The Dalai Lama talks a lot about finding a “middle way” to navigate through life’s challenging issues.
When I hear the phrase “middle way,” I often think about finding balance or moderation (which of course makes me want to find both and experience them!)
But liking the concept of the middle way is one thing, and actually achieving a daily practice of it is quite another.
Lately, as I progress through the first quarter of my self-described Year of Living Intuitively, I have become ever more fixated on finding a middle way within.
And since I have always needed a hands-on approach (aka something to “do” to participate in my own learning process) I have started noticing what helps me remember to seek a middle way and step back from extreme reactions.
Here are 2 examples.
Example 1: Construction
A construction crew is building four (count ’em, FOUR!) new houses next door…and two more across the street. They make a lot of noise on a daily basis, and often are out and raring to go long before I feel like waking up. They are really annoying!
When I feel my annoyance building, I remember my goal of finding my inner middle way. Then I realize they are there to help me with my goal, by provoking reactions like impatience, anger, frustration, etc., that I can choose to indulge in or moderate.
So I first thank them for helping me with my goal. Then I remind myself that they are just doing their job (which makes me feel grateful they have jobs when so many are still out of work!).
Then I remind myself that their presence (or absence) is not within the realm of things I can control (therefore, spending energy on it is not ever going to be productive).
This almost always helps me calm down, re-center, and find something more pleasant to think about – like how happy the new families are going to be to have such lovely new homes to move into….and how happy I will be when the construction crew is done building those new homes!
Which leads me to the next example.
Example 2: First World Problems
My mentor and I talk sometimes about how lucky we are to have what we call “first world problems.”
For instance, the other day my toilet clogged up….again.
My house is vintage, which means my plumbing pipes are too. I sent a text to my landlord, who sent the plumbers to work their magic. Half an hour later, the toilet had learned its lesson and was back to proper working order.
This is a “first world problem.”
However, in many parts of the world, there are no toilets (I know – I’ve been to places like this).
In other places, there is no clean water – and sometimes there is no water, period.
I don’t have these kinds of problems, so I can choose how much or how little I stress about the problems I do have.
This doesn’t mean the issues that crop up in my life aren’t still problems or aren’t worth addressing – it just means that, 99.99 percent of the time, my life itself isn’t in danger because of them.
And even the really tough things that will come up – losing loved ones, serious illness, issues with finances – these are issues common to us all, whether we live in a “first world” situation or somewhere far less comfortable.
So remembering this – that the day’s irritations or interruptions could be SO much worse – is very helpful when I am trying to decide how much of my time, energy, and joy I am going to let them gobble up.
Of course, all of this reminds me of what my mentor always says – “be careful when you pray for patience, because opportunities to practice patience are probably what you will get next.”
She is SO right!
By praying for intuitive living, for balance, for an instinctive pursuit of a middle way, what I am receiving is endless opportunities to remember this goal, and to practice.
And what makes it all worth it – all the banging, the sawing, the hammering, the overflowing, the clanking, the plunging – is that, at least for today, it seems to be WORKING.
Today’s Takeaway: What helps you put your irritations, annoyances, or problems in a useful perspective – WITHOUT beating yourself up, belittling the challenges that crop up in your life, or avoiding the issues entirely? How do you find your own “middle way?”