Finding JOY in BALANCE

The JOY JOURNEY continues……….for those of you that have been following my (sporadically posted) JOY JOURNEY you will be familiar with Sofina (my bicycle)

She is my primary mode of transportation in Phnom Penh…numerous times daily I almost fall whilst riding her around the Phnom Penh streets, as you can imagine my fear of falling is quite high and this is not an irrational fear, because I have already had a few falls and almost falls! The most embarrassing of these was when Sofina’s front wheel got caught in a drain as I turned onto a busy road- In slow motion I fell (gracefully) into a pot plant on the side of the road with of course a spiky plant planted in it. I wasn’t too hurt (except of course my dignity was pretty banged up) Physically there were no broken bones, just got a few scratches, splinters – so I brushed myself off and got ready to ‘hop back on my bike’ and continue my journey, just a minor incident……until I looked up and across the road I had become the entertainment for the KTV bar that was across the road- I was providing a comedy routine for the 15-20 staff, security and numerous tuk tuk drivers that were parked at the bar. Needless to say the pain of hurting my completely losing all dignity increased as they laughed and pointed at me…… With the small amount of dignity I had remaining and all the grace I could muster, I brushed myself off, readjusted my helmet, and resumed my journey.

I have worked out that the main reason for my unstable riding and high risk of falling is that surprise! I don’t have great static or dynamic balance abilities! In fact they are pretty terrible!

In Australia I never really thought that much about BALANCE….. but living in Cambodia the need for BALANCE is something I am constantly thinking about…… my balance (or lack thereof) whilst I am on my bicycle is a daily reminder of the importance of BALANCE in my life.

In contrast I have discovered that the majority of Khmer (Cambodian) people babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, young adults, elderly people have  INCREDIBLE BALANCE!!!! 

I have been thinking that it may be because they have been riding bicycles and motorbikes (moto’s)  since they were born (okay, slight exaggeration….. maybe not literally since they were born, but in all honesty I have seen babies who would be lucky to be a few hours old being held on the back of the family moto)

I am in awe as I watch people ride their moto’s around Phnom Penh- their ability to drive through the narrowest of gaps between trucks and tuk tuks on their motos without even the hint of a wobble, or any indication of being unbalanced. It is beautiful to watch…….I on the other hand am not beautiful to watch 😉 as I weave, wobble and lose my balance numerous times on my way to and from work…… to be fair I would say there have been some occasions where the unbalancing has not been solely my fault ( I think that very loud horn blasts from a truck carrying some friendly Khmer men who want to shout their evening greeting to me “hello lady” and get their truck really close to me to make sure I know that they are talking to me is a legitimate reason for having a bit of a wobble on my bike!……. that aside 😉 if I am going to survive the current traffic ‘system’ in Phnom Penh and navigate it on my bicycle I am going to need to IMPROVE MY BALANCE

Balance is defined as “the ability to maintain a controlled body position during task performance, whether it is sitting at a table, walking the balance beam or stepping up onto a kerb. To function effectively across environments and tasks, we need the ability to maintain controlled positions during both static (still) and dynamic (moving) activities. 

Static balance is the ability to hold a stationary position with control (e.g. standing on one leg). Dynamic balance is the ability to remain balanced while engaged in movement (e.g. running or bike riding).” 1  “The ability to anticipate and react to changes in balance as the body moves through space” 2

I started looking into what I could do to improve my balance and coordination skills? As an OT once of my jobs is task analysis- I look at an activity and what skills are required to perform that task. So I Occupational Therapied (is that a word?) myself 😉  to work out what skills do I require to help me balance on my bicycle and secondly which of these skills did I need to improve with………….for those of you who are wondering it turns out I needed to improve all the skill areas required for balance 😉

  • I needed to improve my attention to task and alertness when riding so I could rapidly respond when I started to lose my balance.
  • I needed to strengthen my ‘core’ (the central muscles of the body) to provide greater body stability.
  • I needed to improve muscle strength (this one should have been pretty obvious to me, as I am known for being not physically strong……quite weak in fact!) to allow for better muscle control for speed and direction of movement.
  • I needed to improve my muscular endurance to increase the length of time that I could maintain my balance.3

Once I had worked out what skills I needed to develop for balance I OT’d (Occupational Therapied) myself again 😉 and thought about what activities I could do to help me to improve my balance and coordination?

  • Unstable surfaces Walking over unstable surfaces that make the trunk work hard to maintain an upright position. Unstable swings because when swings move in unexpected ways it forces the trunk muscles to work harder (hard to find adult sized swings in Cambodia….. but I am improvising!)
  • Kneeling(with no hands touching the floor). Stepping stone games with big jumps (i.e. no steps between the ‘stones’) which challenge my balance. 3 As I was practicing these activities and improving my balance I kept thinking about balance more deeply……(What me think deeply! That’s a surprise!!)

