Today is winter solstice--a day of extremes--the shortest day, the longest night. The year 2011 has slipped away, never to return. Our life is slipping away. One year: Gone.
Shall we take the hedonistic approach to "eat, drink, and be merry"? Shall we consume as much as our pocketbooks and consumer society will allow? Or does that wind up feeling like "empty calories"? Full of stuff, stuffing ourselves and our homes, yet oddly dissatisfied, oddly empty.
In the Buddha's time (and also in the Middle Ages), some people thought they could attain heaven by self-mortification.
These are the extremes: hedonism or self-mortification.
But let us consider The Middle Way, the way between extremisms, a path of moderation. In this time of extreme darkness, how might we practice the Middle Way between self-judgment ("I'm so bad.") and ego-tripping ("Look at me! Aren't I great!")?
"Be a lamp unto yourself," the Buddha said. In these days of darkness--external or internal--notice your inner light. Sit. Meditate--even if only for 5 minutes.
Notice the flicker of kindness in your heart. Fan that ember so that it glows throughout the front of your body. Spread that feeling of goodwill throughout the back of your body. Spread it through the right side of your body. Spread it through the left side of your body.
Sit. Feel the body filled with kindness.