Sometimes it seems like every article I write becomes about opposite extremes, and finding balance. I’m beginning to realize that might be because this pattern shows up a lot for me in life… plus this website is about work, and life, and balance. Today, I’m going to talk about how finding balance between opposite extremes relates to the Darwinian concept of the Middle Road, and the Buddhist idea of the Middle Path, or Middle Way, and how that approach can be applied to life and to health, for growth and success. For the philosphers among you, Aristotle’s Golden Mean and Confucious’ Doctrine of the Mean are right up along this alley as well.
What got me thinking about all this was a noticing that I often see with clients, and in the health and wellness industry in general, an oscillation between states or practices of deprivation, and states or practices of excess, or hedonism.
You may have experienced this yourself, if you have ever been on a very restrictive diet: you’re limiting calories, or carbs, or sugar, or foods that start with the letter T, and at some point, three hours or three days, or three weeks in, you’re standing in front of the fridge with a chicken leg in one hand, and a pint of ice cream in the other.
Some of you are shaking your heads no because you’re always calculating and don’t succumb to cravings. For the rest of you, the vast majority of everyone reading this article, uncontrolled indulgence is a natural response to deprivation, and you are not alone.
The idea of the Middle Road, per Darwin, came from a combination of the ideas of inductivism and eurekaism: The former suggests that the way to a breakthrough is work, work, work and practice, practice, practice, while the latter suggest that breakthroughs happen in one, spontaneous aha! moment, while dancing in your kitchen listening to techno (Darwin totally listened to techno, I just know it). So Darwin’s idea is not that neither of these approaches work, but that they both work, only not in isolation. They must be combined to be successful.
The Buddhist idea of the Middle Path or Middle Way, on comparison, considers this place to be one of avoidance or non-indulgence in opposite extremes. Although this may seem contradictory with what Darwin was saying, it is in essence and practice the same thing: Take a little bit of this, and add a little bit of that. You need both salt and sugar to make a delicious cake.
When I see these ideas applied to health and wellness, it often takes the form of “everything in moderation.” However, in a culture that celebrates hedonism, where we want more, bigger, better, faster, NOW, and deprivation, be thinner, lose weight, and so many people telling you what NOT to eat, moderation is plain old hard. We lose the fact that food, in its pure essence, is nourishment for our bodies. We lose the fact that culturally and emotionally, food has symbolism and can be nourishment for the soul.
I don’t have an answer for you, as it turns out, about the right path or way or road for you. For me, the middle way includes embracing all of it: sometimes saying yes, sometimes saying no, but doing it from a place of awareness of my “why”. Sometimes it takes a taste of an extreme to reach your “Aha!”, but it take practice practice practice to understand what works for you, and what doesn’t, and become aware of the motivation for making choice.
About the author: Jen Kahn MS, RYT works with clients using Functional Nutrition, Botanical Medicine, Mind-Body exploration therapies, Wellness Mentoring and the five cardinal elements (earth, air, fire, water and ether). Her practice focuses on supporting clients who are dealing with chronic health conditions, eating, and mood dysfunction, as well as those looking for a healthy kickstart or to take wellness to the next level. Through the blessings of modern technology she works with clients all over the world in private consultation and through online workshops, and right now she is offering free 30 minute consults and chakra assessments. If the article above leaves you wanting more, you can contact her by email for further information about her products and services: firstname.lastname@example.org. When she’s not working with clients, running events, or writing, she can be found biking, cooking, painting, snuggling with her cats, inventing recipes, or doing nothing at all in the Pacific Northwest.
Road photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/41203241@N00/2859618756″>Sugar road</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Path photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/58598613@N00/1428589423″>into the dark woods</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Cake photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/32003811@N04/3855341794″>Chocolate Fudge Cake</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Fridge photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/62518311@N00/260865942″>093006 dentro</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=“https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/”>(license)</a>
Table photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/48889068537@N01/2135967134″>Christmas Eve dinner table setting</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a>