Life/Work Balance Divides Us


  • What are you leaving out? 
  • What feels separate, set aside? 
  • What do you “have to make time for”? 
  • What “should” you be doing? 
  • How do you live in the “real world”?

The corporate world – when it bothers to pay attention – speaks of “life/work balance." As if life and work were two separate and opposing forces. They are not. Just the phrase is a problem. We do it with many things: “sacred and mundane”. “Magical life and real life.” We speak in these binaries as though magical life cannot be real, or as though work is not a healthy part of life.

We are tearing ourselves apart for no reason.

What sort of life would you like to lead?

What sort of life would remind you that every part of life is important, magical, and sacred?

What things can you let go?

For me, my life includes rest, reading, exercise, clients, writing, students, activism, good food, work, music, sitting under trees, bicycling, sex, friends, spiritual practice…Every day includes a healthy measure of most, and every week includes the remainder. All the parts of my self need to be fed. All the parts of myself need reminders that they are important facets of the whole. Exercise is just as important as spiritual practice is just as important as meeting with spiritual direction clients. I spend different amounts of time on each of these, but they all weave into the whole.

It took me a long time and some reframing to get here. I still work a lot, but there is a more useful sense of flow among all the aspects of my life, less of a sense of separation.

What feels important to you? What would feel healthy and nourishing to include? What would it feel liberating to let go of? 

What sort of life do you lead and what life are you hoping to craft?


Stop thinking of life balance and start pondering life integration.

Manifestation will follow.




If you can use a sounding board or some guidance around navigating your own integration, I have just adjusted my spiritual direction rates to open up more spaces for those struggling in our current economic times.

Addendum: I also write about manifesting desire in Make Magic of Your Life. Some people are finding it helpful.

21 Responses to “Life/Work Balance Divides Us”

  1. Tony

    I think there is a similar issue in the human services around issues of “self care.” There is a lot of talk around clinicians needing to take care of themselves so they can do their jobs better, which to me implicitly posits that what matters is doing the job well to be able to meet the needs of clients or agencies. I want a good, satisfying life. I don’t want self care to be a project or a task on the list that I rush through to get to other tasks, though I see that in myself. Sometimes self care means spending a few extra hours to get caught up on paperwork. Sometimes it means doing some yoga or going jogging, or having dinner with friends and loved ones, or going to march for a cause that I think is important.

    • Thorn

      Tony, yes! This is a great addition to the conversation and I’m glad you are brining it here. I’ve often felt a twinge of discomfort around the phrase “self care” and you’ve pinpointed why. It becomes another thing to “get to” rather than part of the whole.

  2. Kim McDonald

    I agree. The problem I have with the concept of balance is that it’s unachievable. If you keep the parts of your life separate, you have an unending juggling act because one thing or another will always take precedence. Then there’s the guilt at not being able to keep things separate. Everything has to have its place in the whole of our lives if we are to be whole and healthy.

    • Thorn

      Kim, exactly. I really like that final sentence: “Everything has to have its place in the whole of our lives if we are to be whole and healthy.” I may have to quote you on that!

  3. Miriam

    Yes. As you know, this was a struggle of mine for years. I still believe that in many ways I made the right choices playing the “work/ life balance” game, because without those years of paying my dues I likely could not have ended up where I am — a truly blessed place. And: those years were not integrated, could not be integrated, in the way that my life is now.

    • Thorn

      Miriam, I’m curious: was it that you needed to go through that work/life balance game process, or that you truly feel there is no way to get integration in those circumstances? I ask because I do know corporate worker types who manage to treat it as “all life” rather than “now I’m working and later I will be in my life”.

      So: was that “balancing” part of learning your way toward integration? Or something else?

  4. Jennifer

    When I saw the words, “Stop thinking of life balance and start pondering life integration”, come across my screen earlier today I got up from my desk and read it aloud to my colleagues. We all agreed that was good advice to have in our corporate environment. It also got very quiet in our office just after that. Thinking about it now after reading all the other words you wrote on this topic I realize that was also a moment of integration. Thank you for setting the stage and inviting us to join you!

    • Thorn

      Jennifer, thanks so much for sharing that! I wish you and your colleagues all the best.

  5. Bobbi

    Thank you so much for a timely invitation to keep things in perspective! Your posts never fail to remind me of the times I’ve attended workshops with you. Definitely some of the most life-affirming moments of my life. 🙂

  6. Robin

    Not sure where the problem is here. When I talk to people in my wellness coaching practicd about work/life balance what it really means is “dammit, you are allowed to have a life, to have needs, to take care of yourself”. I think that worklife balance is a buzzword but its one they understand. And I like the phrase self care. It means to me that you have a self, and it needs care. So many people profoundly neglect themselves for their jobs, their children, their families, their business.

    • Thorn

      Hi Robin,

      thanks for chiming in with this perspective. For me, the emphasis on life/work balance means that work is not part of life. Just that division strikes me as a problem. I can see the concepts of life/work balance and self-care as entry points toward health and integration, and I also see that they still keep us in a state of possible division which doesn’t feel helpful in the long run.

