The Middle Way: The Buddhist Approach to a Balanced Life

“If we seek happiness purely through indulgence, we are not free. And if we fight against ourselves and the world we are not free.  It is the middle path that brings freedom”. Jack Kornfield



Everything changes. All causes have effects and all effects have causes. Nothing remains permanent. In uncertain times wherein chaos reigns and instability arises, the only way forward is through. The only way through is to keep out of the extremes and walk the Middle Path.

The Middle Way is a term used in Buddhism to mean to lead a balanced life. This is an internal dynamic of continual effort.

The Middle Way is the correct view of life as taught by the Buddha. It refers to the thoughts and deeds that are most likely to create happiness. The philosophy of Buddhism itself is sometimes called “the Middle Way,” as it seeks always to reconcile opposing viewpoints and maintain balance.

The Buddha taught this concept as the eightfold path, which consists of eight guiding principles that his followers used to control their behavior and come to self-understanding. The Eight Fold Path is as follows:

    • The Right View
    • The Right Intention
    • The Right Speech
    • The Right Action
    • The Right Work
    • The Right Effort
    • The Right Mindfulness
    • The Right Concentration

There are Five faculties that are essential to traversing the path: confidence, mindfulness, effort, concentration, and wisdom. Each of these must be kept in balance with all the others in order to maintain the path.

The relationship between the material and the spiritual is an important part of the balance that creates the Middle Way. Materialism creates negative effects in the modern world, including environmental damage and spiritual barrenness. On the other hand, rejecting materialism entirely is unrealistic and leads people to be overly idealistic and unable to deal with the challenges of daily living. According to Buddhism, the right way is somewhere in between. Or, as we say today, “Everything in moderation.”

One can see how extremism is affecting everybody and everything which will eventually lead to confrontation and embattlement. This is ultimately the war of egos. The solution is to accept that things are changing, accept that we probably won’t like it, accept that each person is coming from a point of view based on their experience, and accept that they are making an effort, however awkward, unrealistic, or annoying it may seem, to make things better.

Then, let go of the outcome. Let go of any attachments to any ideology or point of view. Let go of the situations you can’t control.

I know it feels like the whole world is in some weird Vita Mix. Everyone around us is angry and scared. Disinformation, censorship, and hypocrisy abound.  All the thrashing about, hand-wringing, and pearl-clutching isn’t going to solve anything. Being angry all the time, name-calling, and finger-pointing isn’t going to bring any solutions, either. If your mind is on fire, the only person burning is you.

It is what it is, but you don’t need to participate in any of it.

This doesn’t mean giving up or giving in to senselessness, recklessness, or carelessness. It means to approach everything with discernment, consciousness, and mindfulness.

By accepting what is and letting go of our attachment to a particular outcome, we transform our minds from fear and worry to inner peace and tranquility. From inner calm arises wisdom, compassion, and best of all, clarity.

To remain calm while everyone else is losing their minds, to be clear when confusion reigns, to possess wisdom when everyone else is practicing their particular brand of stupid, is true power. That power comes from the Dharma and the Dharma never changes.

To learn more about the fundamentals of Buddhist teachings, I suggest the book, “Awaken the Buddha Within” by Lama Surya Das. I have read many of his books and he is a wise teacher. You can also find him on YouTube.

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