The Middle Way
Balance is a goal that most of us strive for in our lives. We tend to view balance as a sort of see-saw or scale by which we put some fun and relaxation on one side, some work and stress on the other, and hope to keep the sides fairly even. For years, I have been trying to maintain this balancing act, and couldn’t figure out why it didn’t seem to be working for me. I felt overwhelmed, stressed out, tired, lacking and lonely often. I had less money than I needed, more bills than I could handle and too many balls in the air most of the time.
Then I discovered the Buddhist principle of the middle way. Walking the middle way doesn’t entail a balancing act of first this, then that, or some of this to counteract some of that. Rather, it is a concept that invites holding two opposing ideas in mind at any given time and living in the middle of them. The idea that has been most powerful for me to illustrate this concept is this one: I am so grateful for all that I have and deeply value it AND I have goals and dreams and visions for all that my life could become.
Often, we use goals and dreams and visions as a way to fill some void that we perceive in our lives. We are single so our goal is to find a partner. We are broke, so our goal is to be wealthy. We are stressed so our goal is to have some downtime. The middle way invites us, instead to be more intentional about what we create in our lives – from nothing – and not in response to some perceived lack or problem.
I can now appreciate that cancer came into my life in order to fill several perceived voids. It provided relief from loneliness as friends and family came to my aid, it gave me the motivation I had been searching for to eat better, rest more and exercise, and it even provided financial support for alternative healing methods I pursued. The universe provides for what we need, and it may not always come in the exact way that we would choose.
I don’t blame myself for manifesting cancer. It happened unconsciously. In fact, I see it as a tremendous gift that provided incredible healing for me. It led me to the middle way, and to seeing my life differently. Instead of complaining about anything that was missing in my life, it allowed me to recognize and be grateful for all that I have instead. As I found gratitude, I also learned how fun it is to create more intentionally.
I made a mind map around the first of the year about all the things it would be fun to do this year, places I would love to visit, people I would like to meet, adventures I would like to have, things I would love to receive and things I would enjoy giving away. It was so fun to create, and I posted it on Facebook to share with friends. As a result, a few people asked how they could support my dreams – how cool is that?
Midway through the year, I just pulled this creation out and looked at it for the first time today. Nany of the items on the list have already come to pass. I met two of the celebrities on my list and I have been corresponding with two more electronically – one even provided a testimonial for my book cover! I even met a few other celebrities who weren’t even on the list. Many of the other items on the map have also happened.
It’s important to note, however, that I’m not attached to any of them happening by any particular date or even at all. My mind map was simply a fun creation and if these particular items don’t come to pass, I won’t be upset. Many other things I couldn’t even have conceived of have shown up. That is the magic of creating from a place of possibility rather than lack.
Little can derail creation more quickly than attachment that something happen in a certain way, by a certain time or through a certain person. Maybe we ask the universe to send us love, but we don’t recognize the incredible amount of love we already have in our lives. Or perhaps we want a certain person to love us, and we then block the possibility that we could fall for someone else (someone we haven’t even met yet or someone we know and don’t see in that way at this time).
The middle way also helps us balance such ideas as overindulgence vs. denial, pride vs. unworthiness, overwork vs. sloth, etc. It is a path of moderation, allowing ourselves not to get stuck on either end of the extreme, but to float somewhere in the middle. Additionally, it laughs in the face of our labels of something as either good or bad, right or wrong. These concepts are subject to judgment. If someone does something we agree with, we say he is right. If we don’t agree, he is wrong. When an individual does something we like, we may call her a good person. If she does something we don’t like, a bad person.
In reality, there is no such thing. We are each doing the best that we can with the viewpoint, information, perspective or identity that we have at that moment in time. People and experiences aren’t inherently good or bad, right or wrong. WE label them accordingly based upon our lens. Certainly we all do things that hurt others from time to time, and we have the ability to clean those things up and make amends. We must take responsibility for our lives and for the messes we make, but labeling someone as disloyal, a traitor or just generally a “bad person” and writing them off doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests.
The middle way doesn’t choose sides, and doesn’t play favorites. It allows us to see the blessings in EVERYTHING that happens to us. It helps us see that our greatest challenges can be our best teachers, and that only by experiencing darkness occasionally, can we fully appreciate the light. The middle way asks us to step back, take a breath and see a different possibility – not in order to fill a void – but to create something new and beautiful in the world that wouldn’t have existed if we didn’t come along and do it.