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May Path Update: Right View

May 3, 2017
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‘Buddha’ by Long Chung via Flickr.com

April Report: Right Concentration

I did miserably in April. My morning ten minutes of meditation continued to be spotty, though not entirely absent. I did not do any longer sessions of meditation, guided or otherwise. Not a single one. Sigh. I may have to do round one for this part of my path several times.

On a different note, I did maintain better concentration on regular daily tasks. One very fruitful method was curtailing my Facebook time. Early in the month, I took an entire week away from Facebook. That began a pattern of more mindful and intentional Facebook use.

Social media is very helpful for communicating about events and activities with large audiences, so I will continue to use it for that purpose. However, I no longer use Facebook to cure boredom. I must have a concrete task to accomplish if I am logging on.

Related to that, my mood improved significantly, despite an otherwise high stress month. I attribute this directly to reducing my time on social media. NPR’s Hidden Brain podcast has a great episode that explains why this happens. In nutshell, I abandoned the ‘fear of missing out.’

Coincidentally, I also started listening to Flow: Living at the Peak of Your Abilities by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi while taking the dog for our daily walk. This book is really all about a form of concentration called ‘flow’ that, when it permeates your life, brings profound satisfaction, even joy. This reminded me of my focus and give me some concrete tools for daily life, even though I wasn’t able to improve my meditation habit.

So although I failed abysmally at meditation, the month wasn’t a complete loss.

Right View

The next part of the path is Right View, which is typically listed as the first of the eight parts (even though I decided to start with Right Action). Right View is the understanding of the Four Noble Truths, non-self, and the personal experience of truth, wisdom, or emptiness. For my purposes, I think it best to start at the beginning.

The First Noble Truth is the truth of suffering, the truth that all life is suffering. Although this truth seems self-evident, it is often also difficult to fully internalize. Intellectually, such we can grasp that life is suffering, but when we get down to brass tacks, we often quibble. Well, not all life, surely? Not every single second of every single day? Well, yes, actually.

Different traditions have slightly different things to say about the First Noble Truth, but I tend to prefer the more direct and definitive versions. So long as we are caught in samsara, the endless cycle of rebirth and becoming, then yes, every single second of every single day is permeated by a pervasive underlying sense of dissatisfaction. Even our most joyful moments are permeated by dissatisfaction because we know they will not last, so we grasp at them and mourn the loss of joy even while it is still with us. Only be escaping the cycle of samsara can we achieve true liberation from suffering.

Truly comprehending the First Noble Truth often leads to an experience of samvega, or shock, dismay, or alienation. This is where nihilism and cynicism can creep in. Many experience a low point in their practice here, but it can also lead to renewed motivation if we can develop confidence in the path to liberation. The first step is to continue to investigate the noble truths, to see in our own life that suffering is indeed caused by craving and ignorance and that certain practices do indeed work to alleviate suffering, both in the short-term and long-term.

Round 1: Deepen knowledge of the Four Noble Truths

My goal for this month is to look and see, with Right View, how suffering permeates my life and what practices contribute to it or alleviate it, that I might develop a stronger and deeper motivation to practice. This is an ongoing process, but I will dedicate additional attention to it in the month of May. I will do this by:

Both of the above works deal extensively with the unsatisfactory nature of the present life and the need to cultivate Right View in order to practice and achieve liberation.

Round 2: See through the delusion of the egoic self.

Round 3: Develop wisdom and skillful means for work in the world.

June: Right Intention

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 6, 2017 10:37 am

    Look forward to reading more.

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