When I look into my life’s rear view mirror, I am amazed at how I see things in the present versus how I saw things “back” then.
Sometimes, the contrast is so significant I find myself overwhelmed with uncertainty… struggling to believe what I’m seeing, how I’m feeling, unsure of my perceptions, choices and understanding of reality.
The struggle isn’t that I feel uncertain or unclear in the moment—I have a strong inner confidence and sense of what’s what…. But that confidence can be the exact thing that freaks me out—if I was so certain and confident back then and now I see things so differently, what’s the real truth, the right choice, the Noble path?
In many ways, the saying “when you know better, do better” is about as foundational of a spiritual principle as you can find. I think if you live this way as thoroughly as possible you probably wind up this life with no regret and a deep satisfaction.
Learning to see things as they are in this present moment is seriously hard. When I look back, I can see that my actions were clearly based on the facts, situation, influences and state of mindfulness I had at the time.
When I finally connected the dots and could see what was happening, I realized I needed a rigorous set of principles to guide me… a spiritual practice that I could work on to make sure that my moments would add up to a life I was proud of and made my world better.
I wanted to make sure that in every moment I had the best chance at being mindful, noble, kind, awake and doing the best I possibly could with whatever I had available… I wanted to be certain that if I knew better, I was doing better and I wanted a rigorous path to follow to keep me alive, humble and in service to my world.
My search lead me to a study of the Eightfold Path and I’ve been exploring it and really living it a while now. It’s changed me significantly and on any given day it guides my thoughts and actions in a direction that I’m proud of and leads me to the noblest life I can lead.
The Eightfold path is considered the heart of the Buddhist teachings although it has nothing much to do with any religion and I can’t imagine a religion that could find objection with it. Probably every religion could use some different words but have a nearly identical intention.
The Eightfold path is made up of Right View, Right Intention, Right action, Right speech, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness and Right concentration.
It’s simple enough to understand– our views and intentions and actions and speech and how we earn money and the effort we put forth and the mindfulness and concentration we put into things is more than enough to work on and if we just make sure we’re noble in those 8 areas, we probably have an amazing life.
The Eightfold path is commonly referred to as “the path” and is considered a road map for us to explore, test and practice as a way to live everyday with nobility. In following and practicing the path, you learn to see life as it is, to accept it and embrace it and find the joy in any circumstance.
For me, it helped my judgments fall away and has given me motivation and strength to up my kindness in all my affairs, to be more aware and thoughtful in every exchange, to empty my mind and drop the mental noise and anguish that can torment me. The delusions that I manufacture seem to dissipate and even when they still show up, I catch them sooner, recognize what’s happening and get back to center quick.
Buddhist scripture says the Eightfold path leads to liberation from our suffering and to an awakened, enlightened life. I don’t know about those things…. I just know that when I practice these principles in all my affairs, my life becomes easier, full of joy and peace and overwhelmed by sustainable happiness.
It is all the time?
Of course not. Some days still totally suck.
But with a rigorous commitment to keep at it, I find myself coming back to center faster and faster– and I stay on a little longer each time.
During everyday, I remind myself of the Eightfold path in one way or another. I read and study ancient teachings about it; I listen to how others use it to navigate their lives. Mostly, I remind myself and set my intentions to live in nobility and kindness, to follow this path wherever my life goes.
I do this not because some scripture says to or because of any religious instruction—I do it because I see the evidence, I see fruitage show up all over the lives of people who walk this ancient road.
Over the next 8 weeks, I’m going to explore each of the Eight and share what I discover as I dive in and live as nobly as possible.
Sign up here to subscribe and follow along… and share if you care to join me in the exploration. I remain convinced, everything works when you work it.
“In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration…I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death…Knowing that directly, I have revealed it to monks, nuns, male lay followers & female lay followers…”
“Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.” ~Carl Jung
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