July 7, 2012 by remingtoncooney |
In the times when Siddhartha began teaching as ‘the Buddha’ (enlightened one), one of the key practices he emphasized was walking “The Middle Way.” This meant not siding with extremes but instead finding a balance and centre in your life, so that everything can be participated in, in moderation. Literally, we can envisage The Middle Way as a path down the centre with various extremes hiding in the hedgerows either side of this path. Finding balance in life is a difficult thing to achieve because it needs constant maintenance. Much like the surfer on his board, you can’t just stand still and expect balance to remain. You have to lean in and out and respond to the various bumps and changes you experience while riding what I once phrased “the wave of life.” Like I said before, it takes some serious practice and a willingness to make mistakes along the way.
But now is not a time to dig up and reiterate old blog posts. Now is a time to share with you, my own struggles with finding balance. For I have often felt that I’m slightly schizophrenic when it comes to finding the inner “me.” The characters I assign to my dual personality are:
The inner-monk is disciplined with his practice, enjoys meditating and doing yoga, likes to eat healthy, is very humble, and is overall, very serious (especially when he is led astray from his practice). The inner-teen is silly, egotistical, social, attention-seeking, flirtatious and adventurous, and is actually fairly loud and boisterous. They are two very different personalities and they seek very different things in terms of contentment. But the truth is I am both, and the reality is I have spent most of my late teen and early adult years suppressing the inner-teen in order to bring out the inner-monk. But since both facets are me, by suppressing one side, I’m causing myself imbalance even though my reasoning is that the inner-monk leads a much more balanced and healthy lifestyle than the inner-teen, and therefore, I should side solely with him.
What results, from siding with the inner-monk, is that I begin leading a life where I’m always trying to act older and more serious than I actually am. I’m missing out on the fun part which our inner youthfulness is not afraid of having. Soon, life loses its adventurous edge and quite frankly, gets mundane.
I’m glad I have recognized this, but to reconcile the two sides of myself is easier said than done. Take for example, the other day when I was hanging out with some of my buddies at the beach. After a few hours of lazing in the sun, they voted we go grab some beers from the closest bar.
“Great idea,” says the inner-teen, “a couple of beers on a beautiful sunny day like today, what could be better?”
Then the inner-monk steps in: “actually this is not such a great idea, inner-teen (picture the angel-devil on my shoulders scenario) because don’t you remember, Mr Cooney here will be attending a psychic reading later this evening. It’s probably best that he does not turn up to this reading drunk. Don’t you agree?
“Yeah, yeah he’ll only have a couple,” replies the inner-teen and the next thing I know I’m up at the bar with the guys with a pint in my hand. It so happens we bump into a friend of theirs’, and, of course, it’s that person’s birthday.
“Birthday shots!” yells one of my friends.
Once again the inner-monk and inner-teen pop back up on my shoulders.
“It’s probably not such a good idea that you do this shotgun shot right now because it’s likely you’ll get drunk…”
I agree with my inner-monk but when I turn to the guys to tell them that I probably shouldn’t do this birthday shot because I’m attending a psychic reading later on and my drunkenness will affect the reading, I can’t really bring myself to do it. It just doesn’t sound right, especially since the people I’m with probably don’t even know what a psychic reading entails. And besides, no one really wants to be a kill-joy, especially on someone’s birthday.
So, next thing I know my throat is burning from the Jack Daniels and they’re all laughing and smiling and giddy while I’m silently starting to go into panic mode. I’m thinking to myself, “if this keeps going the way it is I’m going to have to tell them the truth.” And for some reason, I’m afraid of doing that because it means becoming the inner-monk and being the responsible, serious one. And there’s no way around that, you simply become the kill-joy; you become the parent in the teen situation. It’s something I know all too well.
Luckily, we all go our separate ways not long after our third beer and it’s only late afternoon. So I’ve got time to recover, but I’m spinning a bit and worrying that I won’t be completely sober by the time I get to my reading. And what was supposed to a fun, spontaneous afternoon has actually become quite stressful. Thoughts run through my dizzy head as I lie down in the bath at home for a while. I think of the time when I turned up to a Reiki session hungover. When I confessed to the Reiki healer that I was probably still over the legal driving limit, we had to call the session off. I remember feeling terribly ashamed at the time and thinking, “I wonder if there is any other 20-year-old in the world who has experienced this?”
As I pass through this recollection, I start singing “stuck in the middle” by Stealers Wheel; an unconscious but rather fitting decision, so much so that I burst into laughter at myself. And this is the most important thing that I’ve done all day: laugh at myself. For as long as I can laugh at myself, I know I’m on track; laughing at yourself is key to walking The Middle Way. It might even be the most important aspect of it. For what is there not to laugh at in this life? This life is absurd! I’m floating in a bath tub; which is a pit-stop in between leaving the pub and going to a psychic reading. What in this life is not absurd, I ask?
But through my drunken laughter and my swimming head comes the continuous question:
“How the fuck do I find The Middle Way?”
Long story short, the reading was fine. The reader herself is a good friend of mine and we had an in-depth conversation over these sorts of matters. The irony was that she suggested I just start having a bit more fun in my life and not worry so much about spiritual endeavors. She even suggested we go out for a beer sometime!
As I sit here now, still asking myself this same question, two words come to me: acceptance and moderation.
To walk The Middle Way, one must firstly accept that they are going to be making constant mistakes that will throw them off this path of perfect balance. What is far more important than not making mistakes, is having the awareness of when we do make a mistake and the compassion to forgive yourself for making that mistake. Forgiveness and acceptance will allow the re-centreing process to occur far more quickly. When walking The Middle Way, allow yourself to take baby steps. We do not blame a baby for losing their balance when they’re learning to walk, right? Instead we laugh, and their learning process brings us great joy. In truth, we are all still learning to walk and our mistakes should be treated in the same way: with laughter and joy.
Nonetheless, it is impossible to walk The Middle Way if we are leading a life of excess. Pay attention to those things that get neglected in your life. If you can balance yourself internally, you will notice how your external will also take on a similar sense of stability.
And if you find yourself in a bath tub between the pub and a psychic reading just start singing:
“monks to the left of me, teens to the right, here I am (stuck in the middle…)”