Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Finding Your Comfortable 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 or contact with a 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 an easy 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.

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 grounding center available can free us from those stressful conditions of judgement, comparison, and pressure that make us feel trapped sometimes. That discomfort can get us stuck in ourselves, 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 inbetween 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're self-centeredly "always right," know more than the other guy, and deserve better. Both ends of that scale: "I never get it right" and "I'm the only one who got it right," are outposts of the Ego, and each home to their own kinds of self-centeredness. 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 central 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, there's 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 practice restraint, and find your center ground. You have a choice right at that moment to "act out" or not – but don't do it. Instead, do the old "count to three," and say: Thanks very much, I'm not going there right now. 
 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 just 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 focused 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 – you 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 you can find an easy grounded center that you can make your new default.

Good Karma isn't the result of a single moment, it's the accumulation of a lot of balanced, easy moments, like you get each time you default yourself to restraint and Compassion. Just like that, you'll see that "ideal place" is found gracefully and gratefully right in the middle of your self – right around the area of your heart. 
 You may never have thought that Good Karma was really a centering 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

Read about this and much more in: How to Get to Heaven (Without Really Dying), Wisdom From a Near-Death Survivor  from Llewellyn Worldwide available direct on this page, or online. The first book: How to Survive Life (and Death), A Guide To Happiness In This World and Beyond is available the same ways – but ask for it it at your local bookstore!

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