      “So many people profoundly neglect themselves for their jobs, their children, their families, their business.” Yes. This is so unfortunate and deadening. I’m glad you are there to help some of these people make shifts toward greater health.

  7. Lisa

    I’ve had a moment of clarity this week. I’ve spent the last year delving a bit into my shadow self. This week I realized that while I preach and, to a great extent, live a balanced life, I am being drained by ego. I have a massive ego, and it’s manifesting most in my professional life. I think there is a difference between striving to be as good as you can be, and taking a huge step and expecting to be embraced for it. In reality that large step might be embraced, or you can crash and burn. Both are learning experiences.

    I need to find a balance between my expectations, my ambition, my situation, and what I actually want in my life. I have stated and felt for a long time that all I wish for is a quiet, simple life. Now I find this “ego” inside me that wants something more. Does the rest of me want more? And how much do I want to work to get it?

    This may not make much sense at all, and I apologize if it’s rambling or unclear. This is a fresh moment for me, and I’m trying to wrap my head around it. I need to get into the woods and sit under a tree and meditate and get into sync with what is real.

    Ugh. Shadow work.

    • Thorn


      this sounds like a fruitful place to be, however frustrating it may feel. Ambition and ego aren’t bad in and of themselves, but yes, they can get out of control and want to drive the bus.

      Letting go of attachment to the outcome is one of the most important and difficult magical lessons we can learn. In Make Magic of Your Life I talk about this as part of the Four Powers – it is included in that space between the Power to Dare and the Power to Keep Silence. We have to act and then let the universe do what it is going to do. We can’t control everything – we co create.

      There was a time in my life where it was very important for me to harness the wish for “more”. Perhaps this is your time.

  8. Colleen

    This is something I’ve really been struggling with. It seems that in many aspects of my life, the actual and the desired do not match up—–in some cases, they aren’t even close! My focus right now is formulating a clearer image of what I’d like life to be so that I can work towards that.

    • Thorn

      Colleen, yes. I find it helpful to distinguish between fantasy and desire. Fantasy is a way to try on different hats. Desire harnesses life energy and helps us move into action. Want + Need = Desire.

      The other thing is: magic is a laboratory. We get to experiment and see what works and what doesn’t. Then we get to try again.

      (and to bring it up again, because it keeps entering this conversation so much that I had to add a note to my original post: Make Magic of Your Life deals with a lot of this. Some people are finding it to be helpful).

  9. Fourge

    Maybe it’s a duality at first. Maybe it’s a good thing — at first. (Bare with me for a moment.) Suppose step one is your life. Step two could be having a job. At first, bringing this alien part of your life can create a dual concept for people. That’s fine at first, I think, because it’s like looking outside the box. For me, it’s the process before the weaving, the sewing, saying, “Here is the needle and here is the thread.” Work by way of observation is good at first. But you have to bring your observations together to make a final conclusion at some point. At some point, you gotta bring that needle and thread together to form your tapestry. You gotta get from step two to step three, stage three, where duality integrates.

    I’ve been away from the altar for the past two months, and rarely have I been at it since for the first time in my young life, I have a job for more than one month. That, and seven months later and I’m still in my lovey-dovey, honeymoon state with my lover. And yet, I’m kind of glad that I’ve been away from the altar. I had formed this mind frame where practice was for the altar, and so rarely would I practice when not in front. I’ve combated this, and still am. As much as I enjoyed the sometimes tough work at the altar, and as much as my soul has needed it and even yearned for it, I made practice another daily task. Having been away from the altar has helped. Because now my life all around has been more full of practice, magic, integration, and a constant vigilance of magical symbolism as life’s omens. My life has become my altar, my forge. I needed this. I have work to do, because my mind refuses to let go of the thought of keeping a “balanced life”. But my mind sways when the animal within me grows in curiosity and desire. So I’ll see what happens.

    So yes. I agree. Do what you love to do, and watch the mind bend toward love’s will.

    • Thorn

      Fourge, thanks for this.

      We all have many steps on the way, I agree. I would just like to invite us not to get stuck in feeling we need something called “life” to balance with something called “work” or something called “sacred” to balance with something called “mundane.” We are so much more, and seeing that all facets are part of the whole feels helpful.

      I’ve had a lot of steps on the way with this myself.

      small example: I’ve written in the past of realizing I was still thinking exercise was something to get through before getting on with the rest of my day. Just realizing that helped me to integrate exercise as part of my life.

      • Fourge

        Of course, yes! That was a point I was trying to make. At first, things may seem dual, opposing. But all flower petals have a meeting center, all trees bear roots into the same earth, all humans breathe the same life-inspired air. Our own lives need to be the fulcrum point for all the aspects of activity and experience. Yes, the “balance” of it isn’t so important as is the practice of the things we are willing to do, love to do, or even things don’t will or desire or love, but know are necessary processes in order to live that more fully integrated and lively life. I used to think the same about exercise, until I started feeling passionate about it. After that, it became another necessary part of my living, necessary on so many levels.

  10. Keechy

    Two questions often asked when you first meet people… What do you do for a job? Where do you live? Like the living bit only happens when you aren’t at work. 🙂


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