Saturday, November 28, 2009

Goldilocks and the Middle Way

Not too hot, not too cold. Not too hard, not too soft. Goldilocks finds that the baby bear’s porridge and bed are “just right” for her.

A few months ago, a friend or a student (and I really can’t remember who) pointed out that most people practice the middle way in the same way. They try to find the path that is the most comfortable, or, failing that, the least uncomfortable. This is how children approach life.

The middle way is not a comfort seeking approach to life. It is a way to open to everything we experience, a way to address imbalances as they arise moment by moment. The key is found in its definition: not to fall into an extreme.

Life is full of polarities: pleasure and pain, gain and loss, fame and obscurity, respect and disdain. Whenever we pursue the “positive” pole, we set in motion forces, internally and externally, that inevitably bring about the opposite pole.

If we look to find comfort in each moment, we end up going to sleep when we find it and then being woken up and chased by changing circumstances, just as Goldilocks was chased away by the three bears.

This illustration came from Steedman, Amy. Nursery Tales. Paul Woodroffe, illustrator. London: TC & EC Jack, n.d.

For a history of the story of Goldilocks, see this article in Wikipedia.