlets. Think about it: if finding balance requires us to align ourselves with Earth’s gravitational field, to feel present and to block out any outside worries or bad thoughts, and to set a clear intention to, well, stay balanced, then we’ve all performed some sort of balancing act in our lives: physical, emotional, or mental. When finding physical balance, people often say it is helpful to look at one point in the room; I usually choose a still dot or line on the floor to focus my attention (and my intention) and the stillness helps my body remain balanced. In the dark, however, when details are hard to spot, and one can focus on nothing else but darkness, it becomes more difficult to locate the stillness within. The concept of balance had become so complex for me that each time I lost my footing, it resulted in frustration, and the room felt darker. I felt lost and annoyed, while completely losing the idea that the balancing of my body was only going to come from my own mind. I blamed the darkness and lost my motivation to keep trying.
The new year brings us the hope of a fresh start coupled with the promise of a second chance and of new beginnings. It provides us with the excitement to propel ourselves into the future with the idea of everything being newer and better. I know that I always have more than a few resolutions in my mind before I go into the new year, and that now that I am an Americorps Member, I am constantly thinking of ways to better the experience of my students and coworkers. It is so easy to isolate New Year’s Day as the day we begin to improve, to resolve all past conflict, to pursue greatness. But as I tried in vain to stand on one foot while balancing my hands to the sky with nowhere to look but into the darkness, I was reminded of the difficulty of setting a clear intention with no point of reference or goal. A wise friend once told me that when setting goals, I should make sure that they require me to be engaged each day in the pursuit of their achievement. Even if our goals are simple, it is important that they keep us working, and that they don’t render us absolutely still, so that we are refreshing our balance to stay balanced.
When we find balance in being Americorps Members that both praise our own successes and continue to set goals to better ourselves, it is important to set clear intentions for ourselves so that we understand our expectations and we can measure what we have achieved. However, if (when) obstacles get in the way, it is important to not quickly dismiss them as darkness. I have often thought of New Years as a questionable holiday because it focuses all of our energy on one day in which we will promise to ourselves and those around us the steps we will take to better ourselves as humans. We can use New Years as a jumping point, but we must power through the year always questioning ourselves, sometimes working harder than we originally expected and sometimes dispelling the voices in our heads that tell us we are not good enough. Setting clear intentions is important so we can be clear of our goals and we can recognize success once we’ve achieved it. But when darkness clouds our intention and measurable points of reference, we must look to ourselves and each other for support, power on, and continue to try to achieve what the Earth (and its gravitational force) tells us is impossible.