Pagan Studies

A syncretic approach to esoteric teachings - the golden threads that connect Pagans, Yogis, Rosicrucians and Masons.

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The Middle Path

Every regimen of study, work, personal grooming or health which I have ever adapted and used successfully in my life, had to contain the elements of Reasonableness and Moderation. I never had the constitution for unremitting fanaticism. The Middle Path has always worked best for me. Whenever I did undertake a campaign of intense, focused effort, no matter how convinced of its necessity I might have been at the outset, I always found myself needing to take days off for rest and re-evaluation. 

The Buddha discovered the Middle Path when he overheard a music teacher observing that if you don't tighten a string enough, it will not play; but if you tighten it too much, it will break! That made sense to Siddhartha, and it makes sense to me. 

In my lifetime, I have witnessed too many beautiful athletes who died young because they pushed themselves to train too hard. Whenever I have come near that point of exhaustion, my survival instinct has intervened to save me from such a fate. I was content to allow those who were obviously more gifted in such areas to attain the gold medals; at least I was still alive to fight another day! I always felt that I was needed for some other purpose yet to come; I wasn't supposed to sacrifice everything, just yet. Not for this. 

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says that Yoga is the Middle Path. It is neither for the glutton who stuffs himself with too much food, nor for the ascetic who denies himself any food at all. Nature dictates a proper balance between Ahimsa and Tapas. 

To an actor, the art of performance is a delicate balance between muscular tone and total flexibility - a Middle Path employing both diaphragmatic tension and relaxed vocal chords. You must be trained and thoroughly rehearsed, but you must also be sensitive to the ephemeral inspiration of the moment. 

Life itself is like walking on a tightrope or the edge of a blade. It takes constant rebalancing and adjustment to keep from slipping off. You need strength to hold yourself up, but at the same time you must be pliable and responsive to every changing wind that may strike you from any direction. 

A tree that cannot bend will break.  

A similar Middle Path applies, I think, when it comes to the degree of complexity we need to accept in order to function well. Some years ago, I ran across an online book that claimed to be a Medieval Alchemy text revealing the ancient secrets of Creation. Its pages displayed hundreds of abstruse metaphysical drawings, showing supposed correspondences between planets, elements, colors, vowel sounds, chakras, numerical sequences and kabalistic designs - none of which bore any relationship to anything I had to deal with in my everyday life. 

It was even more complicated than the yoga style that insists on perfect alignment of each muscle and joint in the foot, ankle, calf, knee and thigh before a person can be considered to be properly standing up!   

As diverting as such tidbits of knowledge are, for a person of my mental and emotional composition keeping them all simultaneously in mind would be more than obsessive-compulsive. It would make me crazy. 

I'm not saying that the laws of the universe aren't complicated. But I don’t have to be able to build a car in order to drive one. A basic understanding of how it works and experience behind the wheel are enough to make me a skillful driver. 

I think the same principle applies to skillful living. I need a basic understanding of my body, my world and my culture. I need to spend some years learning how to operate within these elements in a practical way. I don't need to know as much as the Divine Architect of the universe. But neither should I take Her lessons for granted; I should pay attention. 

Referring back to the Buddha, one day his disciples came to him asking how to breathe. (They were Hindus, and Yoga prescribes a multitude of different breathing patterns under Pranayama.) Siddhartha cooled their mania by observing that the salient point was simply to breathe. Each person could decide how for himself. 

People can make life as complicated as they wish; but it doesn't need to be more complicated than that. 

On the World Tree, human beings occupy Middle Earth - the realm between the Heavens and the Lower Depths. This is the very fulcrum of the seesaw, the point of Balance itself. 

If this doesn't speak to us about the advisability of the Middle Path, maybe we're not listening closely enough.

