Lots of people translate the middle way as judging what the best thing to do is in a situation, but this judging comes from the mind.
The middle way, in my experience, is choosing to show up with our hearts. It is the middle as in the centre and our hearts are our centres, physically and metaphorically.
If you pay careful attention to experience, the idea of the middle way being choosing some kind of compromise doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense for it to be choosing the central point between two poles because that kind of compromise comes from the judgements we create with our mind. This understanding of the middle way is actually really damaging because our idea of what a compromise is is so heavily influenced by our conditioning: the information that we are willing to see, what we perceive as right and wrong and what we have normalised.
People believe that they can have a rational viewpoint of things, but actually they are just rationalising their own personal experiences and dictating this on to other people. Inevitably, it is the people with the power who get to dictate to the people who don’t have the power what the truth and/or a compromise means.
The mind relies on good and bad, right and wrong to build its perceptions of the world. But all of this is just created by fear. If you eliminate the fear by meditating enough, you see that this picture that the mind creates of the world does not actually have any truth or fixed meaning to it. It is just that – a picture drawn by a computer.
There is no rational reason why anything is better than anything else – you can argue a point about anything. To get to any conclusion about why anything is better than anything else it always involves the emotional impact that that thing will have. When you get right down to the truth, how something will make people feel is the only reason why anything is ‘better’ or ‘worse’.
Using meditation to liberate yourself from holding fixed perceptions of the world, doesn’t help us see the truth. It helps us see that the mind can’t hold any truth.
Moving From The Heart
If keeping the peace was all that life is about then we wouldn’t have developed preferences in the first place. We are here to show up and give a fuck.
If you pay careful attention to your experience you will discover that the middle way is about choosing the heart. Staying centred and moving from this place within ourselves.
If you meet the world with an open heart it will tell you what the most important thing is – the things that matter and are worth standing up for.
If we open to the world with the heart’s natural states of friendliness, compassion, joy and inclusion we will automatically be able to:
- Welcome all the information – Friendliness
- Notice what we care about and how that makes us feel – Joy
- Embrace where we are on the journey – Inclusion
- Given all this, allow our heart’s natural response to arise – Compassion
It sounds so calm and peaceful, but the ‘middle way’ actually takes us down some of the most extreme paths. We aren’t turning away from challenging situations or information, we are welcoming them and deciding how to meet them.
To show up in this way, and go through these steps with an open heart, we need courage. The word courage comes from the French ‘couer’, which means heart and one of the definitions of courage is strength in the face of pain or grief.
When we are aligned with life, our heart’s natural response flows out of us, we don’t need to think about it. It is when there is difficulty that we will resist choosing the middle way, or the heart’s path. This is when courage is demanded of us. This is why we practice.
Our hearts compel us to stand up for things that matter, to do the things that our mind is afraid of or thinks are ‘bad’ or that require some level of risk.
When we can’t move from the heart we typically fall into one of these:
- We run away from the situation and hide behind judgements – aversion
- We look for something to escape to and make excuses – craving
- We feel overwhelmed by the situation and collapse into a useless heap – overwhelm
- We take too much responsibility for the situation and try to fix it all – over-reaching
If we can find the space to connect with our hearts, it gives us an opportunity to respond in a different way.
In summary, the heart tells us what is important, what we really give a shit about. It tells us what is worth standing up for in life. This is the path we want to walk, it is the path that is most rewarding for ourselves and helpful to others.
It’s about having the courage to show up, be honest about how you really feel about a situation and respond in the way that feels most true to your heart.