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.

6 comments:

ZenDotStudio said...

I love the Goldilocks thing and how true. I remember reading the transcript of a talk by Tenzin Palmo and she said something similar. "If you want to find the most comfortable seat in the house, look where the dog or cat are sleeping. But we aren't dogs or cats, we can do better than that." (loose paraphrase here)

So thanks for the reminder, meow!

Ellen Fishman said...

"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."

The musing seemed so simple before I got to that statement. It took a few readings before I could connect to it.
In this case, the" awakening" does have a consequence of frenzied behavior.
Yeah, been there done that a few times.
Thanks for the post

Anonymous said...

Your post touches me personally. Here are some reflections it has provoked:

Is it because we are out of balance that we fall asleep, or because we are asleep that we get out of balance? Also, isn’t imbalance just a moment on the swing back and forth between polarities that are themselves illusory? Rather than anticipate the inevitable revolt of opposing forces, why not go straight ahead through it all, letting go resistance against both push and pull?

“If we want to be important, appreciated, loved, then we have to take their opposites in stride also. Every positive brings with it a negative, just as the sun throws shadows. (…) But if we really want a peaceful heart and mind, inner security and solidity, then we have to give up wanting to be somebody, anybody at all." (Ayya Khema, All of Us: Beset by Birth, Decay and death, chapter IV. Be Nobody)

Goldilocks got a rude awakening. Not because she indulged what attracted her, but because she childishly believed she was someone to whom the laws of nature didn’t apply. Hubris.

Peace.

sharonyogart said...

Goldilocks & the 3 bears. James Dobson of Focus on the Family has a wonderful series where he uses this analogy in child rearing:

The Grizzly Bears are too harsh & their children are all emotionally repressed mental cripples; whereas the Teddy Bears are too soft and all of their children are spoiled brats. It is the Brown Bears who give just the right amount of discipline & encouragement who raise healthy, well adjusted children. I forget how he got 3 sets of bears out of the Goldilocks story, but, in essence, he was teaching "The Middle Way"

lekshe said...

Liked this, Ken. Thanks for the post.

ellen said...

"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."

Sometimes circumstances and our own capacity don't allow us much wiggle room. So we do things that maybe we shouldn't. Then what?

Our capacity is already low and the circumstances haven't changed, then what?

My experience has taught me that like you said that suddenly I am holding on to a reality that is hard to feel my part in it.

For me I recognize that I cannot do it alone when this happens. The three jewels are equally important, no?
Sangha then is to be utilized. But in the modern Western society that I live in, that sangha can take many forms. My experience has included therapeutic, group and one to one support. Each one was a major step to take, yet in the end each one was an opportunity to wake up to what is. To know that I am not alone in being human is a gift, Ken.