Six Steps For a Balanced Life

By Dr. John Gannage, MD


Oxygen is essential to life, and breathing is the manner in which this life-giving gas is brought into our tissues. Yet many people take this action for granted, without reference to it, such that their breathing volume becomes short, and patterns erratic. Given the state of our air quality, and the relationship of many diseases to oxygen deprivation of our tissues, we should all take better notice of our air quality (with help from all levels of our government) and our breathing activity. Breathing is a vital component of meditation and yoga practice, for good reason. A simple visualization is “in with the good” and “out with the bad”, while picturing white healing light with inspiration, and black physical and emotional toxicity on its way out. I start my meditation with 3 minutes of deep breathing exercise to center my focus and mentally cleanse. During times of stress, take note of breathing depth. Flattening the diaphragm in a complete manner is essential to health of organs above and below it. I’ve seen heartburn and stomach discomfort relieved with manual diaphragm release, caused by stress and associated shallow breathing. Relief for chronic asthma can also be achieved through breathing exercises.


Everybody, without exception, has something that they do most effectively than anybody else on the planet, some kind of skill or contribution that can be best made only from them. All of these skills combined cooperatively, from each and every one of us contributing to the whole, benefit the planet and all its life forms in the most balanced and evolutionary way. The decision to learn a new skill, from the perspective of service and contribution, is vital to our collective existence. On a personal level, learning a skill defines our capabilities and our potential, so that we can see for ourselves the creativity that we are capable of. Some of us need to learn more passive activities, such as meditation, silence or reading – in fact, to do less as our new skill. Others of us require more activity, such as gardening, debating or pole-vaulting, to overcome apathy or procrastination. Find something that touches you to the core, or something that calls to you that you’ve always wanted to do, and learn it well. Test the limits of your mastery. Unleash your full potential. Create, knowing that a vital component of spirituality is creativity.


Spending time with a healthy 15-month-old child, as I am now, reminds me of the importance of playfulness. Being childlike, without being childish, is an important aspect of our spiritual health. Laughter boosts immune function and supports healthy brain biochemistry. Having relationships that are emotionally toxic interferes with our ability to have spontaneous joyfulness in our daily lives on a consistent basis. Having an occupation that you don’t love or enjoy, that causes frustration and grief instead, is counterproductive to your fulfillment. As adults living the North American way, we would do well to balance ourselves and enjoy ourselves more – as a child might. If that means moving on from toxic relations or workplaces, and from past disappointments and hurts, then let’s do it.


An extension of the previous point is quality time with family and friends. The key phrase is “quality time”. Notice it doesn’t say “arguing time” or “judging time” or “nagging time” or “no time”.
Our children need us now like never before. If you have family, design time that all can be together in a light, fun-filled atmosphere on a regular basis, be it Sunday dinners, camping for the weekend, a visit over tea, or a group chore. Learn from the elders of our society, and set positive examples for our youth. Within families and communities (and nations), the existence of black energy, from unresolved conflicts and incomplete relations, leads to pervasive and erosive group dysfunction, and wasteful lives for all involved. Communication and forgiveness can clear these dark clouds, so that once again quality time can be spent. The cost is too great otherwise.


The final analysis I dedicate to my mother, Florence Gannage, who passed away April 2004, and was a living example of nonjudgmental kindness. A mother to 9, a grandmother to 21, and a friend to all, she was honoured at the funeral home by many guests from her various circles. My family received them all, and person after person, some of whom I had never met previously and who never met each other, passionately stated that Florence never had an unkind word to say about anybody, despite their own nattering, and had more integrity than anyone they had ever met. Such kindness to others is the stuff of peace for ourselves, our communities and our nations. Random acts of kindness, freely given, are vital to our existence, our sense of well-being and our perpetuity. They boost brain serotonin levels and immune function, for the giver and any of those that witness the giving. They boost our collective spirits as well. An obsession with winning and competition represents a lower form of energy, hatred and revenge even worse. What you sow is what you reap, such that being kind brings support to your life in ways you may never have imagined. Becoming more complimentary is a simple manner in which to spread kindness, and represents an ability to see beauty in all life forms. Letting a car in, holding the door, assisting a senior, supporting the less privileged, taking the time to listen… these are further simple measures. And don’t forget about yourself… be kind to yourself in the way you eat, think, exercise, work, love and so on. Then, being kind to others and the planet becomes so much easier.


Oh yes … perhaps the most important feeling to have is gratitude, from which many other feelings and positive actions flow once one is centred upon feeling thankful. With thankfulness and appreciation, felt deeply, life’s inherent ups and downs seem more even, trials and tribulations are perceived differently, and present moment awareness is sharply honed. There is a calmness that comes from knowing that all is proceeding as it should, and beyond the calmness is more gratitude. Children are best served learning the art of gratitude at a young age, for day to day things commonly taken for granted, and for the bigger picture related to the Earth’s abundance. With the appreciation comes wonderment, and then protection for that which we have come to love and respect, including Mother Nature. Communing with nature regularly helps to maintain our sense of gratitude, which in turn lends to the preservation of nature. In addition, practicing gratefulness keeps the abundance happening in our personal lives. By contrast, a focus on what’s missing prevents our desires from becoming manifest. A focus on what’s missing, in other words, keeps the missing missing. Be present, be thankful, and your future will shape itself the way you want it.

Dr. Gannage practices Integrative and Functional Medicine in Markham, Ontario, serving the Greater Toronto Area and beyond.