Monday, 5 February 2018

Inspiration Matters: Life is a balance so be yourself. Dr Patricia Gibbons - PRS department

Have you ever tried standing on one leg?  If you are Rob helping me marshal the House Cross-Country course, or part of my Upper Sixth Philosophy class, you have!  It is a bit of T’ai Chi, or preparation to be a karate kid, or practice to help walk the tight-rope at the Climbing Centre.  Physical balance, so I have found is something that needs practice.

In the outer world, so in the inner world.  What do I mean?  To be totally present in one’s body, focussing fully in order to balance, is a great exercise.  And so too, is finding balance in one’s inner world – in your thoughts and self-understanding.  What does this mean?  Well, I’m reading a lot about Carl Gustav Jung, an early psychologist at the beginning of the twentieth century.  His psychology is all about balance – about getting in touch with the various aspects on oneself, giving them each their due and finding balance.  He was the one who coined the terms ‘introvert’ and ‘extrovert’ to refer to inward looking/quiet aspects of people, and vivacious/outward-looking aspects of people.

We might think of ourselves as one or the other – a bubbly party person being an extrovert and a quiet, reflective person being an introvert.  But what Jung demonstrates is that we each have both aspects in ourselves, and we need to honour both in our lives.  We need to give ourselves times to be quiet – unplugged and solitary, as well as giving ourselves time to be with people, in company, buzzing and energetic.

I saw a book whose title was Silence: In the Age of Noise – by a Norwegian explorer, Erling Kagge who writes of his adventures in the Antarctic and of the richness of solitude – being by himself, in harmony with himself and fully attentive to his surroundings.  The bookseller recommended it, and said he thought we could all do with a bit more silence and solitude.

In my experience it takes practice to be comfortable with silence and solitude and alone-time.  We are mostly out of practice because our lives are always surrounded by people and noise and connection.  I also know, however, that there is much inner freedom to be had in silence and solitude and connection to yourself – especially in walking or hiking.  And it’s also great to connect with others – a real joy to chat with others and share life’s stories.

It's all a matter of balance.  So, happy T’ai Chi balancing on one leg, and happy finding that inner balance.  Learning to be who you are.  And you are great.

This piece was originally written to support our pupils in sport, emphasising character being essential for success, but it applies equally to all young people as they develop along the sometimes difficult road to adulthood.


  1. What a wonderfully insightful piece! Reminds me of the Jewish anecdote of the Rabbi "Detail of the Knesset Menorah, Jerusalem: Hillel the Elder teaching a man the meaning of the whole Torah while he stands on one foot". I should imagine the Chinese have something similar.
    We in the West are very unaware of balancing inner and outer. Too much emphasis on the outer. While East of Vienna to the Pacific, the Principle of Balance is Very Firmly Established... Whether a Buddhist, a Taoist, a Rabbi or a shaman etc. it is a fundamental of life. education was once in ancient times supposed to E-ducare this understanding within young people. Like a lotus flower. These days 'Education' too often resembles 'training', skill sets, specific focus etc. Mr Ben Vessey wrote on this in another way recently. It was a very good article. Canford has come a Very Long Way in terms of Enlightened Education, from when I was there (M73). In my time such perspectives and concepts as these would have been unheard of and almost unmentionable then. If young people at Canford and other Quality Educational Establishments, can be introduced to Balance, Enlightenment, Holistic Education (yes Jung was a pioneer of such thinking in the West), then you are educating a generation that can lead the world into a fundamentally transforming 21C. Thank God you and Mr Vessey and others are taking it seriously. It is a necessary and a vital human resource. The Chinese have Yin and Yang. The Maya have Inlak'ech (We are One Another). We are together, Inner and Outer. Namaste. Email:

    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my piece. Thank you, too, for sharing your ideas. Lots to think about. Dr Gibbons