One of the qualities of spiritual progress is balance. This is achieved through the establishment of a calm and peaceful centre. Actually, this centre is not acquired by doing anything special, or by developing any particular talents or abilities, but by simply letting go of the minds natural tendency to operate in extremes.
We can see the process of the mind quite clearly in our meditation practice. When a mental state arises it overwhelms us and we become that thing. Without awareness there is no separation from what we experience and ourselves. We simply become the mental state we are experiencing.
Because of this habit of becoming, we are flung from one extreme position of the mind to the next without rest, from the moment we awaken until we fall asleep again. This insidious and habitual activity is exhausting and it is no surprise that we are so tired by the end of each day. Without balance we find ourselves on a roller coaster ride that is difficult to get off.

Vipassana meditation is the practice we apply to recognise and understand this never ending process of mind. It is the only way to establish a position of balance, both in our sitting practice and in life. Peacefully accepting the natural movements of the mind as ‘not me’, ‘not mine’, ‘not what I am’, and so no longer be under their influence.

It is as simple as that!

The result of this practice of calm, loving and non atttached observation is peace and harmony, because no matter what extreme feelings or emotions the mind grasps at, from our central position of balance, we are no longer drawn into them.
This is how we create a calm and peaceful centre, and how we establish balance within ourselves.

Actually, in Vipassana meditation this is relatively easy to do because of the guidelines regarding our practice. We sit still, without fidgeting or scratching every itch. No longer blindly following every impulse to change our posture the moment we notice even the smallest physical discomfort. We train ourselves to sit still and observe dispassionately.
We allow everything to arise and fall away, thus establishing naturally an attitude of peace and balance. Of being with things ‘as they are’.

In everyday life it may not seem such a straightforward affair. So many distractions pulling at our centre. So many choices to be made. It can be very confusing and may seem far, far away from the peace of meditation.
However, we have to remember that Vipassana is not a sitting practice only. It is a living practice and the objects for awareness that arise in the mind are the same for all of us, whether we are in a beautiful Dhamma hall or a busy supermarket on a Saturday afternoon. Wherever we are, whatever situation we find ourselves in, observation of mind and body can continue. The practice itself is not confined to time or place.

However, in the beginning at least, we will always be drawn from our centre into the world of extremes. It is inevitable, but if we are sincere in our training, we will be able to catch ourselves, focus and find our internal balance once again. It takes only a moment.
Centre on the touch sensation of breath in the nostrils, or simply in the predominant feeling in the body. Just go to that sensation for a moment and you're back.
Back in your centre. Back in control.

Balance means peace. It means a mind that is not drawn into the pettiness of life. A mind that does not grasp at things for itself. A mind that is not always complaining.

At one time a student asked me, “How will I know when I'm enlightened?”
I replied, “When you stop complaining about life.”

To be out of balance means to be self obsessed. To see things only from the position of ego and so always making choices established in a selfish desire for happiness.
The ego only ever asks one question of life, “what's in this for me?”
From ego, we always react to a situation with a mind filled with desire or aversion, rather than responding with wisdom and love. To be out of balance means to see events and situations from the limited position of self interest and what we can gain or loose.
With wisdom and balance, we will be able to see clearly that what we call life is not personal. It's just life. Situations and events arising and passing away. Not seeking our permission or consent. Just life.
With ego, we make everything personal, we make everything about us and so suffer the consequences.
The truly spiritual life is a life of releasing our attachment to things. Once we release our attachment to ego, we are free.
With the right attitude we will see that whatever situation we find ourselves in, we can use as an opportunity to train, to develop ourselves so that we are happy and then able to share that happiness with all beings.

However, this takes determination, and for the most part spiritual practice is seen as something we adhere to when things are going well. When life is rosy!
It is at times like these when people will say, how well their practice is going. By contrast, when they are confronted by anger or unpleasant situations at home or at work, the training is forgotten in the attempt for the ego to redeem itself. Rather than examining the situation from a position of balance, they follow the well-established habit of mind and jump straight in with their reactions. Later of course, these can always be justified.
Only the ego seeks to explain and justify its actions.
If we truly want to train ourselves, we have to stop feeding the ego, that part of us that is always looking for approval and acknowledgement of its actions, and every other kind of praise and glory. To do this we must use the situation we find ourselves in, and not continually seek only the pleasant.

So when we are confronted by the anger of others, rather than simply reacting with the desire to strike out and retaliate, use that moment as a focus for training. Don't feed the ego. Find the point of balance. Learn to let go of these deep-rooted tendencies to be seen by others in a certain light, and simply ‘be’. If there is anger in your heart, let it go. If there is fear in your heart, let that go. If there is pain in your heart, let that go. Let everything go. These things do not serve us in any beneficial way and lead only to more and more unhappiness in our life. Don't cling to anything. Don't push anything away. Allow whatever is present to become fully conscious and respond.
Response is something that we do from wisdom. Reaction is always what we do from ignorance.