 

 

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A student of esoteric traditions since the age of 16, Ted Czukor (Theo the Green) taught Yoga for 37 years until retiring in 2013. For 26 years he was adjunct faculty for the Maricopa, AZ Community Colleges, teaching Gentle Yoga and Meditation & Wellness. Raised in the Methodist Church but drawn to Rosicrucianism, Hinduism and Buddhist philosophy, he is a devotee of the Goddess in all Her forms. Ted has been a Shakespearean actor, a Masonic ritualist and an Interfaith wedding officiant. He is the author of several books, none of which made any money and two of which are available as .pdf files. He lives with his wife Ravyn-Morgayne in Sun City, Arizona. Their shared dream is to someday relocate to Glastonbury, England. theoczukor@cox.net.

Comments

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Tuesday, 10 September 2013

    Balance.
    Neither too Hot nor too Cold.
    Neither too High nor too Low.
    Neither too Hard nor too Soft.
    Neither too Loud nor too Quiet.
    Neither too Dark nor too Light.
    Grey.
    Middle.
    Centre.
    Being All yet Being None.
    Some of One. Some of the Other.
    Not fully One. Not fully the Other.
    Sharing.
    Blending between of Both.
    Balance.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Nice; thank you. Yours?

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Yes. G.B.Harte. 14:41 pac. 9/11/2013

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    So mote it be! Ted, I named the tradition I teach Third Road. So when it comes to moi, you are preaching to the choir, and this choir is singing, "Yes, yes, yes! Yes to a middle way, yes to a practical life, and yes to the rest of your post." I live as a contemplative but only have use for castles in the sky if their foundations sink into my everyday life. Head in clouds, feet on ground. Yes, yes, yes.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    You are so cool, Francesca. I feel privileged to exchange mutual appreciation notes with someone of your caliber and experience! Thanks to W&P, without which it wouldn't have happened.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Wow, those are very kind words, thank you. It makes me feel good! ... Um, now I'm feeling all goofy and shy ... Forgive me, I'm very shy, which most people don't know about me........

    Yes, I'm grateful for and admiring of Anne's years and years of community work.

    I'm really glad to meet you. I appreciate your warmth. I was at a pagan conference, and was later told by somebody that I was the only person who said hi to her the whole event. I was appalled. It seems people had forgotten the spiritual part of "spiritual conference," LOL.

    So, rock on, let's keep walking a powerful middle path, and embracing community's new members.

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Question for Francesca - Annie? Who is Annie. I come to this entirely untaught & untrained. What minuscule 'training & teaching' I have had has been largely by self to self. A very slight bit has been 'aquired' thru years of work thru 'my' Guilde at a Renaissance Festival. There is so much I do not know. If this makes coherent sense - I don't even really know how much I don't know. Consider me the very quiet, back of classroom student hoping something will eventually make understandable sense.....

    Centre.
    Middle.
    Balance.

    GBH.
    20:02 pac
    9/11/2013

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Hi, well, it seems Ted has answered yr question. But I wanted to add 1) I know that feeling of not knowing the degree of info I lack, and 2) part of my job as a spiritual teacher is helping people teach themselves, bc there are some things that can only be learned that way, so good for you for doing it!

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Anne Newkirk Niven - the hard working Mother Goddess behind Witches & Pagans magazine, Sage Woman and all the others.

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Oh. Thanks, Ted. Have to do a 'look-up' now that I know whom to look-up.....

    Middle Path?
    Today was so far beyond 'emotionally & psychologically brutal' that it has taken me hours just to be quietly calm.
    Balance?
    I was the 'Dark Side' for hours today.
    Centre?
    There were only unmentionable 'visions of .....' something I cannot describe.
    Quiet?
    Not this afternoon.
    Calm?
    How about a raging firestorm.
    Grey?
    Dark red for again the unmentionable.
    Cool down?
    It has taken hours.
    I was shaking in rage.
    Was.
    No longer.
    That fire burned out with no damage to anything but my dignity.
    Healing? Working on it.....
    Very slowly.
    Safety?
    Completely. I am no risk to anybody save as I said to my own dignity. That has been hammered & blasted so often & in so many different ways I no longer even notice - much.....
    So thus today was .....
    So thus tonight is .....
    So thus tomorrow will be? .....

    Rest. Recover. Restore.
    Onwards. Upwards. Forwards.
    Ascend. Transcend. Transform.
    Study. Learn. Grow.
    Be & Become.
    Heal.

