Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding the Middle, and Not Losing It

Doing a lot of juggling?...........................................................................

In just about every spiritual practice ever known, there comes a time when one needs to develop a kind of ideal focus – a contact with our guiding higher power, whether it's Love, or Nature, The Universe, or The Divine Feminine – our personal understanding of God, simply put. It's generally a quiet time, a meditative time, but wouldn't it be nice if it were available to us anytime, as a tool for day-to-day life on-the-go? Here are some ways we might make it work without any sage-burning, "spiritual" hub-bub. Not that there's anything wrong with that, just that there isn't always the time, or the sage.

Of course, focus implies a center, a place of concentration right in the middle of our daily agitations, a safe place for our thoughts to return to in those moments of temporary turmoil, especially when life is messing with our sense of well-being. Having that place, that centering default handy can pop us out of the stressful conditions of judgement, comparison, and pressure that make us feel trapped sometimes. Discomfort can really be a selfish motivation when you think of it in that light. Having a device that easily centers us in our higher self can instantly free us up.

In Buddhism, it's called "The Middle Path," and re-tooled for the demands of our culture it's an approach to life that lives in between a self-judgmental path to "perfection"– whose harshness makes real humility impossible, and an over-justified "self-worship" of sorts – whose entitled materialism is too elevated for our own good. In other words, either we are too hard on ourselves and everyone else; or we've always self-centeredly "got it right," know a little more than the other guy, and so deserve better (and then are hard on everyone else). Both ends of that scale, "I never get it right," and "I'm the only one who's got it right," are outposts of the Ego, and home to their own kinds of selfishness. Neither are actually where most of us live, most of the time.

There's a good way to play those ends against each other, and find a livable center to focus on where we're not constantly seeking redemption, or searching for some unobtainable ideal. A focus that's in a more comfortable, convenient location for most of us because it just requires us to look at one of our favorite topics, ourselves.
We've all got our flaws, our little defects, and as we move along through life, like it or not, they become more and more obvious. They're not all that harmful, unless they harm others, or prevent us from being all that we can really be. I can be stingy. I like to be right all the time. Those are a couple of mine, I'm afraid, but at least I'm aware of them, and that's where this trick has to start, the point where you can pick up this handy "centering tool."
When we find ourselves in a situation where we want to react, which means we're likely to act out on one of our personality flaws, like "I'm not going to pay that much," or "This guy doesn't know what he's talking about," listen to the bell ring! See the red flag! Here's your chance to find your center of focus. You have a choice right at that moment to "act out." Don't do it. It's the old "count to three," and say: Thanks very much, I'm not going there today. That takes care of the low end, now for the high side - create an ideal goal, like, what would the ideal Dad do right now? Or, how would Mahatma Gandhi treat this guy? Set the bar high enough so that reaching for it will pull you out of your funky tendencies (The Funky Tendencies - I loved their first album).
If you're anything like me, you'll find yourself in the moment, where you inevitably have a chance to stumble across a little Compassion, and bingo! - there's your center. Then if you set your goal high up around unconditional Love, forgiveness, and service to others, y'know really high, then even when you don't quite reach it, you, and everyone around you, will be much better off anyways. Right in there, there's an easy default.
Good Karma isn't the result of a single moment, it's the accumulation of a lot of 'em, like you get each time you reset yourself to Compassion. Just like that, you'll see that "ideal place" is found easily and gracefully right in the middle of your self, right around the area of your heart. You wouldn't think Good Karma was a song by The Funky Tendencies...

"As long as I am this or that, or have this or that, I am not all things and I have not all things...[when you] neither are nor have either this or that; then you are omnipresent and, being neither this nor that, are all things."
Meister Eckhart

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