middot moderation meditation follow the yellow brick road

follow the yellow brick road

Written by  rebbetzin malkah

art-yellowbrickSh'vil HaZahav שְבִיל הַזָהַב, the golden middle or mean path, is the Hebrew concept of moderation.  And a famous quote to help us with this middah is: 

"Keep a mid course between two extremes." – Ovid (43 BCE–18 CE), Roman poet

When we take the middle road, the balanced center away from the extremes of left or right, we set ourselves on a course where we can see what is around the bend and not risk putting ourselves in a situation that has too much of a sway towards one way of thinking.  When we are balanced, we can review what is on all sides.  It doesn't mean that we can't or won't appreciate what is on either side, but we will never be in a permanent state of being only on one side.  This healthy way of living brings fruitful results as we have less backtracking to do.  Why?  Because when we are informed and live in a balanced way, we don't have to make u-turns all the time to get to a more balanced place.  Not only is this widsom, but it brings safety.  We all know what happens if you drive your car too close to the shoulder or into the oncoming lane.

Practice this simple meditation regarding moderation to help enhance your golden mean in life:

(Note:  While most people associate meditation with Eastern faiths and not Judaism, this is a popular misconception.  Meditation is not foreign to Judaism.  In the days of the Temple and before, meditation was known and practiced. Meditation should be approached with an "open mind."  For more information on meditative techniques, see the source Jewish Meditation by Aryeh Kaplan.)

Find a comfortable seat in a quiet place.  First, take a few deep breaths. Deep breathing brings oxygen to your brain and helps clear the mind. Close your eyes. Continue breathing until you feel relaxed and feel little or no distractions.  Let the noises around you, no matter how small, filter out.

Next, visualize you are sitting along a path. On both sides of this path are downward sloping hills. Try and visualize the path as being a stable and safe place to be.  If the rain comes, it will roll off the path and go down the hills.  The path is a stable center that provides safety.  Imagine how it feels to see the hills along the path and the centered feeling you have being in the midst of the path.  Focus on the grounded sensation you have: seated, stable, still, safe.

Moderation is like this.  It is a stable, centered feeling where we have control and are without risk of losing control.  Bask in that feeling of safety.  Perhaps you have people in your life who are like that path.  Perhaps you have habits that are grounding like that path.  Maybe you don't.... Do you have habits or people in your life that are like the dangerous sloping sides?  If so, focus on the center of the path.  Return to wanting to feel grounded, centered, balanced and safe. 

Keep breathing in a controlled fashion and begin to focus your mind on the aspects of your life that are not moderated.  Take one particular aspect and concentrate deeply on it. How can it be brought to center? What are the steps that need to be taken to restore balance?  Meditate on centering this part of your life.  Ask Hashem for guidance.  Be compassionate with yourself and realize change can come ... moderation can be implemented.

This meditation will help you with focusing on moderation in your own life and your coursework in this middah.  By honing your moderation, you can impact the lives of others in significant ways as well as your performance of other middot such as gratitude, frugality, order and responsibility.

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