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LIFE'S MAGIC BULLET: Living with Balance
by Mary Lynn Hatfield

Man can never be happy if he does not nourish his soul as he does his body. ~ The Rebbe

In recent years this country has reached a new high in its obsession with health. Many of us have tried every new diet touted to be the one that will keep us alive till we're gazillions of years old; it's been no fat, no carbs, no protein, no combining certain types of food with foods in other groups, the new and improved food pyramid and the Mediterranean diet -- and that's just to name a few. We've had every supplement known to man pushed on us as the one that is the best to keep us alive and thriving forever -- first it was Vitamin C, then Vitamin E, then anti-oxidant blends, then all-natural supplements, and right on down to whatever the latest craze of the day is.

We've been told to exercise -- it's been "no pain, no gain" aerobics, then low-impact, then race walking, then walking slower and longer, then spinning, then yoga, then tai chi and now qi gong. We've even been told to stop the insanity! And, after watching enough infomercials and commercials touting the latest diet craze, the latest supplements and the newest form of exercise, it's enough to drive you crazy!

And yet, as confused and frustrated as all this contradictory information makes us, we all still keep searching for that magic bullet that's going to make us stay young and healthy and truly gorgeous forever. We have proven that we will try just about anything at least once, if it sounds good and the infomercial is slick enough or has a famous celebrity touting it. But, in reality, we are totally missing the point.

What we need the most in our lives is balance. It's just that simple. We don't need to try the latest diet or, even more dangerous, the latest diet pill, unless we are morbidly obese. And, if you have any doubt about whether you are or not, you probably aren't; but you can always check with your family doctor to be sure. If it's simply a matter of needing to lose a little weight to make you feel better physically and emotionally about how you look, then you know what the answer is as well as I do -- eat a balanced diet and do gentle, but regular, exercise. That means you eat some food from all groups, and make sure it's real food cooked healthily, and not prepackaged meals that you can't readily identify by the taste or pronounce all the ingredients. Odds are, if you can't say it, you don't need to be putting it in your mouth! You also need to make sure to eat enough to fuel your body for the exercise you need to do, because your body won't run without fuel any more than your car will. The important thing is using the best fuel. Gentle, regular exercise means you need to get your body off the couch for a minimum of 20 minutes a day and move it. It doesn't mean bouncing and flouncing till you hurt yourself and can't exercise again for another year. It means just exactly what it says -- gentle and regular. Walking is good if you have a buddy to keep you company and a safe place to do it, or if you have access to a good treadmill. It doesn't require a lot of expensive equipment, and most of us learned how to do it pretty early on in life.

We also need balance in our emotions. If you find yourself in a state of constant stress, or always angry and yelling, you need to take a chill pill and try some method of stress reduction. Some people simply pray, and it calms them. Others meditate. It has been said that prayer is when we talk to God, and meditation is when he answers us. Some people go into a quiet, dark room and light a single candle and just watch the flame until they feel themselves calming down. Some count their breaths. Some plug in their headphones and escape into music. Some have hobbies or crafts that calm them. You probably know what does it for you; but, if you don't, maybe it's time to explore the different ways to relax until you find the right one for you. Then practice it before your body sustains harm that you can't undo from constantly being over-stressed.

We need mental balance. We need to do things that challenge our minds, like learning something new; and we need to do other things that relax our minds and simply give us enjoyment, such as reading the latest novel by your favorite fluff author or going to see a good movie or watching that sitcom that always makes you laugh.

But the most important thing of all is food for the spirit. You can take care of your body and mind all you want to and are willing to; but nourishing your spirit is what ties them together and brings the scales of your life back into balance. If you aren't sure what your spirit is exactly, it's the essence of who you are, deep in your heart. So first you must learn who that is, if you haven't already. And then you must honor it. You honor your spirit by listening to it and doing what it tells you that you need to do for your well-being. I liken it to a well. As we go through our lives, and our days get crazier and crazier, we begin to feel completely drained dry. We're tired mentally, physically and emotionally. We reach a point at which we feel we have given all of ourselves away, and there is nothing left but a shell. That's when you know you are in desperate need of refilling that well of your spirit.

It sounds like a complicated process -- refilling the spirit, nourishing our souls. But, in fact, it's very easy. All you have to do is make the time to put yourself and your own needs first for a while. The rest of the world will keep on turning if you turn loose of the reins and let it go for a bit. If it means you need to get up a bit earlier, or save "your time" until after the family is tucked in for the night, that's ok. Just make sure you do it. The hardest part very often is justifying to yourself that you deserve your own time; but, if you don't take it, you will soon find that you not only don't have anything left to give those you love; but you will resent them for what feels like their always needing you. And, once they see the difference in your personality when you have begun to regularly refill your well, they will not only find you much more pleasant to be around, but also will appreciate all you do for them more because you will be doing it with a free and generous heart -- not because it's one more obligation you resent having to meet because it's draining you dry.

So today, take some time to refill your spiritual well. All you need to do is make some quiet time for yourself. Block out a half-hour or more if you can. Then use that time to do anything in the world that makes you feel good. Some days it may be taking a nap. Others it might be doing volunteer work for a cause you believe that you can contribute to. Other days you may want to curl up with a good book. You may want to meditate, or listen to music or write, or read your Bible. All that matters is that what you do is quieting to your soul, and makes you feel good. The object of refilling the spiritual well is putting the ability back into yourself to feel good again.

Listen to your heart. It speaks very softly, but it will tell you exactly what you need to do to nourish the soul. And once you've refilled that spirit, you might just find that all the other components of body, mind and emotions have all come back into balance.

Shhhh! Listen! Your heart is talking to you. Follow it, and your spirit will be nourished!

�2001, Mary Lynn Hatfield, founder and publisher of Woman Awakening, an ezine for women of all ages and stages of life who consider themselves to be works-in-progress, is a wife, mother of three lovable but insane kittybabies, full-time homemaker and free lance writer.
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