never_get_old

There was a lovely summer night. It was hot, but no so much as during the day. The night was young and full of promises. The darkness was friendly and welcoming. The stars were shining. The wind was brushing the cheeks. Space, people and stars. A lovely combination.

Life was seemingly frozen in a perfect moment of balance.

Harmony. Elegance. Music. Being present.

And in moment like this, a few people were discussing life and about.

***

“I’m tired. I’m really tired”, said Mark. “I’ve had no break, no holiday for ages. There is only work and responsibilities.”

Mark was 30 and tired of life indeed.

“I’ve been asking questions for my whole life, with little results. I don’t want to ask questions any more”, sighed Mark. “I even don’t want the answers any more. I want the results.”

Mark was feeling as if life was running too fast. He lost the sense of purpose and direction.

“I’ve found answers”, said John, “… but I haven’t got any satisfactory explanation to the important questions I asked.” He sighed as well. “I hear the same ideas or generalizations over and over again. Nothing new under the sun. Sometimes I’m offered complaints, nagging or meaningless advice.  And I’m lost as ever.” 

John was 40+ and disappointed. His life was run by boredom and routine, day by day. He was dreaming about the enthusiasm and inspiration he used to have. They were gone for good, however. Where to find them?

“I don’t feel like doing anything meaningful in my life. I lack contribution.” John sighed.

“What’s wrong with you guys? It is better not to think too much”, added Frankie. “It’s probably a matter of age”, he continued. “I don’t ask too many questions. They lead me astray”, he paused. And then he said

“You guys are quite old and therefore start to think about unnecessary issues. Questions are stupid.”

“There are questions that you need to answer, however”, observed Mark.

“I don’t believe so. Which question, for example?” Frankie was surprised.

“What makes you tick?”,  “What is happiness?”, “How to become successful?” asked John. “There are more important ones, as well”, he thought. “Who are you?” is an example of a truly powerful question.

“For me it is only important how much money I have and how to make it.” – Laughed Frankie.

“There is no money without success.” Mark reported.

“They say that money does not give happiness…” – laughed John – “but the ones who say it either have the money in abundance or nothing at all.” He paused.

-“When you are 40, you either have the money, or you will likely not have. When you are 30, your are still hopeful, and for the 20 year old, everything is just as difficult and just as possible. Before you watch life pass.

“What are you talking about?” – said the old man, who had just entered the room.

“Oh, you’ll not understand this,” said Frankie – “Just a small talk.”

– “What are you talking about?” – asked the seven year old boy, who ran happily to the table attracted by the shapes, colors and flavors. The blinking stars did their job too. They were fully visible through the window.

“You will not understand”, said the 40+, “You’re too small. We are talking about serious stuff. Nothing for small kids.” – he added.

“Will I understand when I become as big as you are?” asked the youngest.

“If you become like them, you will not understand.” said the oldest.

“So, whom should I become?”, asked the little one.

“Stay as curious and playful as you are” – said the old men. “And never get old”, he added with a smile.

***

The conversation above is a free interpretation of this post (in Polish) by a great coach, Maciej Bennewicz.

***

Photo courtesy Fe 108Aums, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.

***

 

moment_when_we_top

 

We have been looking for answers.

What is the point of all this?
What is the essence?

Some say it’s about selfish genes.
Others say it’s about game.

Some say it’s about development.
Others say it’s about enlightenment.

Some say it’s about experience.
Others say it’s about sacrifice.

Some say it’s about success.
Others say it’s about love.

Some say it’s about good and bad.
Others say it’s about salvation.

We are looking for new goals and new challenges.

We hope a new job will give us satisfaction.
We hope children will add meaning to our lives.
We hope degrees and diplomas will make us rich. 
We hope a new car will make us happy.
We hope exotic holiday will bring us joy.

All these things can bring us joy, happiness and fulfillment, indeed.

Yet, they are not the answer.

Goals are important because we know in which direction we go. We plan, we act and we optimize our efforts.
The road is important because it defines our experience. We either enjoy it or suffer moment by moment.

Yet, the point is not in the goals, not even the road we travel.

The point is in a moment when we stop.

It’s too trivial you may say.

Have you ever climbed a mountain? Or a rock?

When we are walking or climbing towards our destination, we focus on what needs to be done, step by step. There is a plan of action or a routine to follow. There is a sustained effort.