We can only train ourselves in the moment. When we are confronted by different mental states. It is not possible to keep a pledge, no matter how noble, never to be angry again. None of us know how deeply rooted anger is within us, or what conditions will trigger its arising. It is only in the moment when it does arise, that we can actually see it. Only then.
Only then and from a position of balance, can we allow anger and all the other mental states to fall away and experience the deeper peace within.
Balance is what we cultivate when we sit in meditation, but our goal of practice must be to take that balance into our everyday activity and allow it to manifest in every situation.

In our early days of spiritual practice we tend to separate meditation from daily life. We create a division. Work, social events and family life is one thing, but spiritual practice is quite distinctly something else. We keep the two aspects of life quite separate, with meditation usually seen as the antidote to all the stress and pressure we experience simply by living in the world. Actually, this kind of attitude can be quite harmful as long as we see meditation as an escape from ordinary existence.

There was once a grocer who died and went to heaven, where he was met by St Peter.
“I'm sorry, but you can't come in,” said St Peter.
“What do you mean?” asked the grocer, “why can't I come in? I went to church every Sunday, I sang in the church choir and I helped with all the church activities. Why can't I come in?”
“Well actually,” said St Peter, “you just weren't a very good grocer.”

This poor man had made the mistake of dividing his life into two parts, the spiritual and the worldly. He'd lost his balance. Every Sunday he would go to church and hear the beautiful Christian teachings of love, compassion and tolerance. Upon leaving however, he would return to his own world and continue to live a life at the level of a businessman, creating his environment from greed, hatred and delusion, always being involved in the world without awareness or love, and so completely separating himself from his spiritual training. What a waste!
Actually, there is no separation between spiritual life and the worldly life. Any distinction, we may experience exists only in our mind, for in reality one is the proving ground for the other. To use each and every situation as it presents itself as an opportunity for further development and to recognise the different conditions of mind and their effect in each moment, is the essence of spiritual growth.
To take our meditation sitting and use it as an escape from the world is to misuse the practice completely. Vipassana enforces the habit of balance, by constantly returning us to our centre, where we always have a clear picture of what is really happening. From our centre of balance, peace and non judgement, we are not deluded by the appearance of things.
The world that we experience is the one we create for ourselves, moment after moment.
With balance, we can see this truth clearly. To be out of balance means to be lost in the darkness of mind and back in the world, completely caught up in our fantasies of how things should be, and how they should not be.

Everything is as it is.

The mind we face in meditation is not a special mind, something unique to our sitting practice. It is our usual, everyday mind. The one that gets upset, bears a grudge and can't stop thinking. The mind that seeks something special and becomes disappointed and despondent when it doesn't happen.
True meditation is never an escape from the world. It is a real facing of the world. Our world. The world that we create for ourselves. The world that we live in.
From a position of balance we will be able to experience for ourselves, that everything that arises into the mind, passes away, and the result of that passing is peace. Into the spacious mind, anything can arise, and there is no attachment, no judgment, no praise and no condemnation, only perfect acceptance. We let go of the comparing mind, the mind that is always looking for results, for perfect conditions and experience peace. Perfect peace amongst the chaos of mental activity.
This attitude of practice is appropriate in every moment. With understanding we will see that everything is meditation, and meditation is everything.
To continually return to our centre, to our point of balance, means that we are not always being drawn out into the ultimately painful world of ego and the senses, but are in a position to see what is really happening and most importantly, where it is happening.

We all have to face the vicissitudes of life and the mental turmoil they produce, but whenever we remain balanced we will see these situations and the conditioned mind states for what they really are.
Impermanent movements arising and passing away. Like clouds passing through an empty sky.

This is the way to live in the world, to be in balance and to make everything meditation.

May all beings be happy

Author's Bio: 

Michael Kewley is the former Buddhist monk, Paññadipa, and now an internationally acclaimed Master of Dhamma, presenting courses and meditation retreats throughout the world. For many years he was the guiding teacher at the International Meditation Centre, Budh Gaya, India and is the founder of the Pure Dhamma tradition of spiritual awakening.
A disciple of the late Sayadaw Rewata Dhamma, he teaches solely on the instruction of his own Master, to share the Dhamma, in the spirit of the Buddha, so that all beings might benefit. He was the senior instructor at the International Meditation Centre, Budh Gaya, India for many years and is the founder of Pure Dhamma and the Being Awake meditation network.
On 26th May 2002 during a special ceremony at the Dhamma Talaka Temple in England he was awarded the title of Dhammachariya.
Full biography of Michael Kewley can be found at: www.puredhamma.org