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  • Sherise Schlaht

THE MIDDLE WAY

#thoughtfultuesday returns in full force this week. As I write this, I am having a challenging time with stillness; my body is vibrating. Moments as such are to be celebrated as they remind me of what it means to actively embrace life. To best capture this state, the term that comes to mind is wildness; the thrill that arises when we are living on the edge. This “fire” energy is a welcome and cherished shift considering that my default state is typically a gentle and passive flow. Previously in my life, I did not know how to actively embrace life without the use of alcohol. Predictably, it never turned out well. Since I was using alcohol as a means of letting go, there was no concept of when I had reached a let-go state. Hence, there was no ability to gauge when I should stop. I am sure you, as the reader, can interpret where the majority of these situations led, but let’s just say I am familiar with blacking out, vomiting, and wetting myself. All humour aside, I count my blessings that I survived this period of my life, as I was extremely vulnerable and was regularly swimming in turbulent waters. As someone who was not attuned to the subtle hints of life at this time, a tsunami was necessary. Yes folks, I had to be swept up, tossed and turned, knocked on the head with a few boulders, and spit out the other side. Only then did I recognize that alcohol was an issue. Around this time, it was announced that my sister was carrying her first child. I decided to attempt to refrain from drinking over the course of her pregnancy. I can hardly believe that was nearly six years ago, but I can say that the decision to stop using alcohol was one of the best I ever made. You may be pleased to know that I am now able to have a social drink without spiraling out of control. More often than not, I decline a beverage out of recognition that it is no longer a prerequisite to obtaining freedom. Existing on the other side, I can attest to the tremendous amount of courage that is required to embrace the nuances of life without the option of oblivion.

It is possible that you are reading this and thinking, “Jesus, I was never that extreme.” I am happy to be the source of comparison that allows you to feel better about your life. However, I am not ready to let you off the hook quite yet. We all have means of numbing out, running from, or escaping parts of ourselves we fear coexisting with. The severity of numbing lies on a spectrum, but nonetheless the actions are the same. What are avenues of escape? Social media scrolling or trolling, over or under eating, hoarding or tossing, gossiping, gaming, excessive or absent sexual intimacy, pouring oneself into work, gambling or refraining from spending …. The better question is likely, when are we not trying to escape? It requires highly attuned awareness and intention to create space for and with ourselves. If you are content with your avenues of checking out, the remainder of this post will probably seem irrelevant. I recently listened to a TED Interview with Dan Gilbert, a psychologist at Harvard University. I was concerned that I wouldn’t resonate with Dan Gilbert’s research on happiness, but was pleasantly surprised. I will imbed his TED Talk in this post, in so that you have the opportunity to judge his research for yourself. It turns out that we are horrible at predicting our fate. The concept of prospection, the ability to think futuristically, is a relatively recently developed ability that is akin to the human species. This is likely due to the fact that we are several times removed from survival hood. However, just because we possess this ability does not mean it is a reliable source of information; our perceptions of challenges in our future are more fatalistic than they turn out to be, and our perceptions of success are more ecstatic than they turn out to be. How does this relate to our inclination to numb ourselves? Evidently, our mind creates an illusion that certain aspects of existence are unbearable. This is exactly what it all is, an illusion. We impulsively buy into fear, which then leads to intolerance, which then leads to a compensatory behaviour. This can be circumvented if we recognize a thought as a thought from the onset and resist its allure. Accordingly, a benign arising does not require escape and there is room for us to experience it as it is and allow it to move through us. Ta da! Sounds so simple, does it not? Like all events in life, it is so simple, it is complex. This brings us full circle to the paradox of existence. Delving into the benign is what the great master Lao Tzu refers to as, the middle way. I close this week with a line from one of the finest movies of all time, Cool Runnings.


Peace be the journey,


Sherise



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