For the past several years I have increasingly reasserted my intent to finding the middle way in all aspects of my life, what Lao-tzu calls the Tao. Having once set that intent the middle way opens before me. Lately, more often than not, I notice what comes to greet me. Books appear or I find them sitting on the bookshelf, purchased decades ago because they captivated me or someone else in the family. Now that I am ready to receive them they fall into my hands, old books now coming as new gifts.
I practice yoga and meditate as I always have and yet my practice has achieved a different balance now, as the middle way stresses balance in calm body and mind. I notice that this has happened slowly over a long period of time, that my struggles are less, my mind wanders less, my body relaxing more easily into the poses I do. My sitting is easier. My meditation cushion inviting now, where in the past it has sometimes appeared as a torture cushion.
I prepare my food in the middle way too; neither too extreme nor foreign, I seek what my locale offers, what my yard and the seasons offer. I prepare it calmly and patiently, putting my creativity into each step of the preparations, balancing tastes, textures, grains and vegetables, a little fish, a little meat sometimes.
None of this has been a quick or easy task, but instead has taken many years of slow change, as I constantly reset my intent to change myself and be in alignment with the world I live in. But this is where I find myself now, suddenly feeling as if I have arrived at a new place. And yet I know that this is what it is like to travel the middle way, to decide to live life in alignment with what comes, with where I live. I know that with my intent set, life itself will take me along the middle way, presenting me with its gifts.
I wake up and remember each day that: “Oh yes, I’m doing it differently now. I am a changing being.” Each day I look for the moment of shift when I can say: “Oh, so this is where I am now!” And then I am challenged to take note of the moment I find myself in, perhaps a calm moment, perhaps a stressful one. But the real challenge is in knowing that I have to make a decision and the question is always the same: How do I want to use my energy? Am I going to fight this moment of shift, or am I going to flow with it? Do I elect to calmly flow, or do I elect be aggressively reactive?
I reset my intent every time I am confronted with a shift, and once I’ve reminded myself of my path my challenge loses its bite. I already know that this path I am on is the middle way, that everything that comes to greet me is on this same middle path, and so how I react becomes a simple nod. Yes, I say, I know what to do with this unexpected kink or this unexpected surprise, whether negative or positive. I should not get overly attached to its power, but instead calmly accept that it has come into my life, appeared on my path because it is meaningful for my journey.
And so, there is acquiescence in choosing the middle way; there is acceptance, yet the rewards are great. In being in alignment, I achieve inner calmness and inner balance. In this process of giving and taking there is a sense of growth and attunement with nature, with the place I live and work in, where I give of my energy and receive new energy in return. In alignment it becomes perfectly clear what the only right choice for me to make is.
And so today, the day after a fine Christmas spent with loved ones, I am calm. And although it’s very cold in the Northeast on this wintry morning, I do not wish for sunshine or the heat of summer, for this is my life, this is where I am today. I make comfort where I am. I make calmness and beauty where I am. I make happiness where I am, even in seemingly small ways aligning with my environment, taking what is offered. I put on warm clothes. I light the fire and warm the house. I eat a warm breakfast. I make a fine life where I am now.
Tomorrow may bring something different, and yet I have set my intent to flow with what comes then too. I have no idea what I will be provided with on another day. For the moment this is all that matters. Today is enough. I am fully in the moment. This is the middle way.
I hope you are all well, and happy where you are, as even in small ways this is possible if one is intent upon traveling the middle way.