It’s all about balance – Jennifer Doyle

Lately I’ve been thinking about balance. This isn’t unusual. I often think about balance. I think about balance in relationships, studies, teaching, and environment. I think about it in relation to art, to musical composition, to food (both aesthetically and nutritionally). I would say I consider balance on a regular basis.

As the attentive reader has no doubt noticed, I’ve been thinking, I often think, I think about, and I consider. I have yet to use a word denoting the kind of action required to achieve a state of being in balance and for good reason – balance is something I strive for in theory. In practice it is less clear what I accomplish.

I’m writing about this because I suspect I’m not alone. I have a plethora of versions of myself that come into play depending on the crowd, activities I love to participate in when I give myself time, research I’m excited about, places I want to go, people I want to see and care I want to give. I’m engaged in using the word “busy” as a catch-all for everything I negate under the pretences of other things being more important. Ultimately what I’m saying is that every time I eschew balance other things are more important than well-being (for self, family, friends, co-workers, planet, etc). Something to ponder for a moment…

Now, that that is confessed, I’d like to move on, in fact, I’d like to act on this commitment to balance. Bear with me on this brief tangent (I love tangents). I was listening to a CBC interview the other day. Those who know me know that I’m a devoted listener to CBC radio 1. Its a rare day that I miss Q, or Matt Galloway’s morning show, and it would be unusual to go through the week without catching Quirks and Quarks, Spark, In the Age of Persuasion, Ed Lawrence’s Gardening show, Conrad Edgebeck’s wine advice and The House. I can say with certainty that the CBC offers me great opportunities to learn about new and interesting things. Now, the idea I’m interested in discussing here was about actions, ideas and emotions (tangent closed).

While listening to the CBC I heard an interview about how our emotions follow our actions. I’ve been working under an ill-conceived concept for a long time. I thought that when I felt a certain way then I could accomplish particular tasks. Little did I know that in fact, my emotions follow my actions. This may sound simple enough, but dear readers, believe me when I say, I sighed a deep sigh of relief and joy. I felt in that moment the answer to a nagging question that has been a perennial  problem for me. How do I begin to get ahead on things, so I can stop feeling so behind and start living a balanced, present-tense existence (or something proximate)? Well, I can attest to one thing: I have been getting up in the morning, imagining the things I want to accomplish in a day and the spaces I’d like to eke out for whatever I want to put in. I have been feeling better. I have been catching up, finding a little free time and I can see some semblance of balance on the horizon.

On this beautiful fall morning, I’d like to say: Thank you CBC for giving me this free education. I am painting again, I’m researching better, I’ve got better ideas, my work is still dominating my life but I’m striking something towards balance. To balance…


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

Having recently read Walden…

I’m currently enjoying a little break as I’ve recently finished my comprehensive exams. I’m enjoying reconnecting with friends, family and the world around me. What I’m noticing the most in this period of time is how much clearer my thoughts are. I’m attributing this to lower stress and having time to go for a walk outside and having time to work in my garden.

My best ideas happen when I’m out near the ocean or going for a walk in an area where I don’t hear traffic and I can take in the world around me at a leisurely pace. This isn’t to say that my ideas evolve independent of study, they don’t, but I would say that having time to relax and reconnect with the more than human world is essential to being healthy and whole. In fact it is usually when I’m out for a long walk that the things I’ve been reading come into focus and that new ideas start forming.

Henry David Thoreau wrote, during his stay at Walden Pond, that “it appears to be a law that you cannot have a deep sympathy with both man and nature” and yet I find that is exactly where I exist — in sympathy with both. And so, I do my best to connect with what it is to be human and what it is to be of the earth. It is in fact in an effort to seek these connections that I study and write and try to learn as much as I possibly can so that I can come to negotiate these actualities and ideas through a fluid mapping of clearly overlapping territories.

To rest, fresh air and new ideas…


“I frequently tramped eight or ten miles through the deepest snow to keep an appointment with a beech tree, or a yellow birch, or an old acquaintance among the pines.” Henry David Thoreau


The Centre for Teaching Excellence welcomes contributions to its blog. If you are a faculty member, staff member, or student at the University of Waterloo (or beyond!) and would like contribute a posting about some aspect of teaching or learning, please contact Mark Morton or Trevor Holmes.

“Chance Favours the Connected Mind” (S. Johnson) — Jen Doyle

Where Good Ideas Come From… Steven Johnson

One of my favourite things to do when I’m relaxing or working around the house is to listen to CBC radio and at the beginning of January I was listening to Spark. Nora Young was interviewing Steven Johnson. His most recent book, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History Continue reading “Chance Favours the Connected Mind” (S. Johnson) — Jen Doyle