CEO: The Uncomfortable Medium — Buddha Wants You To Do It

Aug 2, 2019, 13:59 PM by Chris Coker

At the Y, our pools are kept at around 83 degrees. It is not easy to keep them at that temperature because of the fluctuations in temperature of the surrounding environment, and it is a lot of water to heat up and cool down.

Also, everyone hates 83 degrees. The lap swimmers find it too hot, and the kids find it chilly. It is the uncomfortable medium, but that is how I know it is the right temperature. If we had a preponderance of lap swimmers vs. “bathers,” or vice versa, we might skew the temperature in a different direction, but we don’t.

This term in philosophy is called the “Middle Path,” and it is regarded as the first lesson that Buddha taught when he reached enlightenment. I did not hear about his growing up because Buddha was not a headliner at summer Bible Camp.

Basically, Buddha philosophized that being overly indulgent is not healthy nor was beating up on yourself and living a monastic life. Life is not about extremes; it is about the middle path. Don’t wallow in either extreme. 

We all hate the sports team that must win at any cost, but we also hate coaches that don’t hold their players to any standard of practice or self-improvement. “Doing your best” means that you must put in some work, you must compromise between what you want to do and what you need to do. It means that you must have some self-discipline — but not too much.

This is a subtle message for kids to learn, but one of the most necessary lessons you can teach them.

The student who sacrifices his or her social life for school is not right, and the kid who never pushes himself or herself and parties all the time is not right either.

Currently, we live in an age of extreme politics. It dominates the news cycle with one side bashing the other in the extreme. It is like two kids in the backseat of a car during a long road-trip: “Susan is breathing on me!” 

The reality is that both sides have good points, and they need to meet in the uncomfortable middle. None of us should be role-modeling hate of two disparate ideals. We should be discussing them with our children and helping them to find the middle path that works. It may never happen in reality, but it is an important skill. One side says we need more security — “Build the wall” — and the other side says, “Tear down the wall.” 


The reality is that we want security against human trafficking, drugs and terrorism. However, that should not be at the cost of humanitarian efforts and human lives. There is a middle path here, but we need to raise a generation of children who recognize that and can negotiate it.

What are you teaching in your house? Sometimes tough decisions need to be made, but they need to be made thoughtfully, calmly and with a lot of information.

It is a cliché to say that we live in a soundbite world, but clichés are often based in truth. We have decided that tweets, Facebook and pop-up news updates are real. They are real, but are they always true? Or have they been skewed and created to meet a goal? Did Russia interfere in the last election? There is evidence to support that they did, and if so, we should be outraged.

I am not sure how to stop the continuation of skewed news and out-of-context sound bites — other than by questioning statements on social media and doing our own research. But we all have the ability to teach our children to question what they hear and read. It is about teaching your child critical thinking skills. When your child comes up with some crazy statement — “I know a kid who went to the space station for a school trip, and they live in Houston, so you know it’s true.” — it is OK to ask your kid to think through the statement and think about the information and evidence that support or refute the story. 

Your response needs to be challenging. You need to help them ferret out the truth because next time they may say or believe an incorrect statement that is much more critical or harmful, like, “Every Muslim wants to kill every Christian.” 

Belief in horrible statements like this can start riots, create Jim Crow laws, and sow the seeds of hate. 

All trees grow from small seeds. Make sure that your house is planting the right seeds, so your kids know facts from opinions, know what they believe in and can help to create a world that espouses the middle path.


Chris Coker 
YMCA of Northern Colorado