Having ended up in urgent care this past weekend due to a crazy knee infection from a cut got me thinking about Eastern and Western medicine and the idea of balance.
I was raised in a world where doctors knew best and I was a powerless victim of life’s inevitable disease and injuries. Because of what I was taught, I felt I wasn’t educated or capable enough to take my health into my own hands. Combine that with years of bad habits and being told just how weak my immune system was, I consistently turned my power over to other people who I thought knew best. Sometimes it was a great experience and sometimes it was not.
As I got older, I started to learn more about my body and nutrition. I started getting interested in a healthy lifestyle, making choices that made me feel better. Over time, I got to a place where I felt more in charge of my own health and empowered to make better choices. Now, I feel I have found a healthy balance between what I handle myself and what I turn over to someone else. It was a long and challenging road filled with lots of confusion but what I learned and discovered was well worth the effort.
Long stories short…I became bitter when I felt western medicine didn’t take care of my dad when they could have. And then grateful when they saved my son’s life. Bitter when my mom was told there was nothing that could be done for her pain and she would never walk again. Grateful when a second opinion took away her constant pain and got her out of a wheelchair walking again. Bitter when I heard how a friend was treated when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Grateful when another friend’s life was saved from breast cancer. Bitter when a doctor and his assistant laughed at just how bad my mom’s arthritis was right in front of her and me like we weren’t even there. Grateful when doctors stopped a fast spreading knee infection from taking over my entire body last weekend.
The point is, the pendulum is always swinging back and forth and the practice of Yoga is about finding balance. Because ultimately, life is not black and white. It’s a whole lot of gray.
According to Yoga, a fine mind can see all sides. The Sanskrit word is viveka or discernment. When in balance, we are able to see and understand the extremes and everything in between realizing that ultimately it’s all a part of the whole.
Just because we can understand something, doesn’t mean we have to choose it if it is not in alignment with our values or not the right choice for the current situation. But rather than getting ourselves stuck all the way on one side with no view or understanding of the other, perhaps we can seek to find balance instead. Because who knows, there could be something or someone that could help us some day even if from where we are right now, we feel sure that we are right and they are wrong.
Through practice we develop more focus and strength while also remaining open and flexible, able to see all parts that make up the whole. We are able to see the gray so that we can make the best choice in the moment even if it may not be the right one for all other moments. This is viveka and what Yoga says is the result of an effective practice.