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The Middle Way: The path to long term health & happiness

Jennifer Oechsner

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Within Buddhist philosophy there lies the concept of the middle path or middle way. This refers to living a life away from extremes. Arisotle also favored the virtues of this path and wrote, "every virtue is a mean between two extremes, each of which is a vice.”  

Many of us could benefit from following the middle path but sadly our modern society does not support it. Multi-tasking, extreme workouts, and fad diets are the norm and somehow jam packed schedules seems to be the rule rather than the exception. How often have you had to schedule a time to have a phone conversation with a friend? How many times have you jumped on board with an extreme diet but just gained the weight right back? How many of you have embarked on a fitness regime that called for maximum intensity every time? This energy and attitude for living is not conducive to long term happiness which is why this path of extremes is not sustainable. 

This middle path makes sense to me but it can be hard to walk the talk. Thankfully, progress has been made over the years. When I was younger I was not as conscious of my diet. I largely ate what I craved and used intense exercise and periods of deprivation to combat weight gain. This behavior often left me physically depleted and emotionally depressed. I still enjoy intense exercise and preparing for triathlons and relay runs is a great source of empowerment. However, I temper this intensity with regular yoga and taking time off to recover after events. I have also become better at listening to my body and making adjustments to my training regimen when necessary. ALthough I have to admit that I do need reminders sometimes that its ok to take breaks.

One area II do need to work on is my schedule. I often feel as though I am trying to keep many plates spinning. When I check my messages first thing in the morning, I recognize I lack the discipline to sit in meditation for a few minutes instead. (even though I know I feel so much better for it) I rely on vacations and weekends away to recharge rather than making time for stillness on a daily basis.  Finding MY way to the middle path means (sometimes) saying no to more commitments, meditation over hitting the snooze and turning my phone off when its time to wind down in the evening. What's YOUR edge? What would help you find the middle path? I would love to hear from you!