Middle Way

A few days ago I received a message on Facebook, notifying me that a friend of mine had mentioned me in a comment. When I clicked through, to find out what it was regarding, I read the following post, from a local wilderness group:

With warmer weather already here, or just around the corner, this is a good reminder from Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Some people stack rocks…as a form of meditation. Some do it and call it art. More often than not, it makes for a neat Instagram picture and is never thought of again.

But what you may not realize is that stacking river rocks is doing serious damage to the delicate river ecosystem. And it’s not just cairns, the same goes for moving rocks and creating dams to make chutes or pools in a stream for tubing. Aquatic plants and animals make their homes on, under, and around these rocks. Some of the 68 species of fish in the park build their nests in small cavities under rocks. When people move the rocks, the nest is destroyed and the eggs and young fish die.”


My friend, knowing of my love for building cairns, then commented on this post with: Nicole Dunn uh-oh!

For a few minutes I thought about whether it would be worth my replying to her comment, or if it was better to simply let it go and not say anything. I decided I did want to voice my opinion, so here’s what I posted in response:

I think there’s a middle path in regards to all things – if I spent my life trying to avoid every possible situation that could cause potential harm, I wouldn’t be able to leave the house (or eat, move, or breathe) :) So in this case, I think I can safely say I won’t be diverting any rivers or fashioning dams, but I will continue the art of mindful rock stacking (continuing, as I’ve been, to knock over any larger stacks before I depart, so as not to cause harm to animals who may wander by later on). :)

In my belief, there truly is a middle path in regards to any given situation. There’s no absolutely right and wrong way to do anything that will apply to everyone at all times. This is a teaching that has really penetrated into my experience more-so over the last few years. Sometimes it takes me quite a long time to digest certain elements of the practice. As I am fond of saying: simple doesn’t (necessarily) mean easy!

It used to be that my deeply held belief of there being a “right” way and a “wrong” way to do things, especially in regards to things pertaining to household matters, and my husband and I’s very different approaches, created a lot of tension, stress, and turmoil in our relationship – mostly due to my incapability of seeing and understanding that everyone doesn’t have to do things the way I do things. I was the master of passive aggressiveness, in those days (which wasn’t super long ago).

With the growing awareness that the middle way, as it is referred to in Buddhism, is a place of dwelling in freedom and liberation between two extremes, such as austerity and over-indulgence, I’ve been able to start cultivating a more balanced way of approaching and appreciating life’s many dualities. To acknowledge and embrace both sides of the coin, so to speak, and find a “happy medium,” as my mom used to say, in between, has been of great benefit for me. And it’s helped immensely in my relationship with my husband, too, as I now get caught much less frequently in the thought of how my way is the “right” way – which helps him out a lot as well. I mean, really, who wants to be berated by someone who thinks they’re always right?!

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