One of the Buddha’s first teachings was about The Middle Way. The Buddha was born a prince by the name of Siddhārtha Gautama. As a prince, he lived a life of excess, or at least abundance. He gave up that life, and went to the other extreme, living as an ascetic: starving himself and torturing the body to try to find some truth. What he discovered is that enlightenment does not come from either sensual excess or extreme asceticism, but instead can be found in the middle way, on a path that walks between these two extremes.
I believe in extremes. I love the highs in life; don’t we all? I also have learned to love the low points, because even when they truly suck, they give life flavor and teach us to appreciate the highs. I think it may be true that our willingness to completely experience both the highs and the lows can lead us to our own middle way; a path that works the best for us.
In the body, homeostasis is the term for balance. It refers to the physiological ability to maintain stability even in the presence of a stimulus that disturbs its normal function. When there is excess or deficiency, when our internal processes are knocked out of whack for some reason, our body’s natural tendency is to correct itself, and find the optimal state of balance.
That’s pretty amazing. Can we use that wisdom in our daily life? When events knock us out of whack and “disturb our normal function” can we find a solid center that allows us to maintain some sort of equilibrium?
The middle way is not about living a static life. Imagine a song in which there was only ever one note. Think how bored we would get with that tune! It is the range of notes that gives a song its flavor, its fullness.
In the same way, we need a multitude of experiences to make life really amazing. We need our highs and our lows. Sure, we get knocked out of whack sometimes, but in the long run, isn’t it all worth it? All that experience makes us who we are.
So here is my interpretation of the middle way: be willing to live fully and to experience all extremes, highs AND lows, and then learn how not to get trapped in them. Trust the tendency to homeostasis; know when and how to come back to balance, back to center. Allow for rest, build in ways to restore, to renew, to refresh, to begin again.
So here I am, seeking the middle way, still and again. I am living on an edge of sorts these days, and my life is anything but homeostatic. My yoga practice is in flux along with the rest of me, and I am not entirely sure where it will lead. What that means for this blog is that posts will be sporadic for a while. If you see nothing posted here, just assume I have gone inside to find my center, and that I will be back out to play again soon.
Meanwhile, the above thoughts and the title of this post came from the following quote. Pema Chodron is an amazing teacher – if you don’t know any of her work, I encourage you to read one of her books or listen to a seminar. For me, she always hits the mark.
NOT TOO TIGHT, NOT TOO LOOSE
My middle way and your middle way are not the same middle way. For instance, my style is to be casual and soft-edged and laid-back. For me to do what usually would be called a strict practice is still pretty relaxed, because I do it in a relaxed way. So strict practice is good for me. But perhaps you are much more militant and precise. Maybe you tend toward being tight, so you might need to find out what it means to practice in a relaxed, loose way. Everyone practices in order to find out for him- or herself personally how to be balanced, how to be not too tight and not too loose. No one else can tell you. You just have to find out for yourself.
Many Blessings to you all this holiday season.
May you know joy and laughter and love in all that you do,
and may you find chaos in your order and order in your chaos!