Taking the middle way is not about removing ourselves from the World nor to get lost in it – it is about gaining a new perspective. The middle way is the path to finding balance.
You can be with all your experience in its complexity, with your own exact thoughts and feelings and drama as it is. You learn to embrace tension, paradox, change.
Instead of seeking resolution, waiting for the chord at the end of a song, you let yourself open and relax in the middle. In the middle you discover that the World is workable.
Two extremes are prevalent in your present World. You advocate the material way of life, thinking that through material support all happiness must come – but it is not so.
You get more and more comfort and pleasure, but you are still not happy because you are not free. Your problems increase, because when sense desires are continually gratified and the body is fed, the mind becomes poorer and more disturbed – it has more thirst, more craving and clinging.
With an unstable mind, you go to extremes. When there is no balance in the mind, then there is no balance in life, and this you can see clearly.
The other extreme concerns a spiritual life, in which you drop away from the material World, refusing to face what is arising in your life. You may give up your work and responsibilities, renouncing the world without insight into what it is that really needs to be renounced.
The World can not be renounced, because the World means Human relationships and life situations which reappear in different forms. If you turn your face away from these, it is your Ego rejecting the natural path provided.
Even those who go into the forest or become sannyasis need to accept material things to support their life, and monks living in a monastery exist within a community.
Those who insist on rarefied conditions and resist what is being given to them by life are usually being driven by spiritual ambition. They may become famous teachers, but will still be bound by their own self-importance and desire for power.
Their work may appear more profound and valuable than the materialist, but in fact they are developing an equally superficial side of life, limited by what might be called spiritual materialism.
The middle path is the way of balance, neither to the left nor the right, neither to the wrong nor the correct, but we shall not have this balance through trying to grasp it. It will come when the extremes are properly looked at and dissolved.
The mind is always wanting to grasp something in order to stay with it and not let it go, but in doing that it is not open, and for the middle path it needs to be open. As soon as you are closed to any event, any situation, you fall asleep psychologically.
In sleep you feel comfortable and secure, but there is no freedom. You might say that of course there is freedom, because you can do what you think is right, but that is like the freedom of prisoners to decorate their prisons – they are still living in prison.
It is essential to look at the mind and how it creates things to reassure itself.
The middle way is not just the path between two poles, but is beyond them. In the ultimate sense the middle path of life has no concept of what is right or what is wrong, what is good or what is bad.
To find balance, you first need to have attentional balance – to calm and focus your mind. You learn to witness your thoughts with clarity. Cognitive balance is achieved when your mind is neither restless nor busy, instead simultaneously relaxed and alert.
Affective balance is the capacity to recognize and regulate emotions. Finally, cognative balance requires embracing wisdom, compassion, and ethical conduct. Balancing these four elements lead to human prosperity. You are happy with yourself, regardless if things go up or down.
The middle way is not an average of two concepts, but to stop seeing things as opposites. You shift from duality to integration. Rather than thinking of materialism and spiritualism as exclusive things, you embrace both – you realize they are two sides of the same coin.
The middle way describes the middle ground between attachment and aversion, between being and non-being, between form and emptiness, between free will and determinism. The more you delve into the middle way the more you come to rest between the play of opposites.