Busy hey? So much for finding work-life balance or life-life balance. Too many balls up in the air – how many can you possibly catch? How many come falling down, bouncing around your feet, rolling away just out of your reach. You’ll retrieve that ball later, won’t you? If it’s really important.
Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time,’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to. – Lao Tzu
I learned to juggle when I was supposed to be studying for final school exams – well they might not have been my final exams, but it was definitely during one of the main study weeks, in either Year 11 or 12. Funny how the exams have been forgotten, even the (good) results, but the juggling hasn’t.
I was taught by a guy from school who I wasn’t interested in, or if so only vaguely, and who may have been interested in me, but it’s hazy in my memory. I’ve even forgotten his name. The juggling is all I really remember. Such a time-wasting thing to do for a normally conscientious student – a circuit-breaker on pre-exam stress, an idle rebellion against the good results that I expected (read put pressure on) myself to deliver.
I remember an afternoon that stretched on lazily, or perhaps it was a morning, maybe most of a day. All that mattered was this trivial skill that I was slowly developing, and the laughter and general sense of frivolity that punctuated time, so that minutes and seconds seemingly refused to tick onwards. It didn’t matter that I dropped lots of balls. I caught lots of balls too (in actual fact they were little soft, rice-filled cloth bags that your fingers squeeze into for better grip and by the end of the afternoon I managed to keep three in the air at one time, for some time at least, so suspending tomorrow and the inevitable exams).
In juggling you suspend time somehow and that’s its allure. You can pretend, as the juggling circus clown does, that life is all just a funny balancing act, that our choices aren’t really about our values, that each ball is equal. But life isn’t just all balls in the air – it’s lived through the balls we choose to catch and the ones we allow to fall to the floor. Sometimes life, time itself, is suspended in regrets over those balls we let drop when we know we should have tried to catch them, to have held that one ball precious to our chest above all others.
So what does this have to do with Lao Tzu and finding work-life or life-life balance?
Lao Tzu wisely says that when we use time as an excuse, we are really saying ‘No’ to the thing we are avoiding because we are afraid, anxious, stuck in bad habits, imprisoned by our own limiting thoughts, judgements and beliefs or simply because we don’t really value the thing we are saying ‘No’ to. If that’s the case then ‘dropping the ball’ on the thing we don’t value is wise (family responsibilities aside) and catching and holding precious those balls we value is even wiser.
When it comes to following our passions, our purpose, time is no excuse.
It’s safe to say that when Lao Tzu was around life was probably less complicated, in a modern, 24/7, busy, busy, busy kind of way. Although perhaps in terms of the political intrigue of the Imperial Chinese court, cultural and social expectations and weighty philosophical questions it was just a little complex.
Lao Tzu simplified life with his notion of the Tao or Universal Way that we should flow with rather than resisting.
He spoke of letting go in order to become who we are, of finding strength through humility in seeking not to speak but to listen, to master ourselves rather than others, and to stop comparing ourselves with others.
He spoke of patience and persistence: ‘The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step’, and of the power of positive thinking and inner contentment regardless. In other words he was one wise dude (and he said a whole lot more).
Without being a Lao Tzu expert, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t have been a fan of juggling. Juggling means nothing really gets the attention it deserves – it’s all about the act, rather than the balls themselves. Yes, be adaptable to change to balance the different things and circumstances in our lives, but make choices about what is really important and hold tight those balls.
Stop using time as an excuse not to pursue the things that really count.
We choose what’s important by the time we give it.
Juggling may be a good party trick, but don’t be a clown – it can’t be sustained all your life (says this clown!)
Say yes to what matters, find the time, and ‘find your flow’.
What ‘balls’ in your life would you hold onto and which ones are you just juggling?
PS – Have you entered my 100th post giveway? Enter by 15 June to win two beautiful jewellry pieces (valued at $50)thanks to the lovely Lisa of Zen Designs/Random Acts of Zen. All you have to do is tell me what you love about yourself, and share some loooove.