Yet, there is a moment when we stop. Then we take a full breath and look around. We appreciate the beauty and acknowledge what is behind us and what is before us. It is exactly when we stop to become present in the moment.

We appreciate sore legs, pains in the calves, sore fingers from grabbing the rock, or shoulder aches from carrying a backpack. In such a moment we feel fully alive.

We appreciate the goal, the path and the effort.

What is a stop?
It is a moment between our out-breath and our in-breath.
It is a moment we are to wait. For an appointment, a bus or a friend.
It is a moment we become ill. A common cold or a serious disease.
It is a moment we make a turn when we lost our way.
It is a moment we make a choice.

It is a moment of coaching, therapy, massage, dancing, tapping, prayer, pilgrimage, meditation, travel or volunteering.

You may say that none of the above makes sense to you. You may say that such modalities do not work in your life. You tested all the tools and there is no improvement, but only problems and unhappiness. It has become worse instead of better.

How come?

All depends on how the external stimuli affects you. It does not matter what the stimuli is.

Will it make you curious to search for answers so that your inner playfulness is awaken?
Or
Will it make you paralyzed from fear so that aggression is encouraged?

Natural curiosity is one of the greatest inner resources you have. If you suspend disbelief, disappointment, bitterness and grief, your curiosity will open new horizons. And such a curiosity leads to playfulness.

When children are eager to play, they learn fast. The same holds for you.

On the other hand, lack of learning leads to frustration. Fear fires hostility. Rage becomes aggression. When aggression has been suppressed for a long time this self-aggression turns into an autoimmune disease.

When children are timid and uncertain, they are more prone to aggression. The same holds for you.

***
Sometimes the external stimuli is not to your liking. You don’t welcome it, neither appreciate. However, it comes to you and it comes with a powerful impact.

Perhaps your friend betrayed you.
Perhaps you lost your job or a house.
Perhaps your child became a drug addict.
Perhaps you had a car accident because somebody run into you.
Perhaps your parent, friend or a beloved one was diagnosed with cancer.
Perhaps you made a deal with dishonest people and run into huge debts.
Perhaps your company lost liquidity and you are on the way to bankruptcy.
Perhaps your hard disc suddenly crashed burring all your projects, data and files alive.

You are lost.

It is a moment when you stop.

Have you become fearful?

Whatever the difficulties, in the moment we either stop or are made to stop, we can make a choice.

Do we want to subscribe to fear and become bitter, hostile and aggressive? Or, do we want to spark our curiosity to look for new possibilities? Are we searching for transformation or progress? Can we move from glory to glory?

We cannot change the event. The stop is there. But we can change our perception and response.

***

Photo credit Fe Langdon, available under Creative Commons on Flickr.

***

more with less 

The mantra “be more with less” or “less is more” resonates perfectly with the idea of conscious living.

Not surprisingly, it has become one of the two challenges I work on this year. It is a huge challenge for me as my natural inclination is to elaborate, which usually mean to do more than less.

Over the years it has become clear to me that practising “less”: owning less, doing less and becoming less, is a necessary pursuit on the path of personal growth. “Less” coincides with the ability to choose. Consciously.

In this post I present three cases where less is more important than more.

Stuff

I grew up with the idea that “more is better”. I used to imagine how easy was the life of rich people, who were living happily with the abundance of goods. Yet, I knew that there was a limit to such happiness. As a child I was touched by a Greek myth about the king Midas. He was supposed to be a happy man – able to turn everything into gold just by touching. It seemed perfect in a while until his beloved one turned into a gold statue as well. Clearly, it was too much.

Even with this story in my mind, I still imagined the life was easy for wealthy people. Many years forward and I now understand how (too much) goods and stuff become limitation instead of liberation. The overwhelming stuff stops being enjoyable. Moreover, it becomes a hindrance for development.

A huge house surrounded by a large garden and a few cars may sound great but there is a hidden price to it. You need to take care of your large possessions. If you don’t do the daily/weekly/monthly maintenance, cleaning and repairs yourself, somebody else has to do it. And such services need to be supervised as well.

As a stuff collector, you need both space and place for your valuable clothes, shoes, toys, books, computers. technological gadgets, videos and other things. Stuff multiplies fast and needs extra maintenance.

