Breathing out, I know that I am walking in the park.
I rounded the corner of the paved walking path of my local park, and noticed how they had recently trimmed back the undergrowth on the sides of the trail. They cleared everything to the ground for six feet or so back from the path. It's spring time, and this is something they do. I immediately thought of all the rabbits, birds, and other creatures I see in this protective overgrowth while walking. I wondered how this change would affect them. I wondered how it would affect predators in their ecosystem.
And BAM! My brain suddenly did that thing where it connects seemingly random processes it was running in the background together and provides a solution or insight.
I realized that is just like any ecosystem, it's a balance. One change to a factor in that system such as clearing the undergrowth, can - does - ripple across the entirety of it causing change. Sometimes positive, other times negative, sometimes negligible. But always change. If the change is minor, the ecosystem adjusts. If the change is dramatic, it can cause collapse. And sometimes, even if the change is minor, collapse can happen!
The "BAM!" moment happened when my brain connected this thought stream to my health. I had recently been pondering how - for the last several years - I had created and maintained a nicely balanced group of factors which made up my health/wellbeing. When one of those factors was neglected (my exercise) for a year, things began getting all wibbly-wobbly in other areas. I gained some weight, started having trouble with sleep, and various other areas of my life.
And walking in the park, on a lovely afternoon, I suddenly realized that my body is an ecosystem. My mind is an ecosystem. My body/mind is an ecosystem! And when I let my exercise falter, I caused a ripple effect on my ecosystem. It made me realize what I already knew. Balance is a requirement for a stable ecosystem. Balance is a requirement for my health to be good. Balance is a requirement for my mind to be strong. And balance is a requirement for my Body/Mind to be well.
How many of my meditator friends out there have fallen off of a regular meditation practice, and suddenly found that things just weren't quite right? You're a little less patient, a little more edgy, or a little less mindful and you don't know why? Then you meditate, and you think "That's what I was missing!"
And you think about that and then you think "How did I let this slip in the first place?! I know better!" And yet we do. As I did with my exercise. Transforming energy, typically, is the primary function in an ecosystem. If one aspect is out of balance, this transformation is also out of balance. Whether we are trying to break addiction, improve relationships, or improve our health the energy we are trying to transform is that of suffering.
In a typical ecosystem, such as a lake in a park, your input is sunlight. This grows plants, which feed animals, and so on, until we get the output which is life energy. That's simplistic, I know, but it was a real eye opener for me related to health and practice. If we are a practitioner of the Eightfold Path, and we let one spoke on the wheel atrophy, then the whole is weaker for it. If we focus on one too strongly, and the others only get standard attention, the result is similar. Only through balance, do we achieve optimal transformation of energy like a stable ecosystem!
NET CHANGE = INPUT + OUTPUT + INTERNAL CHANGE
I realize I'm not discovering a cure for a disease here, but rather just making it easier to understand for myself and, hopefully, for you the reader. It's these kinds of realizations that help us deepen our practices and pursuits. This metaphor may not be the one that does so for you, but perhaps it will. I know it widened the door of understanding for me, regarding my need to be consistent and persistent with my health efforts, as well as practice.
So next time the path is feeling a little bumpy, stop and run a quick check. See if there's any aspect of your ecosystem that is out of balance.