The Middle Way
Featured on The Essential Life
It’s a new year again! Filled with festive gatherings & lofty resolutions where our enthusiasm can sometimes get the better of us. Excited for what lies ahead, New Year’s can be a time of new beginnings, promise, but also a time of overindulgence too. For many, it can be the icing on the cake of a holiday filled with excess. To make matters worse, there’s always the oh-so-easy tendency to berate, belittle, & downright bully yourself when you notice you’ve (already) strayed a little too far away from your resolutions. Swinging between these extremes of overindulgence and stoic renunciation, it’s no wonder why some people have thrown the idea New Year’s resolutions out the window altogether.
Don’t be discouraged! Whether you’ve already fallen off course or have kept your resolutions throughout this first week of the new year focus your efforts on the months ahead, these principles from Buddhist philosophy outlined here will help you to own your own power & keep you on track in the year ahead. Take advantage of the fresh new vibes that come with the new year &and dream big this time!
The Middle Way
Below are highlights from the Eightfold Path, also known as The Middle Way. It’s something that speaks directly to that movement between self-indulgence & self-mortification that goes along with keeping resolutions. Instead of swinging back & forth between these two extremes, this year rise above them through cultivating your inner powers of Wisdom & Concentration. But what are Wisdom & Concentration according to The Middle Way, & what do they entail?
Wisdom: Right View & Right Intention
A major part of Wisdom according to Buddhist thought is coming to terms with the truth of our human condition. A central part of this wisdom is realizing our mind’s nature: forever wandering, wayward, & responsible for a large part of our suffering. This realization is called Right View.
If we fail to see the unruly nature of the mind as the central truth to our human condition, not only are we forever subject to the whims of our thoughts, but we are also out of reach from the other side of the coin this truth holds – that liberation lies in the mind too. By owning our wisdom and accepting what we know to be true (I need to loose a little weight, I need to exercise more) we move further along the path towards liberation & self-actualization. By accepting this central realization of Buddhism (our thoughts create our reality yet our minds will lead us astray) we move even closer to finding the inner freedom we’ll attain in keeping our resolutions for 2017.
When Right View comes about in an individual, Right Intention will naturally follow.
Right Intention is the fuel that comes when we truly see things for what they really are. It’s an intense feeling of motivation, purpose, and desire to do things differently that comes from an honest place, not from a place of self-loathing or deprecation. Our intentions need to be pure and strong so that they can hold us up on the days when keeping our commitments are not easy.
Of course, change is never easy. If learning new habits & behaviors weren’t hard enough, keeping ourselves accountable while dealing with our inner drill sergeant can be even more difficult. Yet by training the mind through Right Effort & Right Mindfulness our concentration will slowly evolve, giving us that laser-like-focus we need to keep our eye on the prize and accomplish our goals – without beating ourselves up in the process.
Concentration: Right Mindfulness & Right Effort
We’ve spoken quite a lot about Mindfulness these past few months as a way of living The Essential Life. Here in this post, we see Mindfulness playing a part within a larger system. Here Right Mindfulness helps us to develop our mental faculties & concentration (which of course, are so important for goal setting & resolution keeping).
A sharper, more discerning mind through the practice of Mindfulness helps us to discover the wisdom we need to take The Middle Way in life – that is, to rise above any extremes in thought or action. Mindfulness is a powerful tool; by simply becoming aware of what arises within our consciousness, we create the space for change to occur, both in ourselves & in our lives. In simply becoming aware of any bodily, emotional, or mental states that arise within your field of consciousness without judgment, you are practicing Mindfulness.
Good on you! Because Mindfulness is simple but not easy. It’s a paradoxical practice that requires you treat yourself with gentle kindness while you keep yourself in check. Practicing Mindfulness while you work to keep your resolutions can create a huge shift & make the whole process a lot easier. It’s like the difference between having an overbearing instructor yelling at you & telling you what to do vs. having a kind, gentle instructor who gives you the space & resources you need to follow your own desires & make your own realizations.
It is true what they say, good things never come easy. When it comes to Mindfulness, we’re all innately born with a certain amount of it, but need to apply ourselves to develop more of it. This process is called Right Effort.
The Buddha stresses the importance of Right Effort in the Eightfold Path & The Middle Way in order to emphasize the agency we have over our lives. Though it may seem like we are victims of our life circumstances at times, we do not have to be. The mind is a very powerful tool, & through Right Effort, we can work to see things differently, change our perspective, & bring in whatever we desire for ourselves in 2017.
Let's step into our agency & the power we have in our lives to create something new, & dare to dream big this year!
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