    Benedictus Salvus Salvo Salutatio Bonum Sancio Sum.....

    GBH / Astorious
    21:21 pac.
    9/11/2013

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Sorry you had to struggle but i love how you dealt with it and the poem you made of it.

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Boy, I sure understand those powerfully expressed emotions; I've been there! We all have. It may help for me to mention that Nobody keeps himself in the Middle Path at all times - of course not! It's not about being perfect, it's about getting yourself back together again as soon as possible afterwards. One of my spiritual heroes was Swami Satchidananda, who had this lovely metaphor of a Yogi being like a good surfer, going up and down the waves of life but generally maintaining his balance. But when something really big comes along and knocks you into the ocean and you feel like you're drowning - that's when your spiritual practice serves like the leash attached to the surfboard; you use it to slowly get the board back, and then clamber back onto it again until you are standing upright once more. The longer you have practiced, the shorter your recovery time becomes. But nobody is serene and perfect all the time. We're all in this together.

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Yes, indeed. My students all know I am a fool. And they accept me as is. Good thing, bc I am no good at faking the oh-great-spiritual-teacher-who-is-better-than-you! :-)

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Thanks Ted & Francesca.....
    Yes, somethings can only be self taught.....
    Here ... for me ... is a place I where I can 'sit quietly as the student' & who knows .... perhaps even learn something.....

    GBH / Astorious
    21:35 pac.
    9/11/2013

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Yay!

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    My turn for a quiet, back of classroom - wow!
    I am not a surfer. No way...
    But I can certainly visualize it.
    Today I not only got washed off my board but it came back around & hit me.....
    I made it to shore & the only witness was a gull up on a nearby dune.
    Yes. I did a 'wipe-out'.....
    & I'm not even much of a beach boy......

    Healer, heal thyself.....

    I will as soon as the gull stops laughing......

    GBH / Astorious
    22:02 pac.
    9/11/2013

  • Ted Czukor
    Ted Czukor Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    I'm glad you made it to dry land without swallowing too much water! Your self-deprecating sense of humor marks you as one worthy of a long and fruitful career. I look forward to hearing a lot more from you. Best wishes.

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Thanks, Ted.....
    Going to have to 'shut down & plug in & power up'.
    'Smartphone' this may be but when the power light starts flashing yellow you behave & plug in.....

    Later.....

    Benedictus Sancio Salvio Sanctus Bonum Sum.....

    Astorious
    22:30 pac.
    9/11/2013

  • Francesca De Grandis
    Francesca De Grandis Wednesday, 11 September 2013

    Omgoddess, this is such a great exchange because its focus is pretty much practice oriented, as opposed to theory. Um, anyone who has seen the description of my blog here knows that I am more a practitioner, poet, mystic, than I am someone who blogs theory. Mind you, I am a great theorist, theory is important, but I do not discuss it much, bc theoretical discussions—and i am only speaking for myself—clog the opening to the poetry I channel and the experiential mysticism that is the heart of my life. When I learned that Buddha wld not discuss theory with students, I was so happy, bc I'd felt like the Lone Ranger teaching the way I do. Rock on, you two are fun to meet!

  • G. B. Harte
    G. B. Harte Thursday, 12 September 2013

    Hailings?....

    It is the morning after the night before.....

    Yes, Francesca.
    I agree.
    Theory is the 'roadmap' of where you might be going in your explorations & experimental discoveries.
    Theory is for the mind & the classsroom.
    The classsroom mind?
    Practice & practical application is letting the fingers & hands do some explorations & discoveries.
    You need both.
    Without a 'roadmap' how do you know where you are going?
    Without a 'roadmap' how do you know where you have been?
    Working with that 'roadmap' of 'classsroom theory' you know where you & your 'practice & practical applications' are.
    The 'classroom' tells you where you should be.
    The 'application's' are where you actually are.
    At least that is how it works out for me......
    ..... & now to find your blog.....
    Actually both of your blogs.....
    Provided this 'touchscreen' 'smartphone' 'unit' will let me go there......

    GBH / Astorious
    06:50 am pac.
    9/12/2013

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