But seriously……… What if?? Could the skills and activities that I was doing develop my physical balance and coordination skills for bicycle riding also be used to help me balance and coordinate my daily life here in Phnom Penh?!?!?!……My life here is so unstable, and unpredictable……I had been feeling so unbalanced and was very excited by the fact that maybe I had found some tools to help me feel more BALANCED in my daily life in Phnom Penh! ………(side note….it’s not like I was amazing at daily life balance when I lived in Australia….often quite unbalanced actually but I digress) and I definitely haven’t got this life BALANCE thing all figured out, but what I am finding is as I learn skills to improve my physical BALANCE for riding my bicycle I am also learning and practicing skills to improve BALANCE in my daily life in Phnom Penh 

The funny thing is that what started out as something that I was doing for survival (slight exaggeration maybe) here in Phnom Penh has helped me to  discover……..wait for it……….There is JOY in learning how to BALANCE …….. JOY in understanding the need to make constant adjustments in my daily life……. JOY in learning the importance of being alert and focused on the task at hand so I can do what I am here to do!…….. JOY in understanding that internal strength is crucial for balance and stability in an unstable unpredictable place …. JOY in dedicating time to developing my internal strength- a strength in my heart, mind, soul and spirit……..I am coming to understand that life is a marathon, not a sprint and so I am finding JOY in spending time building my endurance and knowing that endurance comes through perseverance through difficulties and challenges and so I am even finding JOY in these!!

Finding JOY in …………

balancing dreaming and doing

balancing work and play

balancing beauty and brokenness

balancing solitude and socialisation

balancing talking and listening

balancing serving others and self care 

balancing activity and rest

balancing my yes’s and my no’s

balancing risk and safety

balancing spontaneity and structure 

balancing roles, tasks, responsibilities 




Keeping my BALANCE is an essential part of me moving forward in this extraordinary adventure, this joy journey that we call life!


Some quotes on balance for you to ponder, oh and some pics of my Lucy girl of course!!

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley 

“Take your fun seriously. Make time and space in your life for your enjoyment. Do something fun and thrilling. Dare to allow yourself to feel alive. Fun brings an important balance to hard work. It increases your own morale. Increased morale will refresh your energy. Balance is so very important. No one is serious all the time. Don’t allow yourself to forget to have fun! Make time to do something silly, crazy & fun today!” Akiroq  Brost   

“Perfect balance is the art of falling gracefully.” ― Marty Rubin

“Faith gives you an inner strength and a sense of balance and perspective in life.” ― Gregory Peck

“Don’t confuse symmetry with balance.” ― Tom RobbinsEven Cowgirls Get the Blues

“My point is, life is about balance. The good and the bad. The highs and the lows. The pina and the colada.” ― Ellen DeGeneresSeriously… I’m Kidding

“There is no such thing as work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.” ― Alain de Botton

“what is joy without sorrow? what is success without failure? what is a win without a loss? what is health without illness? you have to experience each if you are to appreciate the other. there is always going to be suffering. it’s how you look at your suffering, how you deal with it, that will define you.” ― Mark Twain

“You see, we cannot draw lines and compartments and refuse to budge beyond them. Sometimes you have to use your failures as stepping-stones to success. You have to maintain a fine balance between hope and despair.’ He paused, considering what he had just said. ‘Yes’, he repeated. ‘In the end, it’s all a question of balance.” ― Rohinton MistryA Fine Balance

“Cultivating self-awareness is a life-long journey. Listening to our inner voice as our guide will help us to balance our experiences in life, making us stronger, wiser and freer.” ― Dee Waldeck

“Hygge relies on us finding a balance between self-containment and wholehearted participation, personal liberty and awareness of the needs of others. It connotes a caring, civilised mode of behaviour that builds companionable ease and trust.” – ― Louisa Thomsen BritsThe Book of Hygge: The Danish Art of Living Well

“Balance your time. After a productive day: rest and relax. Allow yourself to feel satisfied. Celebrate your accomplishments. Don’t burn yourself out. Don’t neglect your well-being and health. Don’t neglect your loved ones or your life. Long-term success depends on your ability and diligence to carry a balance.” ― Akiroq Brost

“Have you ever wondered about light? Light is infinite. It is the source of life on earth. But too much of it can destroy the same earth that it nurtures. Too little of light can destroy life too! So we need to maintain balance in life. We need things in their right quantities. Too much or too less of important things can destroy our life! And eventually they will destroy our earth!” ― Avijeet Das

“Balances flow into one another, like the tides. Their boundaries are seldom clearly drawn.” ― J. Earp

“It’s important to achieve balance in sandwiches, because who really knows how to achieve it in life? Life is messy, difficult, occasionally great but mostly upsetting and out of your control. But you can always make a good sandwich, and a good sandwich will make you happy!” ― Tyler KordA Super Upsetting Cookbook About Sandwiches

“A wisdom as constant as the North Star shines within all of us. It is always present. waiting to be tapped, waiting to guide us, to advise us. We need only use it to prevent its atrophy. No matter what our background, profession, color, or religion, employing this universal compass, this innate sense of what we know to be true, will help us establish a lifelong foundation – a place we go to recover our sanity and to regain our balance.” ― Nancy CobbIn Lieu of Flowers: A Conversation for the Living

Enjoy your extraordinary joy journey love Lala 


  2. Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012