The Middle Way

The first time I heard the Four Absolutes — absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love — I had the same reaction as when I first read the St. Francis Prayer: “Great, here are some more ideas I can use to beat myself up.” The Four Absolutes sounded way to much like the Ten Commandments to me. My guilt over repeated violation of the commandments simmered deep inside me. I drank at this guilt for thirty years.

Like most all of us, my self-esteem was not at a high point when I stumbled through the door to my first meeting. Beating myself up over perceived shortcomings was a specialty of mine. At one of my regular meetings there was a long time member who greeted me with a hug. She always asked, “Did you check your whip at the door, Jeff?”

Befriending myself has been a long process. It started with the folks in meetings.  I learned I didn’t have to pretend to be large and in charge. You guys loved me warts and all. But it took many years before I could begin to love myself. Being of service and sponsoring others is the key. Two years ago I had the honor of care-taking  my wife for eleven months until she died. While I wouldn’t have signed up for this experience, it turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to me. Sure it was painful and sad, but in the end I finally felt worthy. I became comfortable in my own skin and life took on a whole new meaning.

The Buddha prescribed the middle way to alleviate suffering. “If the strings of the lute are too tight, they will break. If the strings are too loose, it won’t play.” Just for today the tension in my strings is just right.