Scrolling through an online feed, I came across this inspirational quote, “Be kind to others, even when others can’t be kind to you.”
It was complete with a clean font and a scenic background. On immediate reflection, that’s a nice piece of advice.
However, I have more than one client who is working on setting better boundaries because they are too nice to others at the expense of themselves.
They care for others in a way that is depleting and disrespectful of themselves. For them, they are working on setting boundaries and using the word they dread: “no.”
For them, that inspirational quote actually points in a direction which is not helpful and will actually deepen their inner imbalance.
Life At The Extremes
Quotes we see and pieces of advice we receive are pointers in a direction. On any meditation forum there is talk about the importance of slowing down, allowing life to run its course and accepting things the way they are.
Again, this is all good advice, but must be taken in context.
Taken to the extreme, if we were exclusively passive and accepting, nothing would ever change and we wouldn’t really get up off our couches.
Why pay taxes? Why change careers? Why fight for social change? We’re all just dust in the wind. It doesn’t matter.
The reality is that life exists on a spectrum.
On one end we have total passivity, the stereotypical stoner dude who doesn’t go anywhere or do anything.
On the other, we have the Type-A mover and shaker, who must always be going and doing, and doesn’t rest to the point of harming their own body and mind.
Life on either extreme is not a healthy way to live. The key is to live in the grey.
What does that mean?
Life In The Middle
Living in the grey means accepting life as a flow. It means that there’s no hard-and-fast rule that we must always abide by. Each situation is unique, and we need to respond accordingly.
There will be times when the best approach is a more passive one, letting things run their course and trusting in the forces of life which are greater and stronger than us.
If your wedding has been moved inside due to the tropical storm swirling outside, there’s no amount of inner intention or outer action that will change the weather to a sunnier and more welcoming day. Here, accepting the way things are is the healthiest way to go.
There will be times when we need to be more assertive, even aggressive, to make the changes we want or need to make in our lives. No one would finish a marathon if they stopped as soon as they felt some fatigue.
On a larger scale, the Civil Rights movement would not have had any effect if there wasn’t a push to overcome the existing inertia of social inequality.
Living in the grey means that we approach each situation as it unfolds, responding in real time to what’s showing up. We may have a goal in mind, but we need to have the discernment on how best to reach that goal.
Nuance Lives In The Grey
Sometimes it’s even more nuanced, where there’s some force required and some time for rest. It’s not about choosing between always on or always off.
In a discussion with a partner about who cleans the kitchen and who sweeps the floors, a compromise will often require pushing for what you want while also being passive and hearing what your partner wants.
Meditation teaches us to connect with the flow of life. It asks us to be with how the Now is changing.
As we learn to witness the unfolding of the present, we are training ourselves to live in the flow even when we’re not sitting on our mat.
This gets us out of rigid, must-always-be-true rules and into the reality of the journey of life.
Black-or-white thinking is a recipe for trouble. Life in the grey is full of possibilities and options.