Screen Shot 2013-06-05 at 9.14.01 PMIt’s been a busy year. I got a message from my friend, Andy–a story. Sometimes someone sends you a story that is just the right message at the right time. This is one of those stories.

A psychologist walked around a room while teaching stress management to an audience. As she raised a glass of water, everyone expected they’d be asked the “half empty or half full” question. Instead, with a smile on her face, she inquired: “How heavy is this glass of water?”

Answers called out ranged from 8 oz. to 20 oz.

She replied, “The absolute weight doesn’t matter. It depends on how long I hold it. If I hold it for a minute, it’s not a problem. If I hold it for an hour, I’ll have an ache in my arm. If I hold it for a day, my arm will feel numb and paralyzed. In each case, the weight of the glass doesn’t change, but the longer I hold it, the heavier it becomes.” She continued, “The stresses and worries in life are like that glass of water. Think about them for a while and nothing happens. Think about them a bit longer and they begin to hurt. And if you think about them all day long, you will feel paralyzed – incapable of doing anything.”

Remember to put the glass down. 

I’ve since seen this blogged around, but it’s beautiful, and so easily applied to so many situations. It’s something I teach at school–balance, moderation, well-roundedness. My husband built this into his core curriculum at–mental, physical, and philosophical well-being–you can’t have only one and be healthy. It’s the core of James Altucher’s “daily practice” (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) and in his fantastic new book Choose Yourself, which I just finished. It’s central to my friend Kamal Ravikant’s first book Love Yourself Like Your LIfe Depends on It. I see it in my yoga, disregard it in my running and work, and study it in various world religions. It’s everywhere. When a message is so similar from culture to culture, religion to religion, and sneaks its way into so many good books, there must be something to it.  Monks and priests of various religions have wandered caves, sat silently in cells, and walked around deserts in search of it. Balance is central to every spirituality.

People get scared when you say “spirituality” too loud, but they’ll listen to a psychologist lifting a glass telling a beautiful story. Whatever it takes to get the message across. Heaven forbid you say the “G” word today anyway. That can get you in trouble. “Am I in a public space? Did anyone hear me?  Can I say the “G” word?” Maybe. Well, at least you can still say the “f” word universally. That’s a relief.

Balance is an area of opportunity for many of us, but certainly me. The only thing I balance is way too much stuff. Everything else I drop, let fall, or trip over. Daily. But real balance–the kind in the story–helps not only to put the glass down and rest a while, but to fill it up again quicker. Then we can drink from it and have room to fill it once again.

It’s only when the glass has been emptied that we have room for something more, anyway. And who doesn’t want another drink?


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