Work-Life Balance Is a Hoax

Photo taken in 2004 at the famous Image via Wikipedia

You are probably one of millions of Americans in search of balance between work and life. I too have searched for that elusive condition in the past. But it’s a hoax my friends. It’s a trick the mind plays when we’re trying to escape from the inevitable stresses of life. Trying to find balance in your life is like trying to balance a bag of water on your head while hopping on one leg. It’s theoretically possible but you’ll look like a damn fool.

Sometimes when the stresses of life wear on us we seek an escape. Doing work that you don’t have any passion for is one definition of hell. Here’s my theory about getting out of hell: the way out of hell is through. That’s not the path that most of us take. Why not? My answer: because that way is laden with fear and danger. We avert both because we attach to familiarity and comfort.

A mind that neither averts nor attaches is the only one beyond the surface-tension we call suffering. That kind of mind doesn’t look for balance because it knows there’s nothing but imbalance. That kind of mind delights in the chaos embedded into every facet of our world. Look into the night-sky. Do you see balance? Or do you see a beauty in the imperfect swirling of it all? Could you look upon your life that same way? If you could, what would you see?

If you continue to go to a cog job because you have to pay your bills, then do what you have to do. But before you beat yourself up with constant ruminations of how you need to find balance between work and home-life, why not try to do some soul-digging first? Why not find out what’s really bugging you? These are important actions to take, because if you leave one way of life for another, you still have the same brain to suffer from the stresses of life. There is no way out your mind. If you find a way out, email me: info /*at*/ philbaumann.com. Better yet: twitter me.

I’m telling you this because I encounter so many people who are fed up with their jobs and stressed between their paycheck-generators and their family life. I see a lot of depression, anxiety, mania and all sorts of painful conditions in the eyes of friends, relatives, and strangers. It’s a stressful world we’re creating, no doubt about that. I wish I could change things, but I can’t. Our world has always been stressful. It always will be.

So what’s the answer to the problem of being overly stressed between work and life? I could give you a list written for Digg. Instead I’ll just say that the answer is already within you. You know what it is. It’s your secret. You hid it away a long time ago. Our culture aided and abetted that little deception. You were told to be successful and you followed the advice. The lie was planted right from the start. You were already successful. You were already happy. You were OK.

The ancients called the balance you now seek The Pearl. That’s what they meant when they talked about the world as your oyster. What starts as a gritty irritation grows into a fascination. Throw away the grit and you’ll never find the pearl.

If you want me to help you out with a hint, all I can tell you is to follow your bliss. It’s a hard path to follow. It is a path of sacrifice, risk, danger. I ask you to consider: would life be worth anything without these three keys to truth?

We have within in us dark sparks burning to get out. Why put out the fire within you when you can set the word ablaze with your light? Bend into the work you do. The oyster does. Why can’t you?

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Four Days to Get Life

You only need 4 days to change your life forever and I’m going to prove it to you.

With our lives becoming increasingly hectic, stressful, competitive and less and less remarkable for many of us, it’s very easy to forget what the rush is really all about. In fact, in spite of our financial successes, we rarely even consider that there is an “all about” we have to focus on. So to help all of you folks who are overworked, over-stressed and distracted from your bliss, I’d like to share a list of four things to do on four different days. Call it a modern life walkabout or a spiritual exercise in disciplining your focus on bliss.

You need nothing special for this exercise. You don’t need equipment, life-coaches, or the latest Firefox plugin. Just 4 days, spread out anyway you like. All you need is the gift of time given to you every moment. All you need to be is yourself. This is a lesson-test in mindfulness of all that matters.

Here are the four days that will help you get life:

  1. Pretend that you’re semi-paralyzed for a day
    • You can choose your lower limbs, your arms, or your entire body
    • Don’t cheat, remain “paralyzed” throughout the day
    • If you have to get food or go to bathroom do so fully “paralyzed”
    • For full effect: don’t plan for your paralysis day; wake up “paralyzed”
    • When your day is over, slowly bring your limbs back to motion
    • Close your eyes, take in the feeling of those first moments
    • What does it feel like to have your freedom of movement back?
    • Is there someone in the world who could use your new-found empathy?
  2. Breathe your last breath. 
    • For one day, set  a timer to go off every 15 minutes.
    • When the timer goes off, set it for another minute
    • During that minute take a breath as if it was your last breath ever.
      • Focus on nothing but the feeling of your last breath (how it feels through your lips, down your throat, in your lungs)
      • When the minute is over, exhale and take in the whole experience, as if this last exhale were the only thing happening in the universe. 
      • Pay utter attention to every moment of this last breath.
    • Do this every fifteen minutes, starting with the first quarter-hour of your day until your last “last breath”.
    • As you prepare to sleep, reflect on each of those 48 last-breaths you took.
    • Do you see how much you depend on everything else?
  3. Don’t say a single word all day.
    • Nothing, not a whisper.
    • If you have to say something, write it down.
    • Read an essay by someone you never heard of in the morning
    • Write your thoughts down about whatever inspired you in the morning in the afternoon.
    • Drink, eat, read in silence
    • Listen
    • When the day is done, say only one thing: thank you.
    • Go to sleep.
    • What do you have to say now?
    • How will you say what you have to say?
  4. Spend an entire day blessing everything.
    • Don’t worry about good people or bad people here
    • Don’t worry if your blessing achieves anything (if it does, congratulations on being a god)
    • Just bless every person you’ve every known and people you’ll never know.
    • Wish that everyone will experience freedom from pain, vengeance or wrath
    • Pretend that you are the only one left in the world who has the power to bless, and your blessing is the only thing that can save the world
    • How do you feel about your enemies and problems now?
There they are. If these have inspired you to create your own substitutions, great! You’re getting life. Feel free to work these four days into your life in whatever order or pace you’d like. These four days represent 1.1% of your year. You spend far more of your year working in a cube or office, far more on Digg, Twitter, TV, bad restaurants, and far more on stressing about the hamster wheel encasing you in your material pleasures.

Keep in mind that these exercises represent what happens to people every day. Although the benefit of this practice is within your choice and control, these things can happen to you without your choice or control. Life happens, so how much would it hurt to do these things for just one day each? And if a really bad thing happens to you, maybe the work you did on these four days will come back to hold you together.