To my understanding, N8P is the Buddha's middle way to liberation, which is a path without going to the extremes (e.g. of self torture or self indulgence). We are so fortunate to have the Buddha's middle way for our practice; however, "middle way" is easy to understand intellectually but difficult to put into actual practice. Thanks to Retro's very helpful advice on establishing "Right View" as the first step of the path and Bhante Piyadhammo's guidance on reading MN suttas without being distracted by other teachings, the first year of my practice was mainly focused on reading and pondering about the Dhamma. At the middle and end of this year, I got virtually the same advice from several highly respected teachers to close the books and meditate/practice/study my body and mind instead. At the moment that I had decided to follow this advice and put the books away, I "accidentally" met another monk at the Buddhist reception room in Bangkok airport due to an unexpected mistake about the flight time, who emphasized the importance of studying the suttas and taught me to reflect on the teachings that are difficult to understand during Samadhi. All these finally made me realize that I need to find/apply the middle way to the Dhamma study and practice. So from then on I spent the second year of my practice on both, trying to walk in the middle.
Another example is concerning how to avoid too much investigation. Again almost all masters I've consulted advised me to restrain or stop thinking/questioning but to meditate. While appreciating their advice and realizing the habitual thinking/questioning are indeed hindrances (restlessness/agitation/doubt) and a mind with hindrance can't see the truth, I also wondered if we should use thinking/questioning for wise reflection and investigation while mind is calm. This morning I happened to listen to a talk (http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/?s
... nunciation by Joseph Goldstein), in which Joseph mentioned the need to balance investigation without going to an extreme. Again there it is -- balance ("balance" here means not going to the two extremes).
While it's so easy to get lost in the extremes on our path, we really need to remind ourselves and each other again and again of the Buddha's middle way, in order to practice rightly. I'd highly appreciate the fellow companions' reminding if you see me lost in extremes.
Thanks and metta,