When I took my first Buddhism course, the concept of The Middle Way didn’t quite make sense to me. I remember my professor explaining The Middle Way as not being attached to the highest highs and the lowest lows, it is about being at equilibrium despite those. Initially, to me, this was off-putting because it felt like he meant that you shouldn’t feel really happy or sad. To me, feeling the highs were worth the lows, that was my interpretation of being alive and a demonstration of my attachment to my emotions.
…Six years later, I think I am just now beginning to understand what he said. Over the years of practicing yoga and meditation, I am beginning to understand more what he meant. He did not mean I should not feel the highs nor the lows, but rather I should not be them. This means that I can still notice and feel happy and sad, but I am not attached to it because I know that I am not my thoughts. How I feel does not define who I am. Allowing myself to be attached to my thoughts or emotions is only going to bring suffering. My current interpretation of The Middle Way is not that you do not experience and feel all things, you do. You feel it all and you experience it all. But you remain in the middle and at balance by not attaching yourself to those things.
Today, I felt really sad. My grandparents are both in the hospital, I am worried about my parents, and I feel sick and worn down myself. I felt the sadness. But I caught myself starting to define myself in it and getting wrapped up in it. So I made the choice to take a step back. I remembered that I am not my thoughts nor my emotions. And that some things in life are simply out of my control. I feel sad, but I know that I am not sad. I am me. And I can carry that, my true self and a sense of contentment and peace through all thoughts, emotions, and situations.
Some days you just have to remember that you are not your thoughts. Inevitably, some moments in life are going to be harder than others. Some situations will be more challenging. Some emotions will be stronger. You won’t always be in control (well, you never really are). But no matter what is going on around you, it is important to remember that you are not those things. No matter your thoughts, no matter your emotions, these “things” do not define you.
That does not mean that you ignore reality or push your emotions away. It means that you notice, you feel, but you do not get attached. You do not allow yourself to be defined by your thoughts or emotions because you know the truth that lies within you. You cannot control the chaos that surrounds you. But through all things, you can carry peace within you.
So, keep breathing, keep going. I encourage you to take some time to meditate, practice and tune into what makes you, you. That way, when life tries to throw you off balance, you have a way to remember that you are not your thoughts. You are not this stuff.
Find you, your equilibrium, and allow it to carry you through. Meditation helps.