The Middle Way
From as far back as I can remember; I was an all or nothing kind of person, everything was black or white, wrong or right, in or out. Friend or foe.
It truly surprised me to realise that not everyone viewed the world that way.
I remember a beautiful, colorful French flatmate and friend of mine saying to me once 'One bite of chocolate is the same as having the whole bar'.. At the time I looked at her wide eyed, nodded and thought "Damn. She's poorer than me, as she must be rationing that chocolate bar."
Clearly I didn't get it.
Having been baptised twice; once in the Roman Catholic tradition as well as Coptic Orthodox tradition; my early childhood was cursed by two mysteries that are still unclear; The original sin and a life of abstinence which both had some funky fuzzy relationship to suffering; which apparently earned us points with God and made for a better afterlife. Meanwhile in this life, myself and my brother's lives had been plagued with early heartache and grievances that should have got us on the express que straight to heaven, though of course it didn’t because there is no heaven.
So we rebelled often and as frequently as possible, starting with church, where myself and my brother would get dropped off in the morning by our 'Guardian' and get picked up in the early evening, like good little Christian kids. Though from the age of 14, we started skiving and headed straight down to the river where we'd hang out the whole day, have fun, reminisce about our childhoods or some silly situations with one of the kids from the block. Looking back it was true bonding time between us; our own mini act of rebellion and freedom.
We were still dragged to church on Sundays and Saturday schools to socialise with a bunch of hypocrites, plus attended stuffy Catholic schools Monday-Friday.
By the time 18 came around, we were well and truly stifled and OD'ing on God-liness. I know firsthand from the strict, repressive rules and regulations of the church that I would see and feel in myself and others that it was like this huge energetic pull, like we were giant elastic bands; the more we were pulled away from something we wanted - abstain, abstain, abstain- the further we would ultimately fly our way head first into it; blindly, fearlessly and often with disastrous repercussions. Armed with no knowledge or education about what we desired we'd fuck up on epic scales and proportions.
This yo-yo cycle through life experiences and sin redemption lasted my whole youth and into early 20's, even though I was totally free physically, the chains of abstinence and guilt from the church were still heavy on me mentally.
I now know that with my freedom that I can have a bite of the apple, put it down, pick it back up again later or perhaps discard it, pick up a new apple or even a pear.
These days Buddhism is the only philosophy that really works with me, as its not shrouded in dogma, ruled by the patriarchy and makes complete sense right down to my bones. The key aspect I love and adhere to is the middle path, which essentially talks about the virtues of not leaning too hard into either camp; both pleasure and pain can hurt you if you go too far into either one. Best to move away from non-duality and stay centered. Observe how both can and do exist simultaneously; not giving favour to any particular side. This, I must admit on most days is a challenge, as we have all been taught from a very early age whats right and what's wrong, whats' good and what's bad..
Middle Path of Moderation makes crystal clear sense. Can further be explained with another Buddhist principle of Detachment; which means to experience the experience as it is , without the need to label it. Therefore because you've experienced it fully, you've gone through it, you have no need to hold onto it, so you can easily detach and let it go.
Westerners often confuse this principle by thinking the contrary; Detachment doesn't mean you don't let the experience penetrate you. On the contrary, you allow the experience to penetrate you wholly and fully. Then that's how you are able to leave it, as it's done.
Detachment truly means you dive deep; its a full immersion in whatever emotion or experience you wish to experience, not abstaining or holding back the love, the fear, the tears. Full immersion is what detachment is, then in future you're able to recognize that state, you know it and you can choose to not go through it again.
This is in direct opposition to what most major religions teach; which often leaves one in deficit; repressing human emotions and conditions until they burst out into weird yo-yo cyclical explosions that are neither natural, healthy or sustainable. I’d much rather dwell, flow, fall and live in and through the rainbow world of possibilities and balance, rather than the black and white pain and misery of absolutes..
Middle Path is the only way.