It is often said that moderation in all things is good. And yet how can life be lived in complete moderation when life itself is extreme? The ups an downs, the joys and sorrows must be experienced for life to be fulfilling. A life fulfilled is a life that has experienced everything, and yet there is wisdom in acting with awareness rather than unawareness, with consciousness rather than unconsciousness, with knowledge rather than lack of knowledge. There is wisdom in learning how to live to the fullest while also learning that true fulfillment comes in bearing the tension of all that life gives and all that life takes. Too much of a good thing can be as bad as too much of a bad thing. That which gives can also take. That which nurtures can also kill, but that which poisons can also heal in the right amounts. Let moderation take its rightful place, even as life unfolds at its rightful pace, bringing its extremes. A wise heart knows that where the heart leads, that’s the fulfilling path. Even in all of life’s extremes, the heart knows.
Disciple is the key to moderation. Too many strict rules and there will be resentment and poor adherence and before too long there will be revolt. Far better to come to a mature understanding that a few rules may be necessary but personal discipline and personal responsibility are the cornerstones to establishing moderation and balance. To live a restrictive life only dampens the spirit while too free a life overpowers and harms the body. Far better to get the two in alignment with what is right, giving and containing in moderation, so that both spirit and body live a fulfilling and happy life. In so doing, a certain awareness will prevail, that this is what it means to be at peace within the self. And surely once that is attained, peace will find its way out into the world as well, for as within so without!
Life teaches. Life itself shows me the lessons I must learn each day. Can I allow life to have so much power? Can I acquiesce to that truth, that I don’t really control anything, but that life itself in its everyday flow brings me everything I need?
The world outside of me, my inner world, my dreams, relationships, challenges, choices, and actions are all part of nature’s flow. Yet I must struggle with wants, needs, and desires. I must struggle with feelings and emotions. I must struggle with what others ask of me and what I ask of myself. I must struggle with staying in balance, connected to my inner truth, yet kind, respectful, and considerate of others. At all times, I must grapple with what life presents me with while staying on my path, spiritual and otherwise. I must join the flow of life in taking me where it will, yet at the same time I am responsible for making decisions, not simply acquiescing, but doing what is right.
Ever since our return from our island retreat, which I wrote about in last week’s blog, I have dreamt of islands. Every night I confront an island situation and every morning I wake up knowing that my island dreams are asking me to flow with the life I am in, to seek balance in all my experiences. Islands offer constraint, limitation, boundaries, and confrontation with constraint, limitation, and boundaries as well.
Last night I dreamed again of being on an island, trekking a long road to get to a cabin on the tip of a sandy island. Upon entering the cabin, Chuck and I find the windows locked shut, the window sills covered with Catholic statuary of Jesus and Mary, in single and group settings with lambs and children. Too hot and stuffy, our immediate reaction is that the windows must be opened to let the wind blow through. Chuck immediately opens a window, knocking a statue to the floor, breaking it. The couple whom we are renting the cabin from stand nearby, the woman on the outside of the windows, the man inside the cabin. I see the woman’s face fall into sadness as the statue breaks. I hear the man, standing behind me, gasp. I sense that they must let the statues go, that they can no longer control what gets in or goes out. Chuck opens another window and another, each time knocking the statues to the floor where they smash into pieces. I sense fear from the couple, but Chuck and I feel much better.
I look at the dream symbolism: island equals limitation that is further constrained by dogma—imposed by others—creating barriers to the flow of life’s energy. Rigidity does not allow for the free flow of energy or life. It creates a false sense of security, a false sense of protection. What is there to be afraid of? Everything that the couple fears appears in the guise of Chuck and Jan, who ask that nothing be in the way of the flow of energy. Let it in, let things go that are no longer helpful or necessary, and be open to what comes as a result. These are the things that we must contend with in everyday life.
My dream is all about gaining and maintaining balance in the direct flow of everyday life, life unleashed, uncontrolled, unrestrained. Too much of anything is dangerous, yet often we must accept excess in order to discover things about ourselves, but we must also learn how to live surrounded by excess and remain in balance.
Returning from our island retreat presented us with returning to the excess that normal life constantly barrages us with; too much of everything is available to us at all times in our modern era. Our island retreat was thoughtfully planned for, just enough food, the essential necessities taken care of, but our human selves would have to remain aware that there were limitations. That part of life was easy on the island, restriction accepted, moderation became the norm. Nature however, still existed on the island, nature flowing freely. That too had to be accepted and restricted, granted moderation. Too much sun leads to sunburn. Wind, rain, fog, seagulls, icy ocean waters, and the darkness of night had to be accepted too. Moderation flowed nicely into our island days. Things were clear.
Moderation continues to be important, most necessary as the excesses of life surround us, seeking to sweep us off our feet. The man and woman in my dream, representing other aspects of the self, showed me the side of the self that is fearful of not being able to handle the intensity of life’s energy. Yet Chuck and I, representing the flowing spirit selves in the dream, are more open to it, for we know that we must let it in or we will suffocate. At the same time that these selves do present a kind of balance, that balance is restricted by the extremes of fear and excess. They must come together in a new balance that takes into consideration their separate realities, limited only by what is right.
Our spirits require unrestricted access to the energy of all life. Yet in opening the windows to the flow of life we must also be prepared to accept what comes. We must prepare ourselves to be modest, considerate of what we can handle and what we must hold off on until we are ready. We must challenge ourselves to stay connected to our inner truths and the paths we are on, to take our journeys without limitation, yet always with thoughtfulness and constant monitoring: Am I being moderate? Am I being excessive? Am I being restrictive or limiting of my experiences? Am I in balance?
When I am challenged with something, I ask myself to study the meaning of what life is presenting me with. Even though I may have an instantaneous reaction, I know it may not be right or true, though sometimes it is indeed. However, I must turn inward and ask myself to feel through to what is the right thing to do or feel about a certain situation before responding. Then I must decide what action to take so that I may remain true to myself and the path I am on. I will not deviate from my path and so I know I must always connect to my deepest inner truth, and yet I must be honest, thoughtful, respectful, and deeply sensitive of others as well. Though life may blow me off my path for a moment or two, I must step right back on it and reassert my intent to grow, for that is the intent of my spirit, of all of our spirits.
I must train myself to stand in the full force of life’s energy and, in modesty and moderation, be who I truly am. I must allow the statuary, the icons I put up to ward off life, to be broken so that I may face what life has in store for me. I must let things go that are not serving me in my quest. In my dream, though I felt sorry for the woman and man when their statues broke, I simultaneously knew that it was time to let them go. I must face what I have in myself that I am still holding onto and no longer need.
Upon awakening, I accept that though I am no longer on an island in reality, I have the island inside me at all times. I return to my island retreat, pulling inside to study the lessons that islands offer, as I seek moderation in the fullness of life.