Basically, more stuff means less of your precious time. This is the time you could spend in nature, relaxing, exercising, reading, learning or enjoying activities with your family or friends. Or whatever else you would choose.

More stuff = work + headaches
Less stuff  = breathing space + expanding mental space + creativity

Take the challenge.

I am not a minimalist and I don’t aspire to be one. But the overwhelming stuff makes me learn to say “no” before the new stuff arrives. Learn it too.

A good challenge is to get rid of 20% of your stuff: clothes, shoes, books, old gadgets and equipment, furniture and so on. You can denote these to a charity, sell on Ebay, give away or recycle. Possibilities are plenty.

An even greater challenge is to get rid of 50% of your stuff. You can perfectly live on less.

If you are nostalgic about your stuff because it holds precious memories, I have a great solution. Photograph your stuff, one by one and store the photos on a hard disc. Hold a picture of every thing in your mind, thank for the precious memories and set them free. Let the stuff start a new cycle of life.

Ideas

One of the breakthrough in my life concerned ideas. I used to think that great ideas were special and belonged to a few chosen ones. With time and experience I’ve understood it was not true.

Generating ideas is relatively easy. You can observe it in any brainstorming session. Ideas are simply shared and belong to the Common Space. We may paraphrase Plato to say that the ideas live in the Cave of Shadows and we simply discover them. Alternatively, we may say that ideas are inspired from God so they come from a single Source.

Yet, we often think that a particular idea is ours. It is both true and false. The idea is ours in the sense that it is proposed through us, but it is also not ours because it is not totally exclusive to us. Oftentimes the same or very similar idea it being proposed, discussed or executed by other individuals at the same time. This is particularly noticeable in science, but I’m sure that you can recognise this phenomenon in your daily life as well.

The consequence is this observation is far fetching. We merely discover ideas (and perhaps share them with others) but we don’t own them.

Such a concept is is a hard pill to swallow for some. They will guard their best ideas, tricks and practices with life. They want to keep the ideas confidential, hidden or patented as it is a common practice of some companies or corporations.

The point is this. There is abundance of ideas, thoughts, concepts and books, easily available. Just look over the internet and you will find a plethora of ideas. Free. How many of them have you executed?

The simplest ideas are often neglected or discarded, because they are either old or known. Nothing exciting in them. Alternatively, ideas are neglected because they require focus and discipline.

Isn’t that interesting that successful professionals thrive on simple ideas, perfected over time? Think medical doctors, engineers or researchers who constantly improve their solutions.

Isn’t  that interesting that the most successful brands describe narrow niches (=ideas)? Think Coke, SunwarriorBlendTec, Lexus, and so on.

Isn’t that interesting that successful companies offer either a limited choice of products or a limited and specific service? Think AppleEvernote37signals or FedEx. 

More ideas = confusion + procrastination + difficult choice
Less ideas  =  clarity + execution

Guard yourself from the flood of ideas. The more ideas around, the bigger the overwhelm and the harder the decision which one to execute. You may easily spend ages trying to find the best idea.

The truth is this: the best idea is the one which is implemented.Why? Because a direct experience will teach you much more than any thinking or reading.

Take the challenge. Limit the number of ideas to consider for any decision taking. Choose the most appealing one and execute it with devotion.

Time

We often think of time as if it was our resource. Yet, we can neither buy time nor generate it on request. Time is limited, yet we often live in an illusion that we have still plenty of time to do many things. This makes us careless with respect to how we trade our time (and effort) for money (call it job or business), or how we let the time pass.

When we look at people who suddenly discover that they may live one more year at most because of a terminal illness, we will often observe the following. After the initial shock, disagreement and rebellion, there comes a moment in which the person accepts his/her fate. There is nothing more to loose but everything to gain.

The time limitation sets the person free. He/she can now take actions and decisions which were perhaps postponed until some day in the future. Such people often spend their last months of life in the most active ways, renewing relations, repairing mistakes and following passion. Some become healed and continue such a practice for years.

Time is limited. If you knew you would die in a year, how would such a perspective have changed your life? Which decisions would you take today? Which job would you commit to? Which experiences would you choose? Which discoveries would you make?

While such a perspective may seem as too far fetched for some, think about time in a different way.

Your time is precious. There is no other today as this day. When this day is gone it will never return again. The challenge is to be the one you want to be and to do the important things.

