Think about it: Which do you prefer more, inhaling or exhaling?
Inhaling feels great when we go outside and take a deep breath of fresh air, but then slowly exhaling relaxes us. Ultimately, both feel the best when we’ve just done the other. We can’t decide we’d prefer to only inhale, or to only exhale. We can try but eventually our brains fire our frontal lob, we pass out, and our brain restores the cycle keeping us alive.
This cycle shows up in many of our physical needs: eating feels great until we’re full, then not eating feels even better until we’re hungry again. Going for a long walk feels great when we’ve been sitting all day, sitting feels great after going for a long walk. Similarly, when we try to do one of these to the exclusion of the other, even things that we love to do, we end up with problems that threaten our ability to do anything at all.
This same cycle appears more subtly in other areas of our lives with less clear implications if we don’t cycle. We’ve all experienced the joy of fighting a fire at work to meet a looming deadline even though it requires extra hours, but when we finish, we need to have time to catch up on all the things we neglected while we were laser focused. If we move from crisis to crisis without reprieve the stress degrades our health, both physically and mentally, and eventually keeps us from fighting any fires.
Unfortunately, as we move away from the physical, we can’t rely on something to take over and rectify the imbalance we’ve created. Our only weapon is to use our minds to chose to identify and restore balance. Many of the problems we encounter stem from grabbing on to one side of the ebb and flow of life to the exclusion of the other. Even things that seem amazing and we love, when we embrace them to the exclusion of their opposite, create long term problems. Sometimes this can even destroy the very thing that gave us so much joy. When we experience problems at work, or in our relationships, or in our lives, especially ones that seem insurmountable, perhaps we should consider whether we are holding on to the pendulum of life rather than letting it swing.
There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 (NIV)