What do they (whoever they are) mean when they say to find “The Middle Path”?
Do they mean to find the exact point of center and never waiver from it? To be sure that you don’t upset anyone, and that you always play it safe?
Or do they mean that you get to know your edges? Do they mean that you know and submit to full-fledged exhaustion and that you know what it is like to go huge and crash and burn?
I just returned from a thought provoking and soul stoking day with one of my favorite yoga teachers in the world, Jason Crandell. While he did not ask this question directly, he provided an opportunity to a room full of yoga teachers to consider their own yoga practice. He asked us if we found that we were easily able to give ourselves rest when we needed it. He also asked if we willingly took our practice past points we would share in a public class. He wondered if we allowed ourselves to do poses we “suck” at and will likely fall out of. For many in the room, including myself, the answer was no. We hugged very tight to the middle.
I have found in years of teaching, just hit the landmark of a decade, that what is true for me on the mat may also be true for me in life. I often talk in yoga classes about playing small, but I wonder if we all play the middle. Do we all play it safe? Do we miss the opportunity to go big out of fear of messing up or outshining someone? Hell yes, is my answer to this question. But then don’t we also avoid looking in need of support because we are afraid that it means we are weak or needy and we are worried about how others will see us.
If we think about our political system (like we think about our digestive system- don’t get too political here, please), whoever is running is trying to be as appealing to the masses as possible. They are trying to do and say all the things that will get them the most votes and likes and cause the least amount of waves. How dishonest and boring! If we want significant change we will have to challenge the status quo. We all get to know our center by being unafraid of the edges. In any system that works a handstand, we must learn the lessons of kicking too little and kicking too big if we ever plan to pause totally balanced for even a second. Perhaps our lives could look a bit more like the handstand process than the political one.
For the next week, perhaps for the rest of my life, I am going to take on the yoga practice challenge of practicing softer and harder. I promise to take more modifications and breaks in public classes and add an even softer flare to my home practice. In addition to that, I commit to playing my own edge, risking falling/failing, and trying on something new each time I visit my mat.
Beyond this commitment, though, I am going to also take this pattern into my life. I am going to go bigger and bolder than before, but also ask for help where and when I need it. I am going to work on my receptivity and my generosity. I do think the Middle Path is worth looking for, much like balance in tree pose or handstand are worthy pursuits. But if that is the truth, then I will get there by understanding my edges, not just my perceived ones. What if my perceived edge was too small and I have been missing the opportunity to shine bright and create significant change? Or what if my perceived edge was literally running me ragged and I could be more present and sustainable for my most treasured relationships by taking more rest and receiving more support?
I will find the Middle Path. I will pursue balance, but not through being sure everyone likes me or by always doing what it most widely accepted/expected, but by knowing my own edges and boundary. Are you in? If so, where will you begin?