by Michael Maciel
In boxing, there are training exercises where parts of your body are restricted. Your ankles are tethered together to keep you from over-reaching and getting off-balance. Your strong arm is lashed to your body so that you’re forced to use only your jab. These exercises are designed to isolate certain functions in order to draw attention to them, not because they’re weak necessarily, but because you’re not using them enough. You’re out of balance.
Your trainer tethers your ankles because you’re stepping too far in the direction of your opponent, which means you’re “chasing” him. Thus, he’s controlling you and can lead you into a trap. If your trainer lashes your punching arm to your side, it’s because you’re trying too hard to knock the other guy out. And any swing that doesn’t connect puts you off-balance.
Balance is the key in almost every sport. Balance is the position of power.
The same can be said about the spiritual life. We can get so caught up in outer forms of service that we neglect our inner connection, using our busy-ness as an excuse to skip our meditations. Or we can choose the outer route of trying to “fix” people, always jumping in with an answer, instead of taking the inner route by simply connecting, letting them know that we understand what they are going through.
But sometimes, people need an answer, and sometimes they need our silent presence. Sometimes one, and sometimes the other—we have to be good at both. Our own Self-realization is the greatest service we can offer the world, but it’s not the ONLY service. It’s the people who are relying upon us for one reason or another (either our family members or our customers) that test our ability to respond. We don’t have to go looking, necessarily, for opportunities to serve others. All we have to do is answer the door when they knock.
But don’t let balance itself become your new god. There are times, when in the act of commitment, that balance must be sacrificed. Just be sure that your commitment—your punch—connects. A commitment that doesn’t connect can be your undoing.
Balance is the Middle Path. But it’s a place from which to instigate action, not a thing to worship. It’s a platform, not a destination. It’s the place you always want to return to as quickly as possible, but don’t tether yourself permanently to it. The secret to throwing a good punch is not in the strength of your arm; it’s in its timing and its exact placement. Timing and positioning, balanced by the appropriate amount of power—this is the Middle Path.