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:

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Daily Practice, Day 1


I don’t have a daily sitting meditation practice.  It used to be something I gave myself a really hard time about not having.  Cultivating a daily sitting practice is one of those things like drinking more water – I know it would be something beneficial for me to do, I know it would be good for me, and yet I don’t do it.  At this point in my practice I am wanting, and ready, to push myself a little bit in this direction so that I can develop a daily sitting practice.  So, this is me using the power of the blog to be accountable for this new undertaking.

I have been sitting at least once a week for the past 10 years and have attended many local retreats and days of mindfulness and a few large retreats with Thich Nhat Hanh and the four-fold community (monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen).  My mindfulness practice is strong and I am diligent about cultivating it in my everyday life and now I am ready to take another step.  The amount of time sitting is less important than the consistency so for now I am going to start off small by sitting for 6 minutes a day.  When goals are set too high it is often a recipe for the inability to follow through.

To everything there is a balance, a middle way.  And as I often say, what that balance looks like for each of us will differ.  This is important to keep in mind.  In cultivating a daily sitting meditation routine for myself I can see clearly two sides that exist.  One side that is too strict and one side that is too lenient.  Both sides deter me from sitting.  The middle path of a trail through the woods is formed by the blending of earth from both the right side and the left side.  So too is the middle path formed for ourselves, by weaving together the two extreme sides that often exist.  Many times there are more than two parts to a certain habit energy, emotion or action however, in my experience there are two main sides that often are dominant.

In regards to my daily sitting practice the middle path consists of bringing together the harsh voice and the lazy voice that I have to create a new voice of diligence and embracing.  I am also interested in furthering my understanding of the sutras and discourses so my intention is to pair my short sitting periods each day with a reading from my Plum Village Chanting Book.


I once heard that it takes 21 days to create a new habit.  While I don’t know how accurate or legitimate that actually is, and I absolutely don’t believe that it would be the same for everyone even it there were some science behind it, it doesn’t really matter – it sounds like a good place to start to me.

So here’s my intention: for the next 21 days (I already started today) I will sit everyday for at least 6 minutes and then follow that by a chant or reading or both.  I’ll also post on my blog everyday to help support my practice and accountability to myself.

Today I read the Heart Sutra and the Discourse on Youth and Happiness.  I hadn’t read this particular discourse before.  I really resonated with it and appreciated its simplicity as sometimes the formal teachings that have been passed down are difficult for me to follow.  Here’s a passage from it (the words are from the Buddha):

“When you know the true nature of desire,

the desiring mind will not be born.

When there is no desire, and no perceptions based on it,

at that time, no one is able to tempt you.”

“If you think you are greater than, less than, or equal,

you cause dissension.

When those three complexes have ended,

nothing can agitate your mind.”

“Ending desire, overcoming the three complexes,

our mind is stilled, we have nothing to long for.

We lay aside all affliction and sorrow,

in this life and in lives to come.”

I notice a strong feeling of hesitation to post this, to call attention to this personal undertaking for fear I will not make it the whole 21 days.  What I’m afraid of exactly I don’t know.  Perhaps I’m afraid that I’m not as strong and diligent as I would like to think.  I’m looking forward to this journey together whatever it may bring.  Thank you for reading and supporting my practice dear friends.  I really appreciate your presence.