I suffer from vertigo. Periodically without warning, I have an attack. When that happens, my consciousness shrinks to the universe of my body as I wait to regain some sense of balance. Sometimes I take motion sickness pills or do prescribed exercises, and sometimes I just have to sleep it off.
The cause of my vertigo is an imbalance between my left inner ear and my right one. The left one doesn’t perceive my place in space as well as my right one, so my brain gets mixed messages. The cure is not to change my inner ears—that’s just a sign of aging. The cure is to work with my brain, to teach it how to keep my balance in these circumstances.
Here comes the metaphor: Do you have situational vertigo? Is your brain getting mixed messages? Perhaps on one hand, life is humming along fine and you’re grateful for many things. And on the other hand, the planet is in crisis and so are many individuals. It’s as though, as one friend put it, we’re being asked to turn ourselves inside out and re-do everything. Or re-do our approach. It’s enough to make you lose your sense of balance, isn’t it?
Equinox is tomorrow—the day when there’s a perfect balance of light and dark. After that, we head toward winter solstice, the time in December when the days are darkest. Our planet is always in motion, and so even when we don’t notice it, every day and every moment, we are in change. How do we keep our balance when we are in motion?
Those surfers, skate boarders, skiers and cyclists know. We can train our brains to perceive balance even when our bodies are moving, tipped to one side or thrown off center. We can learn to regain our center through practice. It’s no accident that great athletes can keep their balance; they train.
My vertigo is forcing a good thing; it’s forcing me to be more fit, agile and resilient. I do this through various exercises that expand my range of perception.
We can do the same for our inner fitness.
When a crisis or moment of stress throws you off, how do you respond? Are you at the mercy of knee jerk reactions, or do you have a practice for regaining your center?
When something scares you (and things are scaring me every day), what is your safe landing place? I am relying once again on my own teaching in Flying Lessons.
We each have a safe landing place inside, and like everything else, it is evolving and changing. Maybe you used to “land” in a feeling of safety around your job; and maybe you can’t any more. Maybe you used to “land” in the arms of a lover, and maybe you can’t go there now. Maybe your body used to feel safe, and now it isn’t as reliable. Or perhaps you used to feel a sense of safety in your country, and now you have your doubts. So where do you “land” now, when the engine—the power that lifts and propels you—seems to fail?
You want to “land” in an inner place no one can take from you—a big, wide, spacious place. People of faith have a big advantage, I think, because they can pick the Arms of God. If you’re not religious, how about choosing love, or peace, or compassion?
Choose one to celebrate Equinox tomorrow, and practice going there. Let’s try peace as an example. Close your eyes and ask yourself, how does peace feel to me? Breathe into that feeling until you can feel it spreading through your body. Ask yourself, how does peace sound to me? Imagine or create that sound. How might peace look? Does it have a color? How would it smell? Now let the sensory feelings go and just imagine residing in peace.
When you’re ready to “return” to your world, bring peace with you. See if you feel you can maintain your balance by using peace as your foundation for everything you do, say, and choose.
How will your day go with this one practice? What would happen if you did this every day? Join me in trying it—and be grateful for Equinox as a day that illustrates the kind of balance we really need.