Day 180 - Second Fold - Right Resolve
Welcome to Day Two of the Eight Fold Path...
We are examining Right Resolve today.
This one, I think, is a harder for some than others. For me, this one was relatively easy in its most basic form because I was born with this unnatural and all consuming need to not cause harm. Let me explain...
Right resolve can also be known as "right thought", "right intention", "right aspiration", or "right motivation”. It is here that the monastic person would resolve to leave home, renounce the worldly life and dedicate himself to an ascetic pursuit. For the rest of us it means resolving to commit your life to freedom of ill will or dedicate yourself to harmlessness.
Right Resolve has two levels: at the mundane level we are attempting to live our lives being harmless and refraining from ill will to ANY being. Doing this accrues karma and leads to rebirth. At the supramundane level, right resolve means to consider everything and everyone as impermanent, a source of suffering and without a self.
Let’s take the not harming...
I have always been worried about harming others. Since I was a little girl I hated hurting other peoples feelings, did not engage in mean girl conduct and was super sensitive to any “meanness” in the world. Ask my mom, raising me had to be super hard...I was a mess every time someone looked at me wrong. I just couldn’t handle it. I had no defense against anyone’s expression of ill will. I grew a tough outer exterior over the years but that was really just a cover that once I got sober began to be ventilated and showed me that I was still a total marshmallow on the inside. Today, I am totally ok with all my sensitivity, all my desire to not harm, all my machinations to not cause harm to any beings. I am all mushy inside and I have learned to love this about myself.
Of course I am human and I do cause harm. Recently, my house was infested with ants. I asked them politely to leave for days. They refused. So I had to deploy methods to change their minds. I was kind of a mess about the whole thing. It really bothered me to kill the ants. Finally, I went around and plugged up the place they were coming in with Elmer’s glue.
I know the fact that I talked to the ants and then was upset when I had to kill them makes me kind of a nut to many of you. I am not acting in this manner because I am a saint or because I am even practicing right resolve. I am just this way. Always have been which is why I said earlier that this was a little easier for me. I was just born with this very strong desire not to hurt anyone or anything.
I stopped eating meat at 13. Now I did it to win a battle with my father on one level but really it was my love for animals, all animals, that made this a lasting commitment for my life. Now I have not maintained perfect adherence to this principle since 13 - I will fully admit that 2 am Taco Bell happened a lot in the 90s. But since November 2007, I have completely refrained from eating any “food with a face.” I was vegan for awhile there but succumbed to cheese’s supernatural powers and have not been able to free myself since.
For me, I try to live every day adding something to the lives of those about me regardless of whether they are human, animal, or insect. It is a being and that is all I see.
The other part of Right Resolve is this idea that everything is impermanent and to view the world that way. This has taken my lifetime but I really do see everything as fleeting now and that the only I can really rely upon is that it changes. I still have a mind that wants to do things once: fall in love, clean the house, clean the car, exercise and then be done...FOREVER. But that is not life. Not my life, not yours either. Life is just a series of one thing after another and often the same thing over and over again. Everything dies and everything is born. This results in the whole of our existence being impermanent. It is our incessant demand that things be fixed when they are in fact never fixed that causes us all to suffer.
Finally, right resolve is honing the ability to see everyone with no self. We are not the people we present ourselves to be. There is no true Erin. Erin has been a million different things to different people. There is no solid self for me to return to...instead there is just this collection of stories I tell myself about myself that lead me to believe in this identity that I can live with...you do it too. But really, there is no self. We, whether we like it or not, are constantly shifting and changing and the self that started writing this blog has now morphed into a new person with every single word that falls upon this page.
For me, Right Resolve is to live every day of my life appreciating that every moment is precious. I can make it more precious by committing and living my life in a manner that doesn’t cause harm to those beings around me, all of them, from tiny ant to other humans. I will fail daily but that should not change my resolve. I can fall back on impermanence when I falter because I can know that if I just failed, that is not a permanent condition and I can do something different and change it right now. The great big ME that exists in my mind isn’t really there for me or you. So when the giant self of you is coming into conflict with the giant self of ME, I can relax and remember that there is no self for either of us and we can relax and just come fully into the present moment.
Sounds easy...but it isn’t. It is hard and it takes practice and for me, I think the best use of my life is to continue to practice this every day, all day until I am no longer here. I resolve to do that and that feels right.