When you give yourself less time for specific tasks and challenges, you will force yourself to become more creative in order to meet the time constraints. It may not work perfectly the first time, but you will become more resourceful when you use this strategy on daily basis.

More time = indecision + procrastination
Less time  = action + creativity + resourcefulness

Take the challenge.

  1. Every day determine your most important (one to three) tasks for the day, tasks which contribute to the growth and well being of yours or your family/friends. Commit to them with 100% effort. They really need to be done!  
  2. Use the Pareto rule and Parkinson’s law to do the most important things in less time.
 
 How can you become more with less? It is only through a conscious choice and dedication.
 
***
Photo courtesy Fe Langdon, available under the Creative Commons license on Flickr.
 
*** 

O.K., I admit the title is meant to be catchy, but nevertheless I want to share a useful insight. Although this post is somewhat lengthy, I encourage you to read on. This post touches the core issue of happiness.

Who are the unhappy people that you have ever met in life?

Pause for a moment. Think briefly about them. Who are they?

Got the answer?

If you have thought about a number of people, you may have noticed how different they are.

Perhaps some are mothers at home. Perhaps some are managers or CEOs in large corporations.
Perhaps some are jobless. Perhaps some are students.
Perhaps some are rich. Perhaps some are poor.
Perhaps some are losers. Perhaps some are winners.
So many times we have seen stars to rise and fall, those who had everything in terms of money or worldly success, yet ended up lonely and miserably.

Do they hope that they are going to be happy one day in the future? Or, do you regret or their lives in the past?

We seek happiness

We seek happiness in things, collections, or material possessions. But it only accumulates stuff.
We seek happiness in sport, business or academic achievements. But it only asks for more.
We seek happiness in a fast-paced professional carrier. But it only leads off the middle way (and the lack of balance).
We seek happiness in indulgence in food, drinks, sex, and so on. But it leaves us empty even more.
We seek happiness in kids, wives, husbands, partners, or a family. But it limits our personal development.
We seek happiness in the acceptance or recognition of others. But it supports our low self-esteem and makes us unable to think for ourselves.

The truth is this.

Happiness cannot be found in possessions, achievements, other people, relations or businesses. We are misguided by thinking that happiness is outside us. And if this or that happens, then we will become truly happy. Not true at all.

Nothing outside us will make us permanently happy. Ever.

Happiness is a state of being.

(For myself I thought that becoming a mother would bring me the highest fulfillment and the greatest satisfaction in my life. But this is not the case.

Don’t take me wrong here. I’m a happy mother. I love my kids deeply and passionately. Yet, becoming a mother has only opened more desires which were always there, but in a salient state. I want to be a great mother, and at the same time, I want to become much more.  )

Happiness is like breathing

Happiness is like breathing. It is joy that exists now, in this moment. It is a way of being. Being is expressed by breath, similarly as happiness is expressed by being.

Happiness is within your reach at this very moment. It is not about a mystical experience, neither meditation. It is not about the accumulation of rewards, achievements, friends or possessions. As everything in your conscious life, you become happy by choice. What you need to say and commit to is this:

“I choose to be happy NOW.”

The emphasize is on the Now.

That’s it. You don’t need to change. You don’t need to improve. You don’t need to become healthier, brighter or more skilful in order to be happy now. You don’t need to reach more peaks neither more goals. You don’t need to buy more stuff. You don’t need to have more friends. You don’t need to be older, wiser, or smarter.

You need to be yourself in the Now. Happiness is a side effect of this.

How to be unhappy?

O.K., the above reasoning likely sounds familiar to you. But … we have not touched the real issue yet. Here we go.

Let’s go back to the unhappy people in life. In my experience, all unhappy people I met were in one of the two categories:

  1. either strong worriers (worrying about their circumstances, family, job, money, payments, health, and future events)
  2. or, strong past dwellers (i.e. holding tight on the past hurts, disappointments, traumas or events).

My conclusion is this. What prevents you from being happy is that you don’t live in the current moment. Instead, you live either in the past or in the future.

Think about it.

The only time we can experience is Now. The moment in which you are reading and understanding these words. We only have this present moment. Nothing else.

Past is in your memory, while future is your imagination.

