The longer I live and dive into what makes my days work, I notice that the order of things really matters.
As I embrace reality, I see how many things need to come at the right time, in the right season— corn planted in the winter doesn’t bring a plentiful harvest and I’ve spent some time planting seeds in the dead of winter instead of observing the climate and paying close attention to how impactful my efforts will be.
I’ve known this in my head for YEARS before I was able to actually pause, observe, and then act accordingly. I find that an intellectual understanding of things is far different from actually owning it and acting with the awareness.
It takes a while to get from my head to my heart and until I really get it, I don’t get it.
The first step of the Eightfold Path is Right View… or as some people have interpreted it, Skillful understanding. Although the order isn’t supposed to matter, I find this makes perfect sense as a starting point— the other steps…Right Intention, Right action, Right speech, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness and Right concentration all require Right view, a clear and distinct understanding of reality.
For me to ever really get something I have to know why I’m doing it— I need to be firmly grounded in common sense and have a careful understanding of reality to accomplish anything.
Right view isn’t just a decision for me—It takes a rigor and daily commitment. How I eat, what I drink, how much I move my body—who I surround myself with… it all matters.
I’m influenced by emotions and past hurt and anticipated joy more than I ever understood. For way too long, I thought I was in the present not realizing how much other moments were influencing me.
Right view requires vigilance… I can’t avoid being influenced—and I think “be here now” people are mostly full of shit…. Yesterday got you to this moment and this moment will lead you to the next and next —the most we can do is see things as they really are, acknowledge the realities of this life and embrace it as fiercely as possible.
“Open our eyes and understand the choices we make lead to happiness or unhappiness.”~ Bhante G
I took some time exploring right view – I recorded my thoughts and actions and feelings every single day for more than a year and then I went back and carefully observed what happened… what influenced me, what I was doing when my life seemed to work and what I was doing when it didn’t work as well.
I discovered a basic truth.
The same thoughts, practice and actions, in different moments, bring wildly varying results. Sometimes life is amazing and everything feels right and whole and beautiful and alive and sometimes life and this day are so totally crushing that I can hardly get thru and sometimes nothing will change that reality.
Because I had so much data, I was able to finally really understand that both joy and misery exist, period, end of story. Things certainly can influence the range between the two, but for me, no matter what, both exist.
This awareness became my liberation.
When joy arises, I observe it’s causes and express gratitude because I know it won’t last forever. When misery closes in, I know without a doubt now that this too shall pass.
I spent a long time trying to experience joy and attain happiness… I tried to relieve myself from pain and suffering. It worked in fleeting bursts but I could never gain sustainability.
I finally realized that my job was to be aware and just observe the reality and the range, to accept and embrace it, to trust it all and to constantly, vigilantly practice mindfulness, acceptance, gratitude and humility.
I know for sure now that everything I think or do is a cause that inevitably leads to some effect— so I make sure my actions, as best as I can, create a cause that leads to a life I want….. the rest I embrace, put on my seat belt and prepare for the ride.
All possible, because of the first step: Right View.
Thich Nhat Hanh wrote: “Our happiness and the happiness of those around us depend on our degree of Right View. Touching reality deeply — knowing what is going on inside and outside of ourselves — is the way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that is caused by wrong perceptions. Right View is not an ideology, a system, or even a path. It is the insight we have into the reality of life, a living insight that fills us with understanding, peace, and love.” (The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching, page 51)
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