The middle way. And mantras to stay there!


After a lovely morning yoga class (on paddle boards, in the sunshine, by the way), my SO and I went to brunch at one of my favorite diners in the area. While eating, we were discussing the importance of understanding and experiencing the whole emotional spectrum; how, if you allowed yourself to feel the bad feelings so many of us try to push away, you are simultaneously increasing your ability to feel the really, really good ones, too. So long as we are afraid to sink low, we’re also limiting our ability to feel truly joyous.

For a long time, this has been my mantra, but I’m realizing, at present, it might not always be the best idea. I’ve made it my mission in life to “feel” everything, and, as a result, often find myself at the whim of my emotions. I am constantly swinging between extreme highs and lows, and rarely find myself in that middle area. I had the idea that that middle area was dull, devoid of richness or depth–but that idea was my mistake.

Extreme feelings are important, but they are harder to trust because they’re generally fleeting; if not just a few moments, then a few weeks, at most. And it is never long before the dive south begins, obscuring all of the elation felt not too long ago. It is a puzzling process, rife with questions: How did I get here? How can I feel so bad about all of this when just a few days ago I was SO excited about it? Which feeling is the real one? What do I really want to do about this?

Well, I’m not sure there is a “real” one, and that’s exactly the problem. They’re all real, but also all temporal. And THIS is why that middle area is so important. That middle area is softer, and softness is a requisite for being able to listen to your intuition, your heart, your spirit. Whatever you want to call it, its voice is quiet. It cannot be heard very clearly when you’re busy moving up and down, or riding a bumpy, noisy emotional roller coaster through life. It’s also not a boring place, like I previously thought it to be: it’s nice. Since I’m less concerned and distracted by my emotions, my attention shifts outward a bit more. I notice things differently, think differently, converse differently and make different connections and realizations.

Beyond this simple logic, extreme emotions, when constant, are also quite anxiety inducing because it’s akin to being on a quickly and carelessly flip-flopping see-saw. Anyone in such constant, aggravated motion would become disoriented, tired, and confused. Recognizing this is of great importance if I ever want to be free of my anxious ways: I don’t have to cut myself off from deep emotion, but I don’t have to submit myself to it every second of my life, either.

There is a lot of uncertainty these days. I do have moments when I’m tempted to take a nose-dive into my anxious habits, but so far, I’ve been able to stop myself. I have a lot of unanswered questions at present, and a lot of them are serious, life-altering questions. But I cannot rush the process, nor change it: i just have to be in it, and trust it. It feels strange to me actually, to just be here and not be caught up in some dramatic feeling, and I expect an adjustment period will be necessary before I feel OK about it, before it feels “normal” to me. So I’m doing my best to wait it out, to be patient, put one foot and front of the other, and trust that, in time, I will know the answers to the questions that plague me at present.

And how is it that I’m managing to stay the course when I’m so tempted to revert to being a total drama queen? Well, I think the daily mindfulness meditation is helping, but so is this: Whenever I’m feeling like I’m about to launch into some gloom-and-doom (or rainbow and unicorn fairy tale) explanation for what will happen to me in my life, I stop the fortune-telling process, and repeat the following six words as many times as I need to until I remember that they’re actually true:

Everything is going to be OK.

It’s simple, and a little trite, but I really don’t give a damn! It’s working.

And, since I do believe in the importance of knowing and feeling all the truly dark corners of ourselves, and life, here is a beautiful excerpt from Mary Oliver’s poem “Gravel”, that I think reminds us why it is so important. (Click the title to read the whole poem!)

(Oh, heart, I would not dangle you down into
      the sorry places,
     but there are things there as well
      to see, to imagine.)…

…Everything is participate.
Everything is a part of the world
 we can see, taste, tickle, touch, hold onto,

and then it is dust.
Dust at last.
Dust and gravel.

In the distance, the rabbit-field.
Ben—his face in the grass, his chomping.
His sweet, wild eyes.


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