The Middle Way

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future;
concentrate the mind on the present moment.

- Buddha

After six years of intense searching the Buddha discovered Four Noble Truths that became the essential core of Buddhism

  1. Suffering is an inevitable part of human existence. He didn’t deny that human beings could find great pleasure, Indeed, the Buddha counseled his followers to taste-really taste-the sweetness of the fruit; to appreciate the particular beauty of each flower; to embrace the moment fully and genuinely and mindfully-to see the joys which it enfolded. But the Buddha saw no reason to put a sugar coating over the pain of life, either.
  2. The cause of suffering is “desiring” or “craving” or “clinging.” We continue to crave those things which are pleasurable to us, even when we can no longer have them,. We cling to golden moments of our pasts, the people we love, our power possessions and privileges. But it is all temporary and everything that is dear to us will pass away. To the extent that we yearn for them and crave them our lives are bound to be filled with sorrow and suffering.
  3. Since the cause of suffering is craving, then the cure lies in ceasing to crave, in letting go. The cure for suffering is non-attachment to the things that happen.
    • The way of the Buddha is sometimes called the “Middle Way” because it calls for neither extreme sensuousness nor extreme denial, but rather tries to strike a balance between extremes of all kinds.
  4. Letting go of fear and desire is easier said than done. To help living creatures escape the passions that entrap them, Buddha recommends the “Noble Eightfold Path to Enlightenment”.
    • This is a detailed path that is intended to guide one's entire life. I cannot do justice to this approach in the limited space available here, and those interested in exploring this approach to life are encouraged to research it. Please note, however, that this is not the only path to freedom from attachment and craving, and other paths to freedom from craving are presented throughout this course.

Doing Mode & Being Mode

Doing Mode refers to interacting with the world in a goal directed way.  The OPEN Path exemplifies Doing Mode. You notice a discrepancy between the way things are and the way you want them to be so you develop a plan to achieve your goal, execute it, and observe how it worked so you can modify your actions accordingly. In contrast, Being Mode refers to experiencing the here and now without trying to accomplish anything.

Suffering naturally evokes Doing Mode to solve the problem and end the suffering. When you attempt to solve a personal problem, your attention will often focus on the difference between the way you are and the way you want to be.  If you are not careful, this perspective can evoke self-evaluation, a seductive trigger for ruminative self-focus. Ironically, intending not to fall into this trap can set up a self-critical reaction when you catch yourself in self-critical rumination such as, “I’m ruminating again, after I told myself not to.” 

Pathogenic rumination can be evoked by almost anything, and overcoming it requires that you recognize that you are doing it, so that you can disengage from it. But rather than disengage, the most likely subsequent cognitive event is self-evaluation and perhaps the judgment that you have failed again.

The "Doing Mode" Trap is compelling, and the greater the motivation to escape it, the more stuck in Doing Mode you become.  One strategy is to escape Doing Mode. Switching to Being Mode  — experiencing the here and now without goals or interpretation can awaken you from autonomous problem-solving and the self-evaluation it engenders.


Mindfulness is a mental discipline that promotes awakening and may be defined as: Awareness of present experience with non-judgmental acceptance.

Much of our behavior occurs autonomously in the service of one goal or another.  As we go about our daily lives, we are typically preoccupied with the past or future while our actions in the present are generally mindless sequences of behavior in the service of some local goal, such as driving to the store. In contrast, mindfulness involves keeping attention in the present moment without judging it as good or bad—calmly and consciously observing and accepting whatever is happening in the here and now.

Thought Experiment: Mindfulness Meditation - Focus your attention on the sensation of the air as it passes in and out of your nostrils with each breath. Each time a thought or feeling arises, notice it, but don’t analyze it or judge it, and return your attention to the breathing. Don’t approach this exercise with the expectation that anything special will happen (that is the very trap we seek to escape through this exercise). As you follow your breath you will notice that a range of thoughts, images and sensations arise in your consciousness and elicit reactions. Your task is to intentionally suspend the impulse to characterize or evaluate what you are experiencing, and instead to experience the here and now directly without filtering it in any way.

Meta-Cognitive Awareness—the appreciation that subjective reality is the state-dependent creation of a biological creature at a particular moment (not necessarily an accurate reflection of the objective truth) can free you from the Soul Illusion. The understanding that thoughts and emotions are not necessarily valid and may be distorted in perverse ways when local conditions elicit pathogenic trances, makes it possible for you to exercise your will.

For the rider to control the horse's passions and get the horse to go in the intended direction, the rider must be separate from the horse. A Meta-Cognitive Shift occurs when you shift from the perspective of the horse [Experiential Processing System] to the perspective of the rider [Cognitive Processing System]. For example, when you recognize that you are in a high-risk state, initiating a Meta-Cognitive Shift will enable you to re-capture your attention so that you can guide the creature to act in accord with your core motivation.  


The exercise of will usually begins with a meta-cognitive shift from the perspective of the creature to the perspective of the operator of the creature.  For example, when Bernie recognizes that he is in one of his angry "Mr. Hyde" trances, he has learned to consult the reminder card [described in the next section] that says: “I am probably reading this because I want to act out my anger, but that would be a mistake.  Instead I will remember my core motivation and mindfully act in accord with my interests and principles.”

Developing the ability to awaken from the Mr. Hyde trance and act according to his core motivation—stay out of jail and re-establish a rewarding lifetime partnership—is a non-trivial challenge. This same challenge of awakening from a pathogenic trance faces the individual with an incentive use disorder.  In both cases, good outcome requires a meta-cognitive shift from the state-dependent perspective that would motivate destructive behavior to the dispassionate perspective of the Cognitive Processing System, singularly dedicated to your core motivation.

Thought Experiment: Meta-cognitive perspective of a conflict.

During a high-risk situation see if you can shift from the creature's perspective of Doing Mode to the detached perspective of Being Mode so that you can observe your sensations and thoughts without the distortions caused by temporary emotional states. The goal of this thought experiment is to describe, the experience of the conflict. Many people can separate the two parts of the conflict. Using the English language, what can you say about how you experience the forces that pull you toward the incentive and the forces that repel you from it? Describe the sensations, images and thoughts associated with these motivations as best as you can —your experience of them, their priority now, their priority then, and any conclusions you may have about your core motivation.

As long as this conflict is unresolved your energies will be divided. Sometimes you want to use the incentive, and sometimes you never want to use it again. How can such a conflict ever be resolved? Research shows that people who have developed an addictive relationship with an incentive tend to move through a series of stages, each with a particular challenge. An appreciation of what will be required of you as you go through this passage will prepare you for and help you cope successfully with the high-risk situations that you are bound to encounter.


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