Over the last few months, I have been getting myofascial release therapy for a long-standing back injury. It’s significantly different from the other treatment modalities I’ve tried. It is based on the theory that fascia–a taut, webby substance that covers every organ in our bodies–plays an important role in our structural health (it might affect other bodily systems, too, but I don’t know about that). The theory goes that if your fascia is getting pulled in one direction (say, because of a muscle spasm that’s causing swelling, for example), it will put stress on all of the other fascia tissue it is connected to. Makes sense, right? Picture it as a bed sheet. If you pull too hard on one corner, it will bunch up where you pulled, but the force will yank the opposing corner out of alignment with the mattress. The myofascial release treatment works by slowly, gently softening and lengthening the fascia, so that nothing is pulling anything else out of alignment.
I’ve been getting some great results from this therapy. But an interesting side effect is that I have started to see fascia as a lens through which I recognize the need for balance everywhere. Consider the following, which range from the trivial to the deep (but not necessarily in that order):
- Relationships: When one partner is too needy or demands too much attention, the other will inevitably become drained over time. When one has too much power over the other, resentment and contempt will eventually follow.
- Time: I like to think of fear and anxiety as symbolic of living in the future. We obsess about things that we anticipate but which have not yet come to pass. In contrast, anger, guilt, resentment–these are indicators that we are living in the past. As we indulge these, we become consumed by feelings we’ve carried forward into the present moment, which then slips by, unobserved. In this fashion, anxiety and anger can rule your life–ruining your relationships, your career, everything in your path. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t have emotions. I’m just saying that when unchecked, living in the past or the future will ruin your experience of the present.
- Solitude versus companionship: I come from a family that thinks that introversion is a mental problem. Seriously. When I was a kid and I expressed a desire to read instead of participating in a social event, my mom would push me to go anyway. She’d act like there was something wrong with me. I’m not saying that I see this as abusive. It was more like a misunderstanding. But it has taken me a very long time to understand that for me, the energy level that I am comfortable with is dependent on a specific ratio of interaction versus alone time. If I don’t get enough solitude, I start to feel drained and cranky. (Those are euphemisms for what I actually feel, which is straight up hostile and cantankerous.) These days, I carefully guard my time, and when I’m saturated with social interaction, I just cut it off. I’ve come to realize that my mental and emotional health depend on it.
- Commitment and freedom: This one is big for me, because I’m a rebel and free spirit at heart. I’m also fiercely loyal and committed to my relationships, on teams, at work–even to my healthcare providers. But when I feel as though someone or something is trying to control me, I have a strong urge to do the opposite or run for the hills. The situation makes me feel out of control and out of balance. I need equilibrium in this area to feel centered.
- Mind/body/heart: In my observation, if you spend all your time in your head, you’ll end up dispassionate and detached. Likewise, if you process and react only with your heart, you make stupid decisions (I’m an expert on this one). And If you ignore your body, it will be to your peril. I believe that the connection and balance between the three is essential to health and happiness. (Not coincidentally, it is also the entire purpose of yoga.) Bonus: relationships that balance mind, body, and heart have the potential to be the most satisfying, loving, and balanced (with the hottest possible sex).
- The inorganic universe: It’s not just life that seeks homeostasis. The universe demands it. The oceans obey the moon. The planets obey the sun. Gravity pulls one way and repels in the other. Until there’s some kind of dramatic event, the solar system will likely remain in a perfect homeostatic orbit.
The 2018 midterm elections have really amplified my focus on these notions. When it comes to the balance between opposites, there’s no question that we have been missing the boat. But I’m an optimist. I know that water seeks its own level. The longer I live, the more I see that the pendulum always swings back to the beginning of its arc.
Of course, sometimes the swing of the pendulum can give you motion sickness. When you feel that way, when either the past or the future pulls you too hard, when someone is draining your energy, when you’re working too hard and not playing enough, I suggest that you just stop. Take a breath and bring your awareness to your body. Notice whether you are warm or cold or just right. Listen to the sounds around you. Open yourself to smells. Sense vibration. Enjoy the miraculous balance of the present.