Feeling “Scattered”: The Tricky Balancing Act of, Well, Balance

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Those of you who practice yoga are likely familiar with tree pose. In it, you stand on one foot and slide your other foot up the inside of the opposing leg until it reaches your inner thigh. And here, you stand, rooted as firmly in your stance as an oak sinking its roots deep into the rich, dark earth.

Seasoned yogis make it look effortless. Their practiced focus never seems to waver, their stance as calm as the mighty oak itself.

And the rest of us? We waver. We falter. We lose our balance, arms windmilling as we try not to tumble sideways. And why do we falter? Not usually because of our bodies. We falter because we lose focus.

That’s life. One minute you’re writing the next great American novel, and the next you’re watching baby goats on YouTube. True story.

And, in real life, we’re not standing in a yoga studio filled with tealights glistening in Himalayan salt candle holders. Life outside our yoga practice is more like trying to do tree pose while a screaming toddler throws Little People at your head.

And no, I don’t have kids, but sometimes life itself feels like a screaming toddler. I want a cookie! Let’s go out for frozen yogurt! Why are you writing a novel? Didn’t you hear about the yogurt idea? Where are we at on that cookie?

Or it’s the rule-loving side of us that’s screaming. Pay the electric bill! What will the neighbors think if you don’t weed the flowerbeds?!

And sometimes it’s not our inner id or super ego that’s giving us the problems. Sometimes there are intense emotions that make balance seem elusive. Things like grief, sadness, uncertainty, fear, insecurity. And if you’re living with a mood disorder, not knowing what your misfiring synapses are going to throw at you next? Will it be the terror of a panic attack, the painful waves of despair, or the siren’s song of hypomania?

Whew.

Sometimes modern life feels like one crisis after another. This year, for example, I literally spent part of New Year’s Day in the urgent care because of chest pains, that, thankfully, turned out to be a bad bout of esophagitis. My migraines have come back with a vengeance after years of being fairly well-managed, and in trying to improve my physical health, I injured my hip and spent weeks in physical therapy. On the homefront, our house seems to be falling apart. The washer went. The roof leaked, which broke the washer again. On and on. Nothing earth-shattering. Other people are dealing with far worse.

But each little thing chips away at our balance. So, what can we do?

First, we find our focus.

In balancing poses in yoga, when we lose our focus, we lose our balance. Practicing meditation and yoga are great for this because they train our mental focus muscles. And these skills require exercise, like any other. If you don’t run that mile, you lose the ability. Same with focus. If we don’t practice focus, we become scattered and focus becomes elusive.

It helps to have a list of values that guide us in life. For me, those are spirituality and magic, creativity and storytelling, and relationships and community. Refocusing on these core values allows me to let the little things slide right over me—given time. Sure, the roof is leaking, and that’s a big deal, but I still need to create a space to focus on creating art, living a magical life, and maintaining my relationships. So, I call my brother and chat for a while. I whip up a protection spell for the house. I write a chapter in my latest WIP. Anything to refocus on the bigger picture.

We have to remember that balance comes and goes. It’s not a destination.

Sometimes, we will be scattered. We can’t be this perfectly poised, grounded, centered person every moment of every day. Yes, that space exists inside of us even at our most frantic, but we will become disoriented from time to time. When we do, a simple centering exercise can help us reconnect.

Life has seasons—seasons of stillness, seasons of growth.

Growth can feel overwhelming, scary, and chaotic. Whether we’re growing our family or our business, we’re adding a lot more to our plates, and that’s overwhelming at times.

For example, I’ve entered a period where I really want to grow in several areas of my life. I’m studying aromatherapy, as I’m attempting to incorporate my own homemade essential-oil based goods into my life. Nature and magic infuse my life and my writing, and this is another outlet for my creativity. My life is awash in new ideas, new information, and new beginnings. Will I be any good at it? Can I create something useful? Can I master this new skill?

I am trying to go slowly, but also challenge myself. And writing remains my focus. I’m trying to master deep POV and get OAK-BOUND and SPELLFIRE’S KISS ready for submission later this summer or early fall, all while penning a first draft of WILD TAROT.

