I am delighted to share this story from a very special mindfulness teacher, Jonathan Foust. His website has many resources and free podcasts and audio meditations. This story shows us what the Middle Way is.
I love his practical approach and the two questions for self inquiry in our practice of mindfulness.
“I quit,” a young man announces to his meditation teacher.
“You’re nothing but contradictions,” he continues. “You tell one person to work harder, sit up straighter and sit longer. Then the next person you encourage to sit in the sun and drink tea. What the heck are you teaching?”
The teacher smiles and responds:
“I teach ‘the middle way’ — cultivating that place that is not too tight and not too loose.
If someone is unfocused and scattered, paying close attention to the here and now brings them back into balance. If someone is too clenched and dour, they may benefit from relaxing and letting go.”
A big element of mindfulness practice is a form of self-diagnosis. You can ask variations of these two questions:
- What is happening right now?
- How does this moment want me to be with it right now?
Are you experiencing the profound dissatisfaction of feeling scattered or over-emotional or you have lots of ideas but can’t get started on any one of them? Concentration practices may help you gather your attention and bring about a sense of calm and centeredness.
Too wound up? Feeling grim, tight or judgmental? You may find investigating relaxation practices and meditations that cultivate spacious and compassionate awareness help reset your system.
The more you practice and study the more you become, as my friend Pat Coffey says, a “contemplative artist.”
In any moment you can self-diagnose and respond to the moment with greater wisdom and compassion.
I wish you well into the new season.
May you have a not too tight, and not too loose day.