The metaphor of driving

Holding onto the past is as if driving forward by looking in the rear mirror only! You can’t anticipate what is coming before you. You cannot prepare for the bends, road bumps, traffic lights, sudden stops that are on your road. You cannot enjoy the wide perspective of the  scenic views ahead. You cannot respond timely when the action is necessary. Because it will take the time to refocus on your front vision and you will act too late.

Worrying about the future is taking your conscious attention (your laser beam Conscious Self) to the scenarios that you may experience one day, or likely never. This is like driving with your focus on what is a few-hundred meters away from you. Since you can hardly see what is there, except for a rough overview, you cannot really predict the actual traffic situation as you have too little time-related data, you cannot fully prepare for it. And in the meantime, while focusing on your projected future traffic ahead, you can be bumped by a car which is suddenly on your right but escaped your vision.

Do you follow me?

The only way to drive well is by being present in the moment. You focus on what you see in the front. At the same time, by using the far-reached as well as peripheral vision, you can fully anticipate what is coming ahead, from the left and right. And by using the rear windows you can see how the past is being changed and whether you need to take it into account now.

Take it as a metaphor for life. When you focus on the Now you also include sufficient views of the past and the future. It works.

The ultimate secret to happiness

We can now formulate the ultimate secret.

The secret to happiness is to live fully in the present moment.

Or in other words,

What hinders your happiness is the denial of (your participation in) the present moment.

Now is the only accessible point of power you have. This is your Operational Point, i.e. the point from which you can act. What you are feeling, being, doing, living in this very moment determines your happiness (or flow).

You may think about past or future as separate events. But this thinking or feeling, intuition or analysis happens now. As a result, you are evoking in your mind either the past or the future in this very moment. And in this way you take focus (say the light from your laser beam Conscious-Self) from what life is for you now to some aspects of life beyond your immediate control or influence.

Where does it lead to? Simply to a conflict between your direct experience of the Now that happens anyway and your conscious awareness that is thrown out of the present moment. So, your inner conflict between your here and now, where you don’t want to be, and your remembered past or imagined future, where you want to be makes you unhappy.

Nothing ever happened in the past. It happened in the Now. The past was once the Now.

Nothing will ever happen in the future. It will happen in the Now. The future will at some point be the Now.

Some ideologies, doctrines or systems work on the premise that there is a better, happier future for us. We only need to conform to a specific set of rules, follow this or that leader, live by a set of certain principles or follow this or that life-style. And then, some day, we will be happy. This is an illusion.

And I am reminded about this when I see the name of God in the bible “I am that I am” or when I read that “The Kingdom of God is within you” (or “among you” depending on the translation). God’s consciousness is about being in the present moment. As simple as that. Eternity is in the Now.

Waiting

Are you trying to get somewhere else than where you are now?
How many times did you look at your kids and wished they were at school instead of nursery?
How much as a child did you wish the end of a school year (=holiday) that had just started?
How much do you wish this meeting / project /work / task to be finished now?

Are you waiting for your life to happen? Are you waiting for holiday, the end of the season or the beginning of a new one, your kids to grow up, a new house to be bought, or a better job? Are you waiting to be discovered, to be smarter or more enlighted?

Waiting is a state of mind in which you focus on the projected future and deny the present moment. In doing so, you only anticipate the future and cut yourself from the chance of learning and enjoying the now. Waiting and anticipation for the better future to come is loosing your power of actually creating the very future you want in the now.

What is so magical about the present moment?

You simply cannot be unhappy in the present moment. If this sounds contradictory to you, just think about it. There is a moment of now, a split of a second, a tick on a clock, and in this moment, you either accept what is or you take an action. There is no other choice.

Your full concentration is on the now. And you actively participate in this now. This is the perception of the flow, hence the expression of happiness.

So, if you are present in the now, fully agreeing with what is or being in an action, then there is no focus left for you to worry about something tomorrow, 12 steps ahead or considering a guilt from yesterday, your childhood abuses or disappointments.

If you have ever experienced flow (being in the now), you know that it is impossible to have a problem in the Now. Problems are caused by perceptions from your Conscious Self dwelling outside your Operational Point. If you perceive a problem, it means you are living with a situation without holding an intention or possibility of taking the action now.

This all sounds good, … but where is learning from my past?

There is certainly place in the Now to learn from your past. You may temporarily choose to hold on the past to properly grieve about the loss in your life, be it a beloved family member, a friend, a dog, a job or something else. And I personally think that this is important.

