Gautama Buddha left his life at the palace to seek spiritual enlightenment. Along his journey he worked with several groups of ascetics. Taking a vow of poverty, begging, and denying himself of worldly pleasures still did not take him to the place he sought. When he finally attained enlightenment, he declared that the path was via The Middle Way.
In today’s language, we call that living in moderation. It’s so easy to live at an extreme. To overindulge, to be gluttonous, to go too far. Here are some real modern examples of how I’ve used the Buddha’s Middle Way to help my clients.
Molly knows that working out helps her keep her anxiety at a manageable level. So she thought, if exercise helps, then more exercise will help more. She ended up doing cardio exercises for 3 hours at a time. There is a limit to how much exercise benefits your body. The rest was either wasted effort or doing damage to her body instead. She is finding The Middle Way and defining the amount of exercise that gives her only benefits.
Anna uses food to numb her feelings. The more food she ate, the more she numbed out. But now she is gaining weight and in an unhealthy zone. We’re working on finding a moderate amount of food to bring her comfort while she explores other sources of comfort too.
Carly likes to keep the peace, to the point that she lets others take advantage of her. She ends up feeling resentful and doesn’t get to do what she wants. In contrast to Karen, who often disagrees with her boyfriend with fighting. He raises his voice, so she raises her hers. The shouting gets them no where and is doing damage to their relationship. Neither extreme works. The Middle Way is the solution for both of them, to discuss it and resolve it calmly and kindly.
Often, in an attempt to not do one extreme, you can swing too far in the other direction, at the opposite extreme. The extremes are never healthy or balanced. If some is good, more is not necessarily better. If this extreme is not good, the opposite extreme is also not good. The answer is always in the middle. Challenge yourself to find The Middle Way for yourself in the areas that you struggle with extremes.