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The Middle Way and Barking

The Middle Way and Barking

Bark at everyone

Or lie down for tummy rubs

How shall I greet life?

If we bark at everyone, we might get a one-way trip to the pound. If we’re always lying down for tummy rubs, we might get stepped on by burglars. Which is better? Looks like maybe we need to find a middle path. Although the Buddha’s teaching about the middle way originally pertained to the extremes of overindulgence and austerity, this teaching applies to everything in your life. Pay attention to extremes developing in your own life. If too much running and playing is wearing you down, get some sleep. If you’re sleeping too much, run and play more. As for barking, I try to keep it to what Master calls “tolerable levels.”

Be Awake to Our Emotion

Be Awake to Our Emotions

Following a scent

Trying hard to be quiet

Crunch, crunch go the leaves

Sometimes I like to sneak up on squirrels, just to see how close I can get before they run up a tree. During autumn, there is the added challenge of being quiet amongst the fallen leaves. To be very, very quiet, I need to be completely awake in the moment. Being awake in the moment is difficult when I am not awake to my emotions. Impatience, excitement, pride, and anxiety — these are all emotions I may feel when sneaking up on a squirrel. If I’m not aware of them, my mind is distracted, and the leaves are crunching louder than squeak toys. Take, for example, the story of the four monks who, as part of their awareness practice, took a vow to be silent for the day. They had been successful and were walking back to their cabin in the dark. Suddenly, a gust of wind blew one of the monk’s lanterns out. “My light went out,” he exclaimed. “Hey, be quiet!” said the second monk. The third monk scolded them, “You two idiots, now you’ve ruined it for the rest of us.” Then the fourth monk declared, “Ha! I’m the only one who hasn’t talked yet.” The emotions of surprise, irritation, contempt, and pride had snuck up on the day of silence.

Beware of Labels

Beware of Labels

Unexpected bliss

On the path of wildflowers

Such fragrant urine

People often like to label things. “This is beautiful. This is ugly.” The label is not reality. Unfortunately, it is often interpreted that way. The label also implies a permanence that does not exist. As the Buddha taught, everything is constantly changing. When we don’t understand this, we attach to the label and cause suffering. Here’s a classic example: “He’s a bad dog.” How many of my fellow dogs have borne the weight of this one? When such a label is applied, a dog’s reputation may be ruined, even if he is a good dog at heart or works hard to become one. The label “smells like urine” may seem clearly negative to you. But in my own personal experience, that is simply not the case. We should be very careful not to become too attached to the labels that we hear or use.