The Middle Way and the Brand New Year
Last updated: June 2018
In a previous article, I touched upon the significance the concept of The Middle Way has on my life and correspondingly, to my struggle with IBS. While the ideas of the Eightfold Path and Middle Way are Buddhist in root and nature, the wisdom contained within these philosophies are very applicable to everyday problems including those that involve your health. New Year’s resolutions have become part of our culture and represent our desire to improve, which is a very good thing. Often, the way we approach these ‘resolutions’ are not healthy and in the end, very ineffective. Those of us with IBS have to pay particular attention to our diet, physical health, psychological health, emotional health and overall wellness all the time. Because the maintenance of this disorder seems never ending, it is natural to challenge ourselves to address certain aspects of our care that we have been neglecting or letting slide in the New Year. Taking a moderate approach to change is important. If you are kind to yourself and to those that support you, you may find that more of these ‘resolutions’ become reality.
Show compassion to YOURSELF
In an effort to explain how The Middle Way can be applied to our desire for change in the New Year, I would like to bring attention to one of the ideas from the Buddhist Eightfold Path. This is the concept of Right Intention. The question we must ask ourselves each and every day is ‘am I living compassionately?’. Living compassionately should ideally apply to everyone around us, but I would like you to consider showing compassion to YOURSELF. When you wish to change your diet and make a plan to do so, you are doing a good thing. This can be considered Right Understanding. You have seen and understood the change required and are making a plan to change what needs changing. While after a week the plan might be going swimmingly, but after two, the whole thing may seem to fall apart. This is where the compassion for yourself piece comes in. Allow yourself mistakes. Accept that change is hard. Be ok with it and try again. If it is truly something that is important to you, with Action, Effort, Concentration and Mindfulness you will be successful. These are four of the key points of The Eightfold Path (Right Action, Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness). It is important that we hold ourselves accountable, but that we do it in a compassionate way.
Take it ‘one day at a time’
In an effort to avoid going to extremes with your ‘resolutions’, take a ‘one day at a time’ approach. Baby steps, right? If your initial thought is to hit the gym four times a week, cut it down to one or two days. If you make it four days then, fantastic. If you make it once, you have met your goal. I’ve found that once I start doing things that make me feel good (like exercising) I inevitably want to do it more. So, start slow. Rome wasn’t built in The New Year.If you would like to cut certain foods out of your diet, the same principle applies. Cut one thing, then two. If there is action to be taken, take the initiative, but don’t feel as though you can’t succeed if you realize in February that you have only accomplished one or none of your goals. The year doesn’t end in February or March or April, for that matter. Recovery is an ongoing journey and that is what we are attempting to accomplish with these promises to ourselves; recovery from IBS.
So, I wish you all a Happy New Year. Please be good to yourselves and to those around you. You’ll find making changes in your lives is much easier when you develop a sense of compassion for the world around you, including yourself. Live humbly, live moderately and try to appreciate the good things around you. They are there, even if at times, you can’t seem to see them at all. Just keep looking and learning...in the New Year.
Which of the following symptoms of IBS do you experience most frequently?