The goal of such a grieving or going through the past events, however, is to live through the related experiences and choose to condense the great ones into the seeds of gratefulness. The goal is to hold memories about the joy, growth and happiness that these experiences have brought you. It is about practicing the memory of the heart.

What helps in this process is to look at a large scope, time-wise (months or years) or space-wise (hometown, country or a continent). The final purpose is to transform these experiences into the gratitude that you choose to cherish in the Now, or into the feeling of being blessed that you experience in the moment.

This all sounds good, … but where is planning?

Planning, goal setting or setting up habits have a unique purpose. If you think that planning or goal setting is only about future, you are wrong. The purpose of goals and plans is to set up a direction of your journey (yes, this is the future aspect) so that you become crystal clear on the action in the Now. Plans and goals give you a reference frame for your focus in the Now, so that the Now can be lived more satisfactorily and joyfully.

In short, planning helps you to live the Now more efficiently.

The present moment

Remember there are no problems in the current moment. When there is a situation with which you need to deal now, your present moment awareness will support you with a clear mind so that your decisions become efficient and your actions become decisive.

Do you remember the driving metaphor?

If you are consciously aware of the moment, taking responses in relation to what is happening on the road right now, you will drive well and safely. Most car accidents happen because the driver’s awareness was withdrawn from the present moment, either by going deeply into thinking, falling asleep or being distracted by external actions, e.g. turning head away to talk to a passenger.

(Note: Driving on a highway may also induce a trans state in which your consciousness goes into a deep thinking or a type of a meditative state. This usually happens on when the traffic is small or the road easy. )

This all sounds good, … but how to live in the present moment?

Being present in the Now may be difficult at first if you have been worrying or holding onto your past for a long time. The easiest way to bring your awareness to the present moment is to focus on breathing. As simple as it sounds. In-breath and out-breath. In-breath and out-breath.In-breath and out-breath. And so on.

Exercise: Red ribbon breathing

Practically, I recommend to do the following. Deep, slow, abdominal in-breath followed by a slow out-breath. To know that your breath is abdominal, put your hand just below the navel. Your hand should go up with an in-breath and down with an out-breath. Ideally, your out-breath is 3x longer than the in-breath. So, you can count, “one” (in-breath), “two, three and four” (out-breath).

In addition, imagine that you breath out any unease, pain or discomfort that you may feel inside or hold in your body now. Imagine this discomfort as a long, thin, red ribbon. While breathing out, make your mouth slightly open, making a small “o”-mouth, for the ribbon to get out,  of course ;).

This is an excellent exercise to focus on the moment (or prepare and fall asleep in the night) if you follow this for 5-10 min. Then, whatever issues you have to tackle, you simply look at them and decide which actions are to be taken in the Now.

Of course, it is difficult to be present 100% in all moments in life. But our goal is to be present as much as we can.

Summary

Let me repeat the most important finding.  The secret to happiness is to live fully in the present moment.

The only Operational Point of your life is in the present moment.The power is in the thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions in the Now.
 
It is not your past that prevents you from being happy. It is your tight hold on the past, the focus of your attention on dwelling, replaying former disappointments, griefs, hurts and so on. Whenever you worry and replay your past in the present moment, you are only repeating the mental patterns for it to become your reality in the Now. Whenever you worry and project imagined fears into the future in the present moment, you are only creating the mental patterns for it to become your reality in the Now.

The only way to break this pattern is to bring your consciousness, your Conscious Self, to the present moment. Then you either accept what the moment brings or take an action.

I encourage you to focus on the Now. Have trust. Be present. Accept or Act.
The flow of happiness is yours.

***

This post is inspired by The power of Now book, by Eckhart Tolle.

***

 

There is a concept of the middle way as a path of development. The followers of this path likely apply moderation to everything. They tend to avoid extremes. While this seems a reasonable way of living, there is a much more advanced approach.

Two extremes and the center

As we know everything has its opposite. As a result, we have two extremes and the center, the middle point in between. And if we carefully observe the workings of the universe we will notice that the natural rhythm is to continuously swing from one opposite to the other and back. This is the principle of rhythm. We go from a day to a night, from joy to sadness, from summer to winter, from a high-tide to a low-tide or from work to rest. There is this basic rhythm, the basic swing between the polarities.

The same understanding applies to practicing the middle way.

