One of the stories of the Buddha that I love is how he came to teach the middle way. He had left his life of pleasures as prince Siddharta, and he had tried many ascetic practices in seeking enlightenment – only to find his body weak and starved of nourishment. He had come to recognize that neither of them worked. And one key moment in this story is when a kind woman Sujatha passing by saw him in his weak state and offered him kheer: rice pudding. This spontaneous gesture of kindness led the way to the Buddha feeling nourished and sitting under the Bodhi tree vowing not to get up until he was enlightened. And enlightened, he did become – and taught for forty some years of this middle path to freedom and peace.
The middle way of tending to our bodies and our minds and turning to our inner wisdom, discernment and compassion to lead the way forward is something that has always inspired me. Balance is the word that comes to my mind. Finding balance requires attention. It requires mindfulness to know when I am leaning too much this way or that. To know when I am stagnating or rushing ahead. This quest for balance has influenced many of my life decisions, and continually informs what I say Yes to, and what I say No to. Living a life that has balance requires intention and time to slow down. It requires turning to the stillness to guide me and it asks for a commitment to live in harmony with this world.
Peace in the world starts with peace in oneself. If everyone lives mindfully, everyone will be more healthy, feel more fulfilled in their daily lives and there will be more peace…Thich Nhat Hanh
Too often, I am distracted, reactive and judging. And when I notice this, I can pause and remember. In Buddhism, the word mindfulness is a loose translation for the pali word sati and many dharma teachers point towards the word remember as a better translation for sati. So the practice is to pause and remember my deepest aspiration. And of course when we notice and get familiar with what out of balance feels like, it becomes easier to recognize the sensations and feelings associated with it, and easier to return to sati more easily! And the most wonderful part of this is our neuroplasticity – it becomes that much easier to return again!
I leave you today with a practice and a course offering. This practice I learned recently from Yoga with Adrienne – my favorite yoga teacher! Her new series Center is amazing, and is helping me be diligent with my practice in this new year. In the episode day 19 (Play), Adrienne demonstrates this short exercise of walking led by your center. It felt pretty amazing and somehow the next day, walking up the stairs to my classroom, I remembered her instruction and practiced walking led by my center. It felt incredible – grounding and centering!
And I want to leave you also with the announcement of my next offering – in the theme of continuing to walk the middle way – of Life as practice series. You can find it in my course offerings page. Be well, take care, and may your life unfold in many beautiful ways!