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June Path Update: Right Intention

June 1, 2017
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‘Buddha’ by Jan Brünemann via Flickr.com

May Report: Right View

Round 1: Deepen knowledge of the Four Noble Truths.

I forgot to keep a nightly journal almost as soon as I wrote my plan. I just don’t know where that went. I did start trying to write a little (30 minutes) at night before bed, but that habit was spotty and I completing forgot my focal writing prompt.

I am trying to strengthen an evening routine that includes more chores, exercise, and writing, and less watching television. However, since I am currently in weak shape, the exercise really wears me out. Some crazy people say exercise energizes them to read, write, or do other cognitive tasks. Presently, exercise just exhausts me and it’s all I can do to hold myself up in the shower. I hope this will change over the next three months as I become fitter and I can establish the habit of an evening journal

I did, however, do better on morning meditation, hitting 4 of 5 weekdays throughout May. I am now also trying to incorporate weekend morning meditation and am currently 1 of 2 on that. My entire morning routine is becoming more solid, including eating breakfast at home and taking a healthy packed lunch to work.

Sadly, however, I also did not do much reading of the books I identified.

What I Learned

Overall, I would have to say that this month was a bust because I just didn’t remind myself of my goals or follow through. Some of this is seasonal. Early May is busy as our students finish classes and prepare to graduate and faculty finish grading and annual program assessment. Then there is a lull in the two weeks following commencement. Everything seems roomier and slower. There are fewer deadlines and meetings, less to manage and push. As a result, I let myself become a little laissez faire about my task list. Right View clearly suffered from the busy/lazy swing of May. Perhaps June will be better.

June: Right Intention

Contracts are renewed in June, so I have been thinking a lot about my career. Conversations over the past few months with my dissertation advisor have clarified how my dissertation serves as a launch pad for my bid for a faculty job at the end of my PhD program. Simultaneously, some unexpected personnel changes at work have prompted me to consider opportunities and challenges within my current institution.

I always feel conflicted when considering my career. Much of how we make career choices and job bids is permeated with ambition, competition, politics, and personal promotion. My intentions get all tangled. Am I really advocating the best solution for all? Or am I just going after what I want? To make matters more confusing, there is often significant overlap in that venn diagram, but their are no sharp lines to tell you when you’ve strayed out of the overlap zone and into sheer selfishness.

Right Intention, on the other hand, is the resolution to act free from ill-will and cause no harm. Selfishness blinds us to the harm we do to others. Right Intention also includes an attitude of renunciation or a letting go of desires that may hinder us on the path. Ambition is the direct opposite of renunciation.

The Buddha advised Rahula [MN 61], his son, to reflect on bodily, verbal, and mental acts before doing them, while doing them, and after doing them to ascertain if they lead to self-affliction, the affliction of others, or both. Where they cause affliction, they were unfit and one should resolve to give them up. Where they bring happy results, they were fit and he should have the intention to continue them.

But how can we discern when short-term affliction may lead to long term happiness? And how can we discern affliction at all when many of the consequences of our actions are hidden from us?

We cannot always know the consequences of our actions, because we cannot always control how they will be received by others or how those others will communicate with us. This is precisely why Right Intention is so important. We can always do our utmost to understand our own minds, which are our constant companions.

Have I acted from ill-will, sensual desire, or delusion? Did I act with loving-kindness and compassion as my intention?

While loving-kindness cannot always ensure a good result, it can ensure a Right Intention. If the result is bad, then I am motivated by that same loving-kindness and compassion to make amends and learn from my mistake. If the result is good, then I can dwell in sympathetic joy. And when I do feel motivated by desire or ambition, I can abide in equanimity and reflect to clarify my intention.

Therefore, during this month, I resolve to strengthen myself in the brahmaviharas (divine abodes), particularly in loving-kindness and compassion.

Round 1: Cultivate Right Intention through the brahmaviharas or four virtues of loving-kindness, compassion, equanimity, and sympathetic joy.

  • Do a 4-minute metta meditation each morning
  • Pause to reflect on suggestions and proposals at work to clarify intentions before sharing them with others
  • Write out a career plan (or more than one) that clearly outlines potential risks and benefits in order to clarify intention
  • Pause to reflect on requests made at home to clarify intentions before burdening my partner

Round 2: Systematically reflect on the outcomes of thoughts, speech, and action to determine what intentions drove them

Round 3: Act from loving-kindness and compassion through volunteering or other altruistic work

July: Right Speech

 

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