Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Basic Middle Way To Do List for Difficult Days

The last week or so has been kind of a tough time.  And I'm anticipating a bit more of the same.  When things get harder, I am tempted to veer to one of two extremes.  Either I load up my to-do list and try to power my way through.  Or I take to the couch.  (Not my bed, of course.  That would be just too depressing!)

Seems like a good time to reflect on the Middle Way.  

And what, monks, is the Middle Way realized by the Thus-Come-One, which gives vision and understanding, which leads to calm, penetration, enlightenment, to Nirvana?
It is just this Noble Eightfold Path, namely: Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. – The Buddha, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

Gary of Buddha Space, writing on the Middle Way for--oddly enough--The Middle Way, tells us that
According to the Buddha, the Middle Way is a life lived between the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence. Neither hedonist nor ascetic are to be imitated, for the Noble Eightfold Path weaves its way through life avoiding both these unenlightened lifestyles. 

This Noble Eightfold Path, set out for his monks by Siddhartha Gautama more than 2500 years ago, is deceptively simple.  Inherent to its meaning are the precepts of balance, acceptance and mindfulness.  

Since I am not the Buddha, nor do I play one on TV, I struggle to wrap my 21st-century cluttered mind around his wisdom.  But the guidance I receive this morning, whether the intended understanding or not, is that I need to keep going, but to do so gently, and without judgement, at this time.

And so here is my pared-down to do list, for difficult times:

1.  Keep breathing
2.  Fulfill necessary obligations (work, family responsibilities) to the extent possible
3.  Meditate
4.  Get some exercise
5.  Sleep
6.  Clean something
7.  Read something
8.  Write something
9.  Be kind to someone
10.  Eat something healthful and good-tasting

For today, that is enough.  

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