I thought I would change it up a bit and since there are eight days before it is the Buddha’s birthday (April 8th). I thought I might give you my take on the eight fold path which are the practices the Buddha presented to lead to liberation from samsara (suffering).
The Eightfold Path consists of eight practices: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right samadhi ('meditative absorption or union’). Today we will begin with Right View.
What does that even mean? I won’t be so arrogant to say what they mean in Buddhism or to the Buddha but instead what they mean to me, what my understanding is of them and how they play out in my life. How I try to use the teachings and practices to live a more authentic and loving life.
First of all, let me address the whole “right” concept. We live in a world where we are always lumping things into categories: good/bad, like/don’t like, right/wrong. That is not what Right means in this context. Right just means “on the path”. Sort of, if you want to follow this path, then you will adopt this view which is right on the path. I hope that makes sense. It is really up for interpretation for everyone. But right here means following more than it means RIGHT. I think true would be a better word here but hey, what do I know? True would likely have just as much misunderstanding and issue now that I think about it.
The view portion of Right View means simply that you subscribe to the notion that all of our behavior has consequences. And those consequences do not end at death. They continue and are attached to the energy of the soul that follows a “person” throughout all of time. This would include Karma and Rebirth - heavy subjects for another day...
The purpose of right view is to clear the path from confusion, deluded thinking and misunderstanding. It is the means by which you are able to clear out the self and see reality. In its most basic terms, right view is really about allowing yourself to not view anything anymore, allowing objects to cease being defined by the concepts of your mind. It is a clearing out of old ideas and beliefs and concepts to allow for a more expansive view of pretty much everything.
Right view goes on to encompass the Four Noble Truths:
1. Suffering or being incapable of being satisfied is an innate part of life and cannot be avoided.
2. The cause of suffering is because of craving, desire and attachment.
3. Suffering can be eliminated by removing craving, desire and attachment.
4. You eliminate craving, desire and attachment by following the Eight Fold Path.
Yep, you guessed it, it is a loop.
For me, Right View is very simple. Having Right View is just seeing that my mind makes up stories that are based upon my cravings, desires and attachments. I believe these stories so I suffer. Right View just means that I see that I am doing this. It isn’t this heavy “hey you better cut that shit out” instead it is a much more gentle, “hey, sweetie, you are doing it again.” And then dropping the storyline and returning to the breath and the moment that is always fresh and free from cravings, desires and attachments.
That is all it is to me. It is very simple. Right View is just my willingness to see that I have all these strategies for life that result in me suffering, the first step to not suffering is to realize all the strategies I deploy in this effort and that those exact strategies are the ones that make me suffer. Again with the loop. To take Right View is just to see that I do this over and over and over again and that I always likely will. But I have an opportunity to begin practicing something different, just by noticing that I am doing it and then doing something else other than what I always do.
Just seeing this has been so incredibly helpful to me. I offer it here to you in the hope that it might be helpful to you too. I am not all that concerned with getting anywhere with this. I just have agreed to practice noticing how I respond to life, the ways in which that response furthers my suffering and all the ways that I have other choices that are less painful and lead to less suffering.
What I have noticed about myself now is that I have been eating a lot of sugar and mindlessly numbing out to TV for hours a night. My Right View this week was just to notice that I did this. Then to further notice that I did not want to live my life that way. I didn’t beat myself up or start a storyline where I suck and am not a good person. I just noticed that I was doing it and sat with that reality for awhile. Then I spent a little time thinking about why I was doing it. I was afraid. I was afraid of all that was going on, all that I knew, all that I didn’t know, all the things I lacked, all the things I had. But when I boiled it all down, what I really was afraid of was living. My life and its current quarantined format was overwhelming me by the removal of a great deal of distractions which required me to alter all of my storylines about my life. I could not say any longer that I didn’t have time to cook (not true - totally have time for that now), to exercise (not true -totally have time for that now). I literally have time for everything now and that kind of freaked me out! I was faced with the fact that this is my life and I am now really in charge of how I am living it. I was also faced with the fact that this isn’t really new, what has changed is my story about my life and I can now, using Right View, see all the ways in which I fed myself a lot of bullshit before and now can see it for what it was.
What is really interesting is that as soon as I noticed that I was living my life in a manner that caused me to be less awake, I stopped. It wasn't hard, there was not struggle. I just stopped eating all the sugar and haven't watched TV all week...ta dah!
So Right View is always there for me to remember to come back to the present moment. When I am present I am not craving, desiring or attaching. I am just there living my life in that beautiful, peaceful, serene moment. Take that in for a moment. Feels pretty damn good really.
For me Right View reminds me that I have a choice in the way that I think. I can allow my cravings, desires and attachments to direct and control my life or I can just stop and remember that those are the exact things that make me unhappy, sad and suffer. I can do this with a gentleness with myself. I can just allow myself to see myself, you, life, whatever with a clear vision of what is. I can allow the stories my mind throws around to just fall away and what I am left with is this beautiful little place called the present. And right here, right now all is well.