For the better part of nine years, I lived in monasteries, ashrams, tribes and forests. I even spent months in silent meditation retreats. During all this time, I was trying to figure out who had the best methods and teachings.
Some retreats were very strict, where we’d meditate in tiny prison-like cells for 14 hours a day. 3am wakeup times, total silence, and nothing but meditating and eating two meals.
Some places were very lax, and even though they were silent, everyone was talking all the time. They’d have only a couple hours of meditation each day, and at one retreat even that was optional.
Then, I went to a beautiful tropical island off the coast of Thailand where I found the key to my whole life that I’d been missing. I found what I call, the middle path monastery. It was in paradise, but it was bare bones (I’m talking sleeping on a wooden bed with a wooden pillow). It was strict, but not too strict. It was 8 hours of meditation but pleasantly divided into walking and sitting meditation. We were all respectfully silent, but would whisper to pass the salt if need be. It was the first place that was pleasant but also incredibly transformative and life-changing.
This middle path had eluded me my whole life, but since I discovered it, there is not one aspect of life that I have found it doesn’t work. We humans like everything to fit into a binary of yes or no, good or bad, right or wrong, on or off. We want to categorize the world so that it makes sense, but that leads us to extreme behavior such as addiction, narcissism, and aggression.
I used to have a very addictive personality and was called the “most extreme person” my former coworker had ever met. I was always losing weight or gaining weight, eating perfectly or eating terribly. I was either drinking too much or not at all. The moderate middle path to me was a myth, maybe for other people but not an option for me.
All that changed during my journey. Now food comes with no bad feelings. My wants are in alignment with my intentions. Moderation has been the greatest freedom I’ve ever experienced. I see all sides of arguments because my ego has gotten out of the way, and I no longer feel the need to identify with a side or position. And we can all do this.
Humans are like guitar strings. If we’re too loose, we won’t make beautiful music. If we’re too tight, we’ll snap.
This week, let’s all practice walking that middle path. Whether it’s dealing with work, family or our habits, ask yourself what a middle path would like like? For example, we don’t want to be neglectful parents, but we also don’t want to be smothering and overprotective. We want to work hard at our job, but we also don’t want to burn out. (More on how to achieve mindful success in my latest podcast.) We want to be there for others, but we need to take care of ourselves as well. The answer seems to always lie in the middle. Play, explore and experiment as you find your way. When we feel centered, grounded and at peace, we’ll know we’re on the right path.
PS – Whether it’s a breakup, divorce, rejection, passive aggressive avoidance, family separation, a neglectful family member, an absent parent, a disloyal friend, or even being fired from or turned down for a job, abandonment trauma is a near universal experience that we will all go through at times in our life. If you are going through that right now, here is a video for you.
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