“You cannot travel on the path until you become the path itself” ~ Buddha
The men who got together to put the Buddhas teachings into a written cannon had some highly developed organizational skills!
Though at first this was a bit off putting to be inundated with so much structure, as I grew into my Buddhist practice I realized that it isn’t meant to be the same as knowing the names of all seven dwarves just to get that next pie piece in Trivial Pursuit. You don’t have to have it all on the tip of your tongue at all times. The lists are not memorized in order to pass an exam – they are lived.
You read about something like the Eight Fold Path (which is the third of the Four Noble Truths), digest it, and make use of what is there for you. You work from where you are. You focus on what your life is calling you to focus on at any given moment and when your life calls on you to focus on something else, you do.
With that said, below is a brief introduction to the Eight Fold Path element of Buddhist philosophy. As a suggestion, pick an area that speaks to you and return to it again and again today. See what it brings to your awareness.
The Path, as it’s often called, is considered by many to be the heart of Buddhist practice. It’s a guide to everyday living – lived consciously and with awareness.
Right View has two aspects. Focusing on this area helps us to see ourselves and the world without delusion. Setting aside our expectations to get at what is and then staying in this place – even in difficult times. It also helps us to see how we cling to our perceptions and opinions and view them as permanent and true, when really they are impermanent and subjective.
Right Intention is about mindfulness. It’s important to pay attention to our intentions. Are we coming from a place of anger or frustration? When our co-workers’ email offends us, are we writing back from our annoyed place, or have we taken a few deep breaths, pulled ourselves together, and responded from a place of compassion and understanding? All actions, from our meditation practice to a difficult conversation to a trip to the grocery store need our mindfulness and positive intention.
Right Action stems from Right Intention. With positive intentions, it’s difficult to have negative actions! This area helps us focus on how we behave and interact with the world. It’s not so much about right and wrong behavior as it is about asking yourself, “Is this action harming myself or another.”
Right Speech helps us to communicate in such a way that we are sure not to lie, be deceptive in any way, gossip, or otherwise hurt another. It’s not about never voicing an opinion or saying difficult things, it’s about thinking before you speak (or write) and determining if what you have to say and the way you plan to say it will do more harm than good. If yes, reset your intention and reframe you words!
Right Livelihood focuses on how we earn our living. It’s not about a right or wrong place to work or way to earn money. It’s asking yourself, “Is what I’m doing helping others or causing suffering?” You could be working at the most active non-profit community oriented business, but if you are unkind to co-workers, rude to customers, taking post-its from the supply closet home with you, then your intentions aren’t in the right place.
Right Effort often refers to our practice. It’s the motivation we put in to being in the world. Most Buddhists consider their practice to be every interaction they have – not just their meditation time. It’s important to be mindful of where we are putting our energy. Right Effort encourages us to develop compassion and let go of everything that doesn’t serve us.
Right Mindfulness is paying attention – short and sweet. Most of us live in our heads, focused on the past or future. We’re not present when our spouse is detailing his day or we’re obsessively thinking about an upcoming conversation instead of fully engaging in the one we’re currently having. Mindfulness keeps us in the present, and the present is where our truth and consciousness grow from.
Right Concentration (meditation) is the art of focusing on one object. Mindfulness encompasses whatever we are currently experiencing, and Concentration excludes everything but our chosen object. Concentration improves memory and keeps us sharp and rooted in the present moment.
The Path is meant to be explored and lived daily. It’s not linear and best approached in a natural, tension-free manner – meaning, don’t beat yourself up if you press send on that nasty response to your co-worker. Be aware of your intentions and work on understanding yourself, and the way you interact in the world, bit by bit, better and better.
And if you really want to explore these powerful tools of Buddhist philosophy on all levels then join us in Bhutan this December on our Mastering The Buddha Nature Within tour where we will explore these in just the right kind of setting with the right kind of people! Click here to book!
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Read more from Lisa’s blogs around the web.. Click here..
Lisa’s writings on Elephant journal click here..
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