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Dalai Lama

The Middle Path

Posted on 2012.06.21 at 08:28
Current Location: 67114
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I don't meditate. Mostly, I don't have time for that nonsense. And yet time and again I come across its many benefits, both spiritually (less me) and scientifically (more me). So while I have in the past flippantly replied, "I meditate when I walk," (and I have been walking on average 12-miles a day the last six weeks or so) I have often wondered if I was missing something with the whole quieting the mind thing. Not that I cared enough find out.

But in turning page after page of the Shambhala Sun I picked up at the bookstore a couple of weekends ago, I am struck by two things; one - meditation is the most successful way to be mindful, and two - the scenario running I endlessly engage in is one aspect of what people who meditate strive for.

As usual, this information is extremely timely, especially given my own thoughts on the matter from my extremely limited Jesus-perspective:

...ever since Christ said, "So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot I will spue thee out of my mouth," I've been walking the narrow path between two camps of hotheads everywhere I go. No matter what the subject of conversation is, NO ONE WANTS TO BE SPEWED FROM JESUS' MOUTH. They therefore run full hot, or full cold...

Pema Chödrön says, "Though the teachings point us in the direction of diminishing our [strong conflicting emotions], calling ourselves "bad" because we have strong conflicting emotions is not helpful. That just causes negativity and suffering to escalate. What helps is to train again and again in not acting out our [strong conflicting emotions] with speech and actions, and also in not repressing them or getting caught in guilt. The traditional instruction is to find the middle way between the extreme views of indulging—going right ahead and telling people off verbally or mentally—and repressing: biting your tongue and calling yourself a bad person...We routinely think we have to go to one extreme or the other, either acting out or repressing."

Because we are all different creatures, explaining to someone else how to be mindful is a dicey proposition - what works for us may not work for someone else. Outside of the act of meditation you may notice Ms. Chödrön doesn't tell us how to find The Middle Path only that we each must seek it. And yet I find I use mindfulness very nearly daily to differentiate between two seemingly disparate emotions or thoughts.

My first brush with The Middle Way made sense to me intellectually, but applying it to emotional reactions appeals to the practical. I crave the straits between the two camps of hot-heads, especially when both camps justify their extremist behavior through something as subjective as belief. As I mentioned recently to the uninitiated,

The beauty and effectiveness of critical thinking isn't in knowing everything about everything. Its about identifying limitations in conceptions and seeking alternatives :)

Even if I don't immediately know where the middle ground lies between polar viewpoints, I do know it exists. And that alone is of great comfort to me.

Comments:


pcofwildthings at 2012-06-21 19:31 (UTC) (Link)
The scenario running is something people who meditate strive for? Not following you there. If one is quieting the mind (through meditation), then how can one run scenarios (which would seem to engage the mind in hyperdrive...or maybe that's just me)?

I do feel that walking, for me, is a moving meditation, and I've actually used that terminology in conversations about walking with other people. I just let the thoughts flow, and mostly they all flow together. Usually I'm ignoring that process, but at times, I will try to think through a situation.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-06-21 20:05 (UTC) (Link)
Hrm. Even as fast as I type I don't often get all my thoughts coherently recorded, and I have been accused of 'leaping' to logical conclusions - please forgive my haste.

What Carolyn Rose Gimian said was, "If someone asks what you have achieved after three days, or three year, or three decades of meditating, its not that impressive to say, "I'm thoroughly bored." To prepare for writing this article, I looked at ads for spiritual paths and retreats, and not of them said, "Come sit with us. We'll make you completely bored." But boredom is actually a great sign, if it is genuine, complete boredom that includes being bored with your confusion, your anger, your arrogance, your everything, your you."

And while I haven't reached that point yet (and may never), its also not my goal. Mine is to understand those things about myself and wield them - use them to my advantage - knowledge is power. So my thought was, if this is [one part of] what people are using medication for, then my approach is equally as effective to that end.

But I could be wrong.
pcofwildthings at 2012-06-21 21:07 (UTC) (Link)
Ah, gotcha. That was quite the leap. Thanks for explaining how you got there.
Jobu
jobu121 at 2012-06-21 21:46 (UTC) (Link)
I guess, it is like Democrat vs Republican. Middle of the road would be a Libertarian :)
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-06-22 02:12 (UTC) (Link)
Or like Christians vs Atheists. Middle of the road is still Libertarian.
Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-06-23 13:20 (UTC) (Link)
LOL! Indeed.
Michelle1963
michelle1963 at 2012-06-23 13:15 (UTC) (Link)
Pema Chödrön says, "Though the teachings point us in the direction of diminishing our [strong conflicting emotions], calling ourselves "bad" because we have strong conflicting emotions is not helpful.

Nothing worse than feeling bad over feeling bad. Talk about the proverbial snowball effect.

Because we are all different creatures, explaining to someone else how to be mindful is a dicey proposition - what works for us may not work for someone else.

Absolutely true! However, if one really wants to learn to be mindful, it might behoove him to ask many different people in hopes that one of the methods used by another will inspire.

While I realize that eastern thought, and meditation specifically encourages us to be mindful in general, I found when I was a novice, it was easier to learn to be mindful about one particular thing. I began the practice when I was a teenager ~ although I didn't know it was called mindfulness then ~ and concentrated on recognizing when one particular unwanted emotion arose and in what situation. When I recognized it was there, rather than immediately expressing / acting on it, I would pause and ask myself if there was a better way of dealing with the situation. Or if the emotion was actually warranted in the given situation. The middle path is indeed dicey because it requires putting in an extra step that most people do not consider. The reward is that over time, I was not at the mercy of most unwanted emotions.
ehowton
ehowton at 2012-06-23 17:13 (UTC) (Link)
I have an idea for an upcoming post on CBT - Cognitive Buddhism Therapy.

:P
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