From the Cula-sihanada Sutta:
“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of clinging. What four? Clinging to sensual pleasures, clinging to views, clinging to rules and observances, and clinging to a doctrine of self.”
In my studies today regarding the middle path, I came across this sutta which to me offers a good basis for finding the middle. Why? Because clinging (Upādāna) will always take us away from center. The Middle Path emphasizes emptiness, and Dependent Origination avoids distorted views. The Noble Eightfold Path avoids the two extremes of suffering and opulence, and emphasizes our non-attachment.
Too confusing? Well lets take a look at this more simply.
Everything in our lives is a sense perception, even our life itself. Without any of these senses, there is no life, no “thing” that we can label as real and tangible. Even time is a fabrication that we delude ourselves into thinking is definable. Perhaps you can think of it this way, “definement is defilement”. Once we label anything, we have created delusion and distortions that are unwholesome. And this is only perpetuated by one of the four forms of clinging. With a sensual pleasure being anything that our eyes, ears, nose, or touch may be attracted to. And our views can be an equally powerful deterrent from following a middle path, as we often find ourselves clinging (Upādāna) tightly to these. Rules and observances are something that we have learned and cling to out of the belief that we were instructed properly and must adhere to these in our lives. And lastly, clinging to a doctrine of self is to allow the ego to be paramount in our interaction with the World.
Clearly I think that clinging is a path away from the middle, and one that will only serve to feed the fires in our mind. And in addition, I can observe that aversion will throw any of us off the path just as easily as clinging.
While this may appear on the surface to be a high-wire balancing act, I think that with practice it becomes nature. No longer a training or matter of balance, but a life that is lived fully in the present with acceptance and understanding. But until this level of realization is attained, we must practice diligently with patience. Doing this always with tremendous love and compassion for ourselves, and an understanding that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.
May you be well, happy and peaceful.