Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Middle Path Reflections

Kashmir Birk

"Give me a man that is not passion's slave and
I will wear him in my heart's core"
Shakespeare Hamlet, Act III: Scene 2

The "middle path" is a Buddhist construct. But middle in the Buddhist context does not mean compromise, concession, conflict-avoidance, or tolerating being average. Middle in the Buddhist tradition means to sit in the core of a problem or situation and to realize it fully, without being affected or infected by it.

The middle path is the ability to walk through the battlefield surrounded by noise, confusion, and destruction confronting our reality by remaining emotionally still and intellectually neutral. Being still does not mean to do nothing, and neutral is not the same as being neutered, only to remove attachment to self, the obstruction of needing to justify oneself or seek approval from ourselves or anyone else for that matter.

Taking the middle path means sitting with our current reality in the here and now. Not to be caught in a past we can never fully know or a future that is yet to be. The middle path is clear when we free ourselves of attachment and still see ourselves in our own drama.

Japanese rock gardening: simplicity and emptiness and time for reflection

The middle path is our "true north." The truth emerges out of our own mind and body, because there is a practical wisdom that sits quietly underneath our chattering mind, bound by the chain of memory and cursed by the habit of neediness.

The measure of a leader, it is said, is his or her ability to act freely and do what should be done even if people expect it, the more if they do not. They act without being consumed by what others think is right or wrong, without having to prove to themselves or others that they were right.

Taking the middle path means sitting with the current reality, exploring a situation, seeing an opportunity/problem from multiple, even conflicting, perspectives without angst. It requires us to see multiple points of view without being emotionally, physically, intellectually embroiled in what is seen.

The painter who paints with effortless strokes, the musician who plucks a sonorous note or harmony out of the air, the friend who says only what needs to be said, the lover's glance that says it all, the engineer who sees the simplest path in a mass of complexity, the cricketer who hits the ball in the sweet spot of the bat and snaps it into the perfect corner of the circle -- that is the middle path. It is emergent, it is uncontrolled, it is the sum of all our practice, all our learning, all our non-yearning.

The middle path is simple but it far from easy. The middle path is our inner voice. The middle path is the sacred space where we breathe our breath and where the earth breathes in harmony with us.

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