Finding Balance in the Midst of Difficult Times

Whenever I hear that someone has aching knees or back trouble, I suggest physical therapy. Because of the wonderful work of therapists for my foot, joints and spine, I actually think I’m athletically ahead of where I was ten or fifteen years ago!

One tool my physical therapist (PT) introduced to me was a Bosu, which is kind of like one half of a big therapy ball. You try to stand on it, then walk in place on it and finally march on it, none of which is easy. All of this is intended to improve balance by improving the “core” of your body.

The Bosu did two things for me. First, it showed me the limits of my balance (my then-pregnant PT could balance better than I could). Second, the Bosu worked on my weaknesses, and I improved on them quickly. I was so impressed that I bought one.

Have we ever needed balance at Altru more than we need it now? And I don’t mean physical balance. Hundreds of people are working in different ways and in different places since the structural failure at the clinic. Just that would knock a person off balance. But add the trauma of the sudden evacuation and the prospect of a two-year road to a new place and the whole system is being challenged. We’ve been knocked off balance.

We are looking for a steadying influence, a way to stay on the path. The idea of balance is really rather practical: we need balance between work and personal, between fun and seriousness, within relationships and with our work. Physical balance comes from strengthening our core, our center, those abdominal and gluteus muscles.  Our mental, spiritual and emotional balance comes as we strengthen the core of our being.

There comes the challenge. We can name the areas of the brain or the ligaments around a knee, but where is our spiritual and emotional center? And, how do we strengthen our spiritual core to deal with stress?

Let’s find our personal center. This is unique for each of us but there are some common places to look.

Beliefs. What we believe in our core drives our behavior and creates our attitudes. An infant or small child “believes” they are the center of the universe. Everyone else is here to serve their needs. That “belief” changes over time.

We might think a belief has to be religious, yet that’s not always the case. I knew a very non-religious man whose central belief was that he was to leave the world better than when he started. He exercised that belief by actively seeking ways to put it into practice and did amazing things. He taught me there’s a difference between saying we believe something and actually believing enough that our actions change.

At Altru, of course, we have a set of core beliefs in the Altru Way and our Behavior Standards. These can help us stay balanced if we actually believe them.

Relationships. Humans are social creatures and relationships are our core. But, we’d have to admit that it is easy to take for granted relationships with family, friends or even God if we have a religious belief.

The Search Institute identified 40 developmental assets for adolescents. Many of them have to do with relationships, such as Asset #4, “Young person experiences caring neighbors” or Asset #8 “Young people are given useful roles in the community.” For children and teens, adults should seek to provide these things. But as adults we should be able to take initiative on our own to find (and be) caring neighbors. We should seek useful roles on our own. Relationships with family and positive work relationships bring us satisfaction, which leads our third general category.

Awareness and Value of Self and Others. Have you even seen yourself on video? I know I’m often surprised how I look (older, you know) or how I sound. We might not always be aware of how we talk or be aware of the people around us.

Self-awareness is part of being human, but it is also a skill we develop. Can we come to actually hear our own words and see how they might be taken positively or negatively?  Can we recognize what we think of ourselves and our relative worth? Can we also be aware of others in similar ways? We cannot know what someone else is thinking, but we can learn to be aware of the words being said and expressions shown.

A strong core brings balance, even during difficult times. At Altru we need balance more than ever. This will require a continual strengthening of our core as individuals and as a system.

Mark-EllingsonMark Ellingson, Altru’s Pastoral Care Manager, has lived in the area for 35 years as a local pastor and chaplain. He is married to Betty, a speech pathologist supervising in schools such as Hillsboro and Central Valley. They have five children and a couple of grandsons. Mark and Betty enjoy living in Grand Forks. Mark plays tennis, fills in at local churches for vacationing pastors and enjoys writing on his personal blog, Thoughts of a Hospice Chaplain.

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