Podcast: A Key Insight From 500 Episodes with Jeff KrasnoOct 12, 2023
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Dear Commune Community,
This week, we published episode 500 of the Commune podcast. We have been producing, on average, two shows per week for five years. And, in all candor, from time to time, it can feel like a slog. And, sometimes, I ask myself, “Jeff, when does this project end?”
But if I am true to the philosophy that I so often preach, I can’t live in the future. I am bound to the ever now. So, while I don’t know what will emerge from the great void, I am happy to be present and immersed in this work without the attachment to any end result.
When I do step back and open the aperture, I realize that this show has been an opportunity of a lifetime for me to glean the wisdom of so many diverse and brilliant humans – to paddle conversational canoes with some of my greatest influences.
I have probed the mental gladstones of functional and integrative medicine physicians such as Mark Hyman, Sara Gottfried, Jeff Bland, Zach Bush, and Casey Means. I’ve spoken with neuroscientists such as Andrew Huberman and Adam Gazzaley, with nutritionists such as Elissa Goodman and Simon Hill, with environmentalists such as Paul Hawken, Finian Makepeace, and Kate Nelson, with spiritualists such as Deepak Chopra, Danielle LaPorte and Marianne Williamson, and with trauma and addiction experts including Gabor Maté, Hala Khouri and David Kessler. I’ve jawed and nattered with purveyors of every bespoke wellness modality including Wim Hof, Byron Katie, davidji, and Michael Beckwith and with those who defy categorization such as Matthew McConaughey, Mickey Hart, Marie Forleo, Jim Kwik, and Dave Asprey.
It's beyond humbling because every week I speak with someone who is not only smarter than I am but who also has an expertise. This daunting task requires me to read and research a salad bar of fascinating and, at times, complicated topics – if only out of vanity and the risk of public embarrassment.
I try to distill all of this wisdom into ideas that people can understand and hopefully apply in a manner that improves their lives.
And it simply would not be possible without all of you who listen, who send me emails (mostly of encouragement), who write reviews and share the podcast with friends. In an era where time and attention are life’s most valuable commodities, I am honored to have yours. I don’t take it for granted. So, thank you. It’s a privilege to do this work.
My primary goal on the podcast is to unpack what it means to be well – in every aspect.
Through my many conversations and the preparation required for them, I began to notice various convergences across seemingly disparate topics from Eastern spirituality to Western medicine, from regenerative agriculture to socio-economics. Many of the same patterns of function and structure appeared again and again in every interview.
I thought that in today’s article I would put my thumb on one of those recurring themes and try to do it with Commune’s unique signature. So, here’s a squeezing of the sponge, if you will, that distills one of the podcast’s most prevalent themes: balance.
You can also find me walking the tightrope of IG @jeffkrasno.
In love, include me,
I remember my first love, Sara. I was two and a half. She was three. We met at a playground in the picturesque town of Santiago de Compostela, Spain, where I lived with my parents in 1973. I was smitten with her. Like a deal requires a buyer and a seller, so does love depend on a recipient and a provider. Sara was definitely the beloved and I was the lover.
Our first date, and every other date, transpired on a rusting teeter-totter. She rested daintily on one side of the long board and I, subsequently, plunked down on the other, a fulcrum between us. Despite her being my elder, I had more heft. My weightiness, unchivalrously, shot her up in the air, as I plopped to ground level.
From my position as a lowly sentry, I gazed up at my lofty princess longingly. It was abundantly clear by the panicked look in her eyes, however, that she did not enjoy the altitude of her exalted status. Gallantly, I focused on making myself lighter, instinctually shifting my weight inward toward the handles and then thrusting up mightily from my heels.
With this action, I jetted up and she went down, but too precipitously. She bounced rather violently on the hard-packed clay beneath her. And then, quite abruptly, gravity flexed its biceps and, to her dismay, up again she went.
This time, I took a gentle approach and pushed up delicately from my crouch. The plank settled on its pivot, parallel to the ground. She looked at me and a big smile came across her face. We rested there for too little time, in a tenuous but perfect balance.
This must be love, I thought, the moment on the seesaw when no one’s feet are touching the ground.
• • •
Balance is a protean concept. It may refer to a condition in which different elements are in the correct proportions, such as the balance of ingredients in a stew. It may also connote an even distribution of weight enabling something – like a seesaw – to remain steady.
