This is a Guest Post By Ad Hustler Contributor: Kim Ann Curtin, Life Coach
The Middle Way
“He who finds the path in the middle learns to eliminate the blind spots and illusions, and to apply common sense to all areas of life.” ~JJ Dewey
I’ve a confession to make; I’ve lived most of my life as a sort of extremist, and still do on occasion. This clarity comes to me after a few weeks of being in the midst of a major personal transition. Things were going very smoothly with it, a couple of weeks ago, when I started to worry about some imagined possible negative outcomes. A friend then said, “It’s as though you don’t know how to be happy and relaxed, I think you have a habit of being anxious.” Then the other day I was given an introduction to someone who might be a great connection for some very big plans I have. I was ecstatic about it and started to describe the great possible imagined outcomes. This same friend responded; “Yes and you have to wait and see what may or may not come of it.” When she saw my expression she asked had I wished she had shown more excitement. Yes, I responded, but I could see her pragmatic approach was really more appropriate.
Being raised in a home with a mother who had Borderline Personality Disorder I experienced a world of extremes. Black and white. Good or bad. All or nothing. Borderlines don’t live in a world of gray or moderation. They usually swing between extremes of idealization and devaluation of others and circumstances. Situations or people are either hopelessly awful or perfectly sublime. Growing up in that environment taught me to respond from one of these two extremes regardless of the concern or joy.
Add to this mix the culture and religion we live with and how they all endorse extremes. From Madison Avenue to Washington DC many of our politicians, celebrities and religious leaders live in and from extremism. And we respond in kind. We idolize them until their humanity shows up and then we crucify them. Think Tiger Woods pre car crash and post. Even our view of beauty today is extreme. Have you seen the magazine New Beauty? It describes itself as “a must-have for anyone interested in improving their appearance.” What does it feature? Plastic surgery and aesthetic injectables.
One of Merriam Webster definitions of the word Extreme is “Situated at the farthest possible point from a center.” So how does one keep oneself in the center?
- Be mindful of your responses to situations. Do you get overly sad or happy when the outcome is different than expected? Are you able to be with those who have opposing views? Notice if you are coming from an all or nothing stand point on issues or with your beliefs. Noticing and being aware of this reaction is your first step.
- Be the authority of your life. Allow yourself to be the final word on what matters to you. Check in with those you respect and want to emulate, but allow your choice to come from you and your heart. Live your life from the place of what you want and not in response to what you don’t want.
- Surround yourself with those that are hopeful and practical. I’m fortunate to have friends that embody both of these qualities. Both are extremely important. If those closest to you don’t have these qualities then widen your circle and fast. Remember that we tend to mirror those we spend our time with.
- Have a practice of stillness. Be it mediation, prayer or just sitting still, we all need a place to escape the loudness around us and within us. Having a steady practice of being-ness allows us to more often than not bring our pendulum back to the middle.
- Step out of your comfort zone. Expose yourself to different views, cultures and people. I spent 6 hours in a tattoo parlor to support my friend, who finally decided to get the tattoo he always wanted. I sat spellbound in a deep conversation with the enlightened Dave Shoemaker a very gifted tattoo artist. Being in new environments and meeting new people opens you up in ways you would never expect.
We have used the label “extremist” to describe those that are blinded by their beliefs so much that they refuse to consider other viewpoints. Seeing things from multiple perspectives opens your mind to a larger more generous world view.
Gautama discovered what Buddhists now call the Middle Way; a path of moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. Anglicanism was created to be the Via Media “the Middle Way” between Catholicism and Protestantism. In Chinese tradition they speak of having an “Everyday heart,” as well as how the highest form of an evolved life is one of “plain water.”
The older I get the more aware I become of the shades of gray that exist but old habits die hard. And thanks to the experience of coaching I’ve been able to consider and step into multiple paradigms. These different perspectives assist me in seeing how many ways there are to approach life and business. Coaching keeps me aware of the default settings that are ingrained, not by making me wrong but by providing me the tools to reset them when they show up so I may create a more harmonious life. A life not lived in the extremes but in the balanced middle.