I never ever use the word exquisite, but this morning while standing on my head I thought, “How exquisite this moment of perfect balance feels”.
I went on to consider other facets of life such as working, eating, speaking, and shopping. In all cases, balance is possible, but is often only partial and so seldom feels exquisite. Why so rare? It is such a wonderful sensation!
Impartiality and balance share similar qualities, and so chapter 16 suggest why balance and impartiality are rare experiences.
Balance and impartiality come about when we lean neither one way nor the other. Need (desire) and fear (worry) undermine this exquisite middle path constantly, albeit, naturally. Nature’s evolution has no interest in nurturing impartiality and balance. This is Nature’s primary hoodwink. As chapter 65 points out, Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them. The reason why the people are difficult to govern is that they are too clever. In the end, what is more “of old” than Mother Nature?
Our need to survive and the fear of perceived threats always keep us leaning one way or the other. Need pulls us toward what is favorable and fear pushes us away from what is not. Such instincts bias us from birth and play themselves out until death. Chapter 32’s counsel, One ought to know that it is time to stop. Knowing when to stop one can be free from danger suggest a way to increase our chances at exquisite balance in all aspects of life, from eating and speaking, to yoga, to… you name it! The best solution I’ve found is to be continuously aware that this tug-of-war is happening at all times. Chapter 37 then shows us the next step, And if I cease to desire and remain still, The empire will be at peace of its own accord… And voilà, the exquisite balance I treasure reappears.
Of course, there in lies the problem of balance and impartiality. You have to experience exquisite balance to appreciate its wonder. However, balance requires us to calm desire down and remain rather still, which seems only possible to the degree we yearn for that exquisite experience. This ends up being a Catch 22 (i.e., the circumstance that denies a solution). Our yearnings get in our way. Nature’s bio-hoodwink (p.11, p.100) keeps us chasing after our pots of gold at the end of our rainbows (1). The illusion we feel is that once we get the gold, balance and peace will be ours. Of course, the gold vanishes the moment we claim it, and off we go chasing after the next pot of gold.
To be fair, the illusions that drive our yearning are essential to survival. This means the most balance we can pull off is an ‘imbalanced balance’ between the unavoidable illusions necessary for survival, and a degree of impartiality essential for sanity. In short, aim for imperfect perfection. 😉
(1) This may account for the unique value of activities practiced over a lifetime. For me this has been Yoga, Shakuhachi, and Tai Chi. They all embody the principle of short-term pain, long-term pleasure, and as the decades roll by, I witness more and more of the long-term pleasure side. Alas, following the short-term pain, long-term pleasure path, rather than the short-term pleasure, long-term pain path of life is difficult. Pleasure is one of life’s prime motivating forces, and so the short-term pleasure side tips the scales. It doesn’t help that civilization’s raison d‘etre is progress that favors increasing human comfort and security.