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Throughout our lives, we make decisions based on what will bring comfort or pleasure, actively avoiding situations that bring us pain or discomfort.

These decisions may be large decisions, such as the career that we pursue, the relationships we invite or the way in which we raise our children. They may also be much smaller, day to day decisions.

For example, if you are sitting with your legs crossed and feel as though one leg is starting to fall asleep, you will shift and alter the way you are sitting to relieve the pain. While this may relieve the discomfort for a short while, before long you may find your other leg starting to fall asleep prompting you to move once again.

This is indicative of the way that we are going through our lives. Any situation which causes us discomfort leads us to shift our direction, alter our path in order to move free from the discomfort. Moving back and forth, left and right, we are zig zagging through life with no clear direction. If we are aware of what direction we would like to be moving, this effort to avoid discomfort throws us off our path, delaying our ability to reach our life goals.

One of the most difficult steps in the path to enlightenment is the ability to change this reaction to the painful for uncomfortable stimuli in our lives. This can be as challenging as changing our fundamental DNA, a response that is deeply seeded and programmed into our minds. It’s not just our way of thinking, it’s a human way of thinking and it holds us back from reaching full spiritual fulfillment.

It leaves us unsatisfied, moving from temporary positive feeling to temporary positive feeling. We continually seek out the next high hoping that it will leave us feeling content and fulfilled, however, time and time again it just falls short.

What we need to do is to train ourselves to take the middle way, the direct path from where we are to our goals and desires. The direct path to true spiritual enlightenment. Taking this path will be lonely, difficult and challenging. It will force us to confront our greatest weaknesses and draw upon our biggest strengths. We have to discover a deep, inner sense of bravery that we may not have known existed previously.

The middle way can be described as a cool loneliness. It is a time in which we must face raw discomfort, a difficult feeling that we must embrace in order to keep moving. We long for victory, defeat or praise, however, here we are, on our solo journey, working towards a better end while accepting the difficulties that are presented to us.

There are six ways that one may describe this feeling of ‘cool loneliness’:

  • Avoiding unnecessary activity: Avoiding partaking in activities merely to keep ourselves busy in order to avoid feeling pain or discomfort.
  • Less desire: The willingness to allow ourselves to experience these feelings of loneliness without requiring some form of resolution or change.
  • Not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts: Not looking to find security and freedom from the feelings of discomfort in our own internal dialogue.
  • Complete discipline: The self-discipline to come back to the present moment at any time, regardless of what may be happening.
  • Contentment: The understanding and acceptance that when we have nothing then we, in turn, have nothing to lose.
  • Not wandering in the world of desire: Avoiding seeking pleasure through material means such as food, drink or other people.

While this journey may be difficult and uncomfortable, focus your attention on experiencing each step of life, learning from your daily encounters and staying firm on the middle way – the path to true spiritual enlightenment.