In class we have been trying to find real life examples of what the Middle Way is, and what it is not. As discussed in previous posts, the Middle Way is not finding oneself at one extreme and trying to compensate by dashing over to the opposite extreme. Two extremes put together do not neutralize each other, but exponentially compound each other. Think of trying to balance a tippy boat by rushing from port to starboard. All you do is stir up so much wave activity that in the end the boat overturns. Not the Middle Way!
After the Buddha recognized how much suffering is caused by living at extremes – in his case the extremes of opulence and asceticism – he did not solve it by living part of the time gorging on rich food and part of the time seeing how little he could eat and still keep his body alive. But that’s what many of us do to find balance in our lives. We run from one extreme to another, exhausting ourselves and never making our lifeboat balance.
The Middle Way is being rooted, the way a tree is rooted to withstand high winds and storms, without becoming rigid or brittle. That means anchoring in to our senses, feeling the support of the earth. From that position of strength and resilience, we can open our arms to welcome all the thoughts, emotions and experiences that arise and fall away from moment to moment. We can sense our deep intrinsic connection to all beings, and we can weather physical, emotional and mental storm states with more grace and presence than we would have thought possible.
We are not trying to avoid extremes. We live in a world where extremes happen. We lose a loved one, a job, or a home. We achieve a goal, receive an honor, or meet someone who feels like home to us. The world around us provides wonders and horrors of unimaginable extremes. This is the nature of things. The Middle Way is developing the ability to create a spacious awareness that can hold whatever extremes arise within our experience – the extremes of loss, pain, happiness, ecstasy – each a passing gift of earthly life. From our strong rooted open consciousness, we allow it all to pass through our awareness. This ability to be present fully for whatever arises is the Middle Way.
This week’s class was not a dharma talk but a discussion with students sharing personal examples of the suffering caused by living at extremes. Story by story the Middle Way started to reveal itself. These stories are not mine to share on this blog, so this is a very short post.
But it is a valuable to explore in your own life and in the lives of those around you examples of the Middle Way and examples of life out of balance. Our lives provide infinite opportunities to notice and learn – from each other, from nature, from our own inner wisdom.
I notice that this is the 100th Post on the Open Embrace Meditations Blog. That’s two years of weekly dharma talks. May they be useful to those who read them! For me, teaching meditation and Buddhist concepts keeps me honest in my own practice, and formalizes my own learning. Please share this blog with others so that they might be encouraged to develop in their own meditation practice. Gratitude to my students and blog readers for your interest and your support.
May the merits of my practice and my teachings be of benefit for all beings. May all beings be well. May all beings be happy. May all beings be at peace.