To Democritus it was euthymia, to Seneca tranquility, to the Buddhists equanimity. All of these concepts point to the same state of mind. The Greek original of “well-being of soul” describes the deft avoidance of extremes for peace of mind. Like Odysseus navigating between Scylla and Charybdis, we navigate our lives between pride and envy, between elation and melancholy, between riches and poverty, between anger and gloating, between cynicism and piety.
The solitary is not immune to any of these extremes of passion. We readily exchange the excesses of the crowd for those of the cell if not vigilant. The key to the middle way is to realize that it is not the mean or mediocre but truly a way with its own distinction, values, vision, and parameters to life. Not an Aristotlean avoidance of extremes but a conscious crafting of the self to capture what is lost and to renounced what is exceeded. As in any creative act, it is no mere middle way to sculpt away excess from a block of wood or marble, or to add or lighten shadow in painting or poetry, or to know when to attend or amend a planted tree. This is the art of living: attentive to when all is changing, in flux, and impermanent — as well as when it is apparently not.