Happy Medium

“I know no medium,” says Jane Eyre, speaking of the way she typically responds to people and events.  Like many of us in real life, this great fictional character finds herself reacting automatically, and either passively or aggressively.   “I never in my life have known any medium in my dealings with positive, hard characters, antagonistic to my own, between absolute submission and determined revolt.  I have always observed the one, up to the very moment of bursting, sometimes with volcanic vehemence, into the other.”

What does it mean to find the Middle Way?  Not in the sense of picking up a book on Buddhism or contacting a teacher, but in ourselves and in our lives.  There is always a draw to act, a restless wish to move, to create, to do something.  And there is also a wish to submit–and I’m not talking about depression or being a mouse or some unwholesome slavish quality here but to a wholesome impulse to be still and know a greater wholeness–to bear witness to greater life.

There are always two different currents operating in most of us–a push outward and a pull inward and upward, up out of this worldly mess.  Yet sometimes, when we sit down to meditate or walk in nature or otherwise try to be very aware of what is happening in the present moment, we can find an attitude and an attention that can embrace all the disparate parts of ourselves, including that irreconcilable push-pull.  Sometimes, we can be actively quiet inside–passively active, embracing and observing and delving into what we are like and what life is like.  This is the Middle Path:  it is that vibrant attention that can be medium–that can stay between those opposite pulls, that can unite our thoughts and feelings and sensations–parts that have so little in common they haven’t spoken to each other in years.

This is what I love about meditation.  I can sit down in the grumpiest, most preoccupied state of mind.  I can have a thousand things on my mind; my emotions can be just barely be on this side of overwhelm; and my body can be contracted like a spring, ready to bolt up and do something about all those dire predictions in my ears.  Yet if I can just manage to stay on the cushion for ten minutes or so there inevitable comes a shift, a kind of subtle gift of grace.  I’ve also heard it called a “movement of availability.”  What happens quite simply is that the surrounding stillness, the field of awareness that seems to draw close and surround a person when they meditate becomes more vibrant and interesting and alive than the turbulent thoughts, emotions, tensions and sensations that are usually entrance us (literally entrance us).  When this shift occurs, I become interested in myself in a new way–not taking my own side, arguing my own case–but seeing what I am like with the kind of acceptance the stillness itself seems to express.  You know what I mean.  Think of what it is like to be surrounded by tall trees.  There is a feeling of a grave but peaceful witness, as if we are being shown or fed something about what it can mean to practice patience and peaceful abiding.

I once heard that the Pali word “metta,” which means loving kindness or friendliness (a quality of the heart that supports the cultivation mindfulness) also refers to the sun and to sunshine.  The sun shines evenly on all things; it is not responsible for the clouds that drift by like thoughts passing through the mind.  The sun is naturally radiant; it refuses nothing and demands nothing.  What I’m calling medium or Middle Path awareness is just like that.  And not only is this awareness capable of embracing the disparate parts of ourselves–not passively submitting but humming with quiet interest.  It is also not separate from compassionate and friendly acceptance–and not separate from wisdom.  We discover in such moments that wisdom is not about words and thoughts but about connecting with a special energy that is inside and outside, an energy that brings acceptance, letting go, reconciliation.

In the sunlight of such awareness, we don’t care anymore (for a second) about what the ego cares about, about being right or looking good.  In that beautiful place of being radiantly medium, we would agree with Jane Eyre when she said:  “I would always rather be happy than dignified.”



6 thoughts on “Happy Medium

  1. Tracy,
    Thank you so much for your beautiful message on what meditation does for us.
    I have found that it softens me, helps me to be more gentle with myself, and with others.
    When my mind quietens, I find a peace that is so refreshing. It doesn’t last that long for me, but I would liken it to being thirsty, and taking a few sips of cool, fresh water. And my minds knows a peace ….and “an energy that brings acceptance, letting go, reconciliation.”
    Have a wonderful week!

  2. Hi Tracy

    I’m not good at meditation but I’ve experienced enough to know that it allows for an energy and quality of materiality that feeds our higher parts much like the sun feeds the leaves of a plant.

    However, I don’t believe being fed is wisdom. It would seem if wisdom is possible it would come through opening to the relativity of objective quality. Pondering can lead to the experience of relative objective quality.

    Rather than trying to explain this difficult concept I’ll post a link if you and others are interested


    Question: “How do you differentiate impulsive action from action due to pondering?”

    Orage: “What is weighed in pondering is inclination and disinclination as opposed to thinking, in which ideas and concepts are weighed. The contents of the emotional center–likes and dislikes–are the units weighed in relation to the criterion of more or less being.

    This is what I find so amazing about Simone Weil. Not only was she capable of states of meditation only reached by a relative few but she was also capable of pondering.

    Such people I believe are capable of experiencing wisdom as described in the Bible. Where my life is experienced in time, somehow at times her life seems to have been experienced in eternity where wisdom resides.

    Wisdom is speaking:

    The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
    I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.
    When there were no depths, I was brought forth; when there were no fountains abounding with water…
    When he prepared the heavens, I was there: when he set a compass upon the face of the depth… when he gave the sea his decree, that the waters should not pass his commandment; when he appointed the foundations of the earth: then I was by him…
    Now therefore harken unto me, O ye children: for blessed are they that keep my ways.
    Hear instruction, and be wise, and refuse it not.

    (Proverbs 8:22-33)

  3. One way to look at meditation, is that gives you time to let the Holy Spirit that dwells within us to pray with and through us.

    26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words.

    Romans 8:26-27, 38-39

    27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

    38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,

    39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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