It’s now almost a year since the global pandemic hit the news, like an unexpected storm suddenly appearing over the horizon. The threat of severe illness, the loss of loved ones, and various restrictions have impacted our personal and work lives and created anxiety and uncertainty. So, it’s no wonder we occasionally experience mental and emotional turbulence that unsettles our stability and balance.
Although stability and balance are related, there are subtle differences. Stability is about being grounded, still and connected, so we are more resilient to the push and pull of events. Balance is about maintaining equilibrium in our body, mind, and emotions. A tower crane on a construction site maintains its stability by being mounted in a large concrete base and is carefully balanced with a counterweight, as well as changing the position of the load on the arm. Another example is a wobbly toy with a weight in its round base, which rights itself when moved off balance.
Physical balance, which is often taken for granted, is maintained by the vestibular system in the inner ear and allows us to stand still and move without falling over. It’s interesting to observe how professional balancers, like tightrope walkers, or surfers, achieve what looks like a smooth and unwavering skill. But when you look closely at how they maintain their balance, they’re making a lot of very small micro-adjustments, as they skilfully respond to feedback in the moment. You can try this at home by balancing on one leg for a minute. You’ll notice that your body is almost constantly adjusting to maintain balance. We tend to lose our balance when we sense a movement in one direction and over-compensate in the other.
We can lose stability when we’re stressed or caught up in strong emotions like anger and anxiety. Like a shaken-up snow globe, we become full of mental and emotional noise and movement. We find it hard to concentrate and focus our attention and have no space to think clearly. Ironically, it’s this lack of internal space that makes it difficult to find a way of recovering our stability and balance.
So, how can mindfulness help us maintain stability and balance when we encounter turbulence in our lives?