And as for my ROW80 goals, they are shifting in the midst of this quest for balance. I’m about 21K into WILD TAROT, and I’ve just sent OAK-BOUND off to a professional editor for her feedback. I’m also taking a monthlong workshop in deep POV to further strengthen this skill.

I’m tiptoeing into aromatherapy, taking two courses on Udemy as a starting point. I’m experimenting with perfume blends–Boho Soul turned out well, but the first attempt at Kitchen Witch was a bust. Now in the works: Awaken, a citrusy scent meant to help uplift the mood and focus mental energies. I don’t know if these will ever go anywhere outside of my own use or for family and friends, but it’s still a fun experiment.

Much progress has been made in terms of tending hearth and home, and the house is feeling much homier and more settled these days. I still have the attic and a couple closets to declutter and organize, but overall, we’ve drastically reduced the amount of stuff we own and everything has a place.

That’s balance. It comes and goes. As long as we know our core values, what we truly want our lives to look like, we can be assured that balance will return. In the midst of the mess and the magic that is life, balance, like all things, ebbs and flows.

What about you? How do you achieve balance in your life? Does it ever feel elusive? Do you have any practices for rebalancing?

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The Intersection of Yoga and Writing–and this Week’s Mash-Up

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Earlier this year, I rediscovered my yoga practice. For those of you who don’t do yoga, it’s more than a form of exercise; it’s a spiritual practice meant to bring mind, body, and soul into balance.

For most of my life, I’ve celebrated and revered the life of the mind. From the mind all great inventions and creations spring: Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Einstein’s theory of relativity. Gradually, I allowed my spiritual practice to fall away, too consumed with what I was doing. I saw my body merely as a tool, not as something to be honored in its own right.

By forcing us to become aware of our bodies–every muscle, every movement, every breath–yoga reconnects our busy minds, our stressed bodies, our neglected souls. Its art is in its simplicity: The focus on breathing in and out, the holding and releases of poses. Even wiggling the fingers, flexing the toes, following the breath from nose to belly, draws the awareness. We release the worries of our day. The books to be written, tasks to be completed fall away. And in that space, mind, body, and heart become one. By the end of the practice, we stop chiding ourselves for our failings. We accept ourselves as we are. True, that feeling rarely lasts, but it becomes easier to cultivate with each breath, each posture, each intention.

At the beginning of every practice, my instructor asks us to set an intention. In November, our focus has been gratitude. What are we grateful for? In that space, there’s no room to overthink. I’m grateful for my body, my life, my job, my art, the simple blessing of attending yoga class each week and the kind souls who join me there. We can also dedicate our practice to something, if we choose. The options are endless. These are not goals, but intentions–simpler, deeper, powerful.

Such a practice can also be helpful for us, as artists, as writers. Too many blog posts and articles tell us to set goals. We create Excel spreadsheets and track our word counts. Ours is a very goal-driven society, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But sometimes, it’s not the quantity of words written. It’s the intent with which we write.

During our yoga class, the sun’s last rays filter in through the high windows. Candles flicker from all corners of the room. Wooden floorboards creak gently beneath our feet as we stretch and move between poses. Quiet music plays in the background. There’s no competition; we’re too focused on our own breath, each person reaching as far into the pose as she can. Like writers before the blank page, it’s just us. No one is watching.

If you were to set an intention each day as you sat before the blank page, what would it be? An intention isn’t a goal, a number, something measured, easily achieved or clearly delivered. It comes from a deeper place.

The next time you sit down to write, how would you answer this question: Why are you writing today? What is your intention?

This Week’s Mash-Up of Awesomeness:

Mila Ballentine interviews enchantress of tales Tonya Kappes in this inspiring interview.
Michelle Davidson talks faerie-tale inspiration in this guest blog post at Nicole Zoltack’s blog.
Wisdom and Whimsy: Join the bloggers over at the Fantasy Collective for a celebration of author Anne McCaffrey’s work.
Lisa Lin offers tips to keep the procrastination faeries at bay.
In the midst of NaNo, memoirist Wade Rouse offers authors 10 ways to stay true to themselves in publishing.
Graphic designer, photographer, author. Melinda VanLone does it all, and Diane Capri caught up with her to chat about her upcoming release.