02/24/2011 06:06 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Preparing for a Journey

Egypt, many years ago. Day Two.

There was a nice light wind stirring the trees of the desert oasis in the mid-morning sun. The old camel driver was gathering his supplies, packing up food and storing water for the days to come. The young boy ran up to him. "Uncle, are we leaving today?"

"Tomorrow, my boy, but we prepare today."

"I love this oasis! I wish we could stay longer." The boy had a big smile on his face, as if in anticipation of getting his way.

The older man laughed aloud. "I know that look! Sit for a moment and let me ask you something." He chuckled a bit more, put down his bags and sat in the sand. The boy joined him.

"Sure, Uncle, what is it?"

"Let me ask you a question: What do we do here at the oasis?"

"We eat, drink, and rest, and we have fun with friends. You talk to the men, I run with the boys. And I take long naps in the shade."

"Yes, indeed. We rest, refresh ourselves, and restore our energy for the next part of our journey. The purpose of any oasis is to assist in the journey. Do you understand?"

"Yes, Uncle."

"But if the purpose of the oasis is to assist in the journey, that means we can't just stay in the oasis, as much as we might want to. The rest of the journey awaits us. The many good things in the oasis have prepared us for it."

"Still, a little longer would be nice."

"Yes, a little longer is often very fine. So we go tomorrow. We rest and eat this good food and drink something nice a little longer, then we get back to work."

"But why do we work? Why can't we have a new purpose for the oasis? Why not stay and rest and play here forever?"

"These are all good things, my boy. But other great things await us. The camel, he enjoys his rest. But he needs to walk. If he rested all the time, his legs would not work so well. And he would even die. We are a little bit like the camel. We need to play and to work, to rest and to be active. We need to enjoy and we need to accomplish. When you have the right balance in your life, it feels very good."

"Tell me about balance. Is it like when I walk along the edge of a wall?"

"Yes, it is like that. But, first of all, my boy, there is no such thing as perfect balance. When I was younger, I saw a famous tightrope walker at a circus in the city. Up in the air, they had a rope pulled tightly between two towers. The man walked from one tower to the other, across the narrow rope. He swayed back and forth as he walked. His hands dipped right, and then left, his feet shook and steadied him with constant movement. I learned something about balance that day."

"What did you learn?"

"Balance is not a simple thing. It is dynamic. It is movement. It is ever changing. The essence of it is correction -- an ongoing dance of rebalancing. The famous tightrope walker, the man I watched so carefully, was always a little out of balance but he sought to correct constantly, every second, off to the left, then off to the right, and back and forth. Life is like that. We are never in perfect balance. But being in harmony in your life means being in a process of movement and change, balancing and rebalancing the things you do, the actions you focus on, and the things you value."

"Like work and play, or resting and doing things actively, Uncle?" The boy drew with a small stick in the sand as he spoke.

"Yes, indeed. Some people do not understand this. When they are working, they wish they were resting, or playing. When they rest or play, they feel guilty and think they should be working. When they are with family, they are missing their friends. When they are with friends, they are missing family. They are never content with where they are. They don't understand that we are always a little out of balance, but that this is fine and normal, because the real balance just means changing and redirecting our energy when the time is right, and turning to the other good thing you had not been doing. But staying with guilt and bad feelings rarely helps anything."

The boy looked at the sand under his feet. "Sometimes we are at an oasis, and sometimes we are in the desert, on our journey. That is our balance."

"You are right, my boy. If we stayed here forever, that would not be balance. If we stayed in the desert always, that would not be balance. We do what we can, and what we need. And we are open to change. Whatever is not part of the adventure is preparing for the adventure, and in the end, it's all part of the adventure!" The old man laughed. And so did the boy, in response to his uncle, whose wisdom came sometimes in serious words, and sometimes in a laugh.