Counter-intuitively, the true middle way is not narrow. Oh, no no no.

The middle path is not about boring miniature movements around the middle point. On the contrary, it is a challenging path when you walk between the extremes. Traveling between the polarities does not mean, however, all polarities that exist, but only the opposites that define the space of your maturing and personal growth. And you choose to walk this path with consciousness. You keep visiting the opposites and swing consciously between them.

The paradox of the center

There is an interesting paradox of the middle way.

Our goal is to be in the middle. The middle is the center. What is the center?

Center is Integrity. Center is Peace. Center is Christ.

Being in the center is the ultimate goal. However, center is not achieved by standing still there, but by balancing between the opposites.

Center is Balance. Think about it this way. When a person walks on a tightrope, he is constantly moving his body, swaying from side to side to move forward and prevent the fall. And although his goal is to stay on the rope, i.e. keep the center, most of the time he is outside the center, being either at one side or the other. He is keeping the course of movement not by standing still but by actively balancing between the opposite sides and between up and down.

So, the balancing between the opposites is the core of the middle way. The center is continuously being reached through an active balancing.

So, the key understanding here is as follows.

  1. The middle way is a path between opposites. It is a spacious path. There is a lot of room for experience and even more for investigation. There is freedom to manoeuvre, to make mistakes and to learn.
  2. Personal experience or deep understanding of the extremes is essential for finding the true center for yourself.
    • When you loose health, you understand how valuable it is.
    • When you become poor, you begin to appreciate what wealth is.
    • When you are live in noisy environment, you begin to value solitude and silence.
    • When you are about to loose your life, you begin to live with an contagious passion.

Even when you experience the darkest sides of yourself, making deliberate errors, committing crimes or hating others, it may serve you as a powerful experience for a personal transformation towards kindness, gratitude and love.

The big challenge

There is however a big challenge when you want to follow the middle way.

Think for a moment about a pendulum swinging from side to side.  When there are no external forces, the pendulum will naturally stop at its center.

Let the pendulum be now our metaphor for life. Our ultimate goal is to know the center and to be at the center.  However, there are always external circumstances that act on us, be it consequences of our decisions (that we can hardly foresee) or events outside our control. As a result, the pendulum never stops. It is always in motion.

What is the swing?

The external forces and circumstances may override the natural rhythm of the pendulum. So, they will tend to keep you at one of the opposites, usually the less favorable one such as the permanent state of grumbling and complaining. As a result, the center you find is not the center at all. You simply have too little experience and understanding to be able to define the center well as the pendulum has an abnormal rhythm, highly biased towards one of the polarities.

E.g. if you have been unhappy and complaining for years, you may only have a vague idea about happiness. As you lack the direct experience and cannot even imagine what a true happiness is the way you define happiness is colored by the negative interpretations of your experiences. As a result, your perceived center is far from the middle point.

The how-to of the middle way

The advanced way to follow the middle path is to transcend the duality, the opposites. What does it mean? In practice

  1. You take the time to understand the principle of rhythm and its working in your life. It means that you are knowledgeable about the rhythm and cycles of changes. When you know a change is to happen, you can prepare for it in advance in order to take advantage.
  2. You know where the center is because you have chosen to experience the opposites and to understand them. You simply take the time to go through the extremes personally, learn about them from other people, or extrapolate from your own life experience.
  3. You always keep your intent to return to the center. Or, in other words, you hold the consciousness of the center. Even if the external circumstances or life challenges want to keep you stuck at one of the polarities, it is you and your consciousness that will encourage you to swing towards the other side.
  4. The middle way is achieved by your active and conscious balancing between the opposites. So, it means that you first go to one extreme and spend the necessary time there, then you follow to the other extreme. And repeat.

    For example, the advanced balancing of your work day is to work hard and with deep focus followed by a full rest. This can be implemented in any way that is convenient for you. E.g. you can choose to work hard for 50min followed by a 10-min rest and repeat it all, say 8 times a day. Or you can choose to work hard for 3h followed by a 25-min rest and repeat it 3-4 times a day. Or you can work very hard for a full day followed by a free morning the following day. Any of such approaches is efficient as long as it suits you.

Transcendence is by choice. You are in charge. Accept it.

And your middle way will become a fantastic experience.

***

The image above shows a beautiful quilt by Inge Duin. See more of her works on www.ingeduin.nl.

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