Balance may refer to the relative volume of various sources of sound. There’s a knob for balance on your stereo system (if you remember what that is). Depicted by the zodiac sign Libra, a balance is also an apparatus for weighing matters ranging from turmeric to justice. Balance can be a counteracting force or even a majority opinion.
Balance can also be a verb. You can balance a hot cup of coffee on your knee, though I don’t recommend it. You can balance the worth of one thing with another, like the time-value of money. And you can attempt, generally in vain, to balance your checkbook or work and family life.
Balance is also central to health. Balance both fosters and reflects healthy systems. In economics, balance is represented by a thriving middle class. In nature, through biodiversity. In our body politic, by cooperation and compromise.
And, of course, balance is fundamental to human well-being – spiritually, psychologically and physiologically.
The concept of balance echoes across the spiritual traditions of the East. In Buddhism, balance is encapsulated by the Middle Way, originally the path to enlightenment between hedonism and asceticism. Taoism understands balance as the foundational intelligence of nature.
Balance in nature occurs between countervailing forces. The natural world – and that includes you – arises as a coincidence of opposites. Up and down. Hot and cold. Right and left. Hard and soft. Strong and supple. Being and non-being. And, yes, lover and beloved.
The fundamental intelligence of nature brings opposites into balance. However, the balance induced by nature is like that of a seesaw. It is unstable. If you’ve ever tried to balance on a slackline then you know its precarity as a product of direct experience.
Balance in nature is a dynamic and ever-changing process that requires constant adaptation and adjustment. Of course, your organism is nature and it innately seeks out balance — a sensitive type of asymmetrical order that is perpetually influenced, for better and worse, by its environment.
The universe, along with your organism, is in a constant state of spontaneous emergence. It is an endless succession of simultaneous chemical reactions. Everything is in flux, constructing and deconstructing. Therefore, trying to hold onto a fixed position or state is futile, because it is impossible to evade the impermanence of life. Perfect balance can only be momentarily glimpsed. You see it and it’s gone.
Balance is not about finding a perfect state, but about refining your skill in navigating the ups and downs of life with thoughtfulness and equanimity. It is about being in tune with the rhythms of nature, aligning yourself with its intelligence and being able to flow with the current of life, rather than resisting or trying to swim upstream.
Your body’s literal balance, spatial orientation and coordination is maintained, rather curiously, in your ear. The vestibular system is a complex network of structures, canals and fluids that detect gravity, acceleration and tilt and deliver this information to the brain. It works closely with other sensory systems such as the visual system and proprioception, your body's sense of its own position in space, to help you walk to the coffee maker without falling over. Given my love of espresso, I am grateful for this feat of engineering.
Psychologically, balance points to the stability of one's mind or feelings. We endeavor to cultivate a serene mind, one not pulled too dramatically to the thinner edges. We attempt to avoid the over-assignment of advantage or disadvantage to any situation. We try to see events for what they are and not be emotionally swayed by our judgments of them. We often call this equipoise “centeredness.”
Physiologically, we strive for a balanced immune system, for hormonal balance and for balanced blood sugar. In fact, virtually every system of human physiology is an exercise in balancing opposing activities and nurturing a sensitive equilibrium. Healthy systems always cluster toward the middle.
Balance in your organism is called homeostasis, the moment on the seesaw when no one’s feet are touching the ground.
• • •
A short post-script here:
If health is an output of balance, then disease is a result of imbalance.
Of course, you barely need to turn your head to witness countless imbalances in our broader society. In agriculture, we’ve turned to mono-cropping instead of planting herbs and heirloom veggies. In economics, three men currently hold more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans… combined. Our main streets are shuttered in favor of Walmarts and fast food chains. Gone are the local papers and radio stations, having been scooped up or run out by media conglomerates. Of course, nowhere is imbalance more on display than in our politics, where the loudest voices are on the thinnest edges of the branch. This is what I sometimes call the flattening of society.
The imbalances of the body politic are both an effect and a cause of the imbalances in the body human. I don’t have to list off the litany of chronic diseases that are cresting in a mammoth wave. If you listen to the podcast, you already know them. And that’s my primary focus: To explore and amplify the praxes that foster balance and can bend the arc of both personal and societal health.
So, thanks again for your ear-balls.
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