The Eightfold Path

1016-relax-and-succeed-all-beings-trembleYesterday we discussed two common descriptions of the Four Noble Truths. In the other common expression of those Truths the final stanza is different from those discussed yesterday in that it tells you that the path to the cessation of suffering is The Eightfold Noble Path, which relates to the Truth’s daily manifestations. In short, you must live in daily alignment with your spirituality lest your spirituality be a hollow theory rather than enacted enlightenment.

Right View merely means that you must perceive things as they truly are, which are manifestations of your thoughts about reality. Your ego must not colour reality and then react to itself rather than to the world. Your opinions about people are not those people.

Right Intention relates to the respect contained within your intention. This is why some people can use what gets called a racist word in a non-racist way; people are confident of their intention and so the word’s meaning can be altered. Likewise, people can use all of the right words but still fail on The Eightfold Path because they maintain status-based intentions, even if that’s just who’s right and who’s wrong.

1016-relax-and-succeed-the-eightfold-noble-pathRight Speech means that your words must heal and not harm. This gets trickier when it comes to telling people painful truths like talking to them about an addiction but, even in those situations, if we calm ourselves we will know those times when the only thing preventing us from speaking up is that our ego wants to be liked more than our spirit (which is the same in all of us) wants to be respected. Use your words to heal and not harm.

Right Action is to take the same positive attitude with behaviour that you take with communication, so if your friend is going to leave a party drunk and drive home then you have to not only say something, you have to take the keys too. You cannot worry about your ego being liked the next day; you have to do the right thing in the moments you’re in and not wish you did them later. Most guilt comes from non-action.

Right Livelihood is one of the trickiest ones for people because we can get good at justifying things when they reflect well on our ego and make our material life better. When it comes to relating Right Speech and Right Intention and Right Action, to our work, it’s suddenly easy to understand why Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on not understanding it.” There’s a lot of people who pray regularly who will still comfortably prey on a fellow human being. Those would be useless and hollow prayers.

Right Effort means that you want to move in increasingly more loving, nonjudgmental and cooperative ways so that Right Action and Right Words flow more naturally from the direction your life is always pointed.

1016-relax-and-succeed-four-nobel-truthsRight Mindfulness relates to your internal thoughts. Are you an ego talking to itself in words, or are you your spiritual self; a wordless observer who acts wholly based on the steps above? Without proper mindfulness it would be impossible to maintain the other aspects of the path. Your mind must be quiet and your understanding of The Four Noble Truths must be solid.

Right Concentration means that your mind needs to practice the underlying focus for all of the other steps in the Path. If you cannot maintain a relatively steady and active understanding of The Four Noble Truths then you cannot see those steps manifested in your path even though they may be right in front of you.

Look at your life. See where it does not align with these behaviours. You will feel a resistance within yourself wherever your behaviour requires justification. You might be able to explain it to yourself using ego-based words about what’s good for you, but in the end we all know we can feel when we’ve done something wrong. So in the end, when he said “When I do good I feel good, when I do bad I feel bad. That is my religion,” even Abraham Lincoln proved he was living by The Eightfold Path even though he wouldn’t have ever heard of it.

The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path are not difficult concepts to understand. They are challenging to live on a daily basis if we function from a place of ego, so make sure you quiet that frightened, judgmental voice within you and your path will appear before you. From there it’s really just a matter of you deciding to be as absolute as possible about sticking to your path, and even that’s not hard when you get to see the kind of people walking that path alongside you.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Maintaining Awareness

1002-relax-and-succeed-drink-tea-slowly-and-reverentlyPeople often ask me if what I “teach” will last. The truth is, I don’t so much teach it as show you how to experience it. Once you know that you know it (like you know how to multiply numbers), you realise it’s just not something you forget. It’s a verb, not idle knowledge.

Now, my insight was the opposite of my students because they realise they are thinking and I realised the rest of you didn’t know you were thinking but the effect is the same: when you first encounter this profound truth there definitely is an extreme high of joy that extends for months, but even that feeling we can get used to. Our guard goes down and some ego creaks in.

1002-relax-and-succeed-be-not-afraid-of-going-slowlyI get asked if the glow of my initial realisation still exists today and I’m clear that I have no idea. Maybe I’m just as well off but that awareness is now so common it’s nearly invisible to me, or maybe I’ve slipped back into more ego but not all ego. There’s no solid ground to judge something like that from, so it really falls to our nature: do we feel like more study would deepen our connection or are we happy with where we are?

Now, all this said, we all still go through those roughly eight year cycles I often write about. Once you’re good at being someone it’s time to be someone else, so it’s during those times I usually hear from former students/clients. They’ll wonder if they need the guidance because they can see they still perceive the world differently than the full-time egos around them, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t more to explore. This journey has no end. In the end it’s up to them.

The first part of the process is often about a series of small realisations that add up to a much different perspective, but even in the cases of profound and sudden change (those are very exciting), that first blush is the first step into this new reality but it certainly doesn’t show us that entire reality. I’m lucky, I’m constantly reminded to stay in my health because it’s my job to wander around inside this truth and show it to people.

D1002-relax-and-succeed-life-is-a-one-time-offero I know I make the world with my thoughts? Yes. Can I still get caught up taking those thoughts too seriously? Yes. But without not-path you can’t have a path, so that in itself is not us being outside of the truth, it just means we’re failing to recognise it as the truth. In this way the path is like a Mobius Strip. If you think you’re off the path you’re off the path. Believe you’re on and you’re on. The rest is awareness management.

There comes a time in a more advanced student’s life where they’re ready to get past managing emotions and they want to truly delve into the constructs of reality. This is deep work for me and it’s my favourite to do. This is where psychology meets spirituality. It still makes surprising sense for such ineffable subjects, but it is also grand and mysterious all at the same time. The challenges in the journey definitely get more pleasant once you’re through the door.

How far people want to take their study is up to them but they certainly don’t need me, Buddhism or Yoga. You’re always your own best teacher. At the same time, if you’re the sort that prefers to have an experienced guide along the way, that’s valid too. Which one is right for you only you can feel, but either way, the yin and yang of the path and not-path will always be where you are and you always be safe there regardless of what you think.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Emotional Conclusions

You have a primary one of these. It’ll be invisible to you because you’re blinded by your ego’s narrative justifications but it’ll be what most other people primarily know as your personality. We have those angry friends, or the passive ones, or the judgmental ones, or the make-peace ones and we’re one of those too. Won’t it be interesting for you to figure out which one you are?

984-relax-and-succeed-anxiety-girlThat is the definition of a meditation. Use thought to take the thinker apart. If someone brings you a bald fact like; something broke, are you inclined to immediately want to ascribe blame? Do you immediately get angry? Do you immediately offer help? Do you apologise even if you had nothing to do with what went wrong? You’ll do all of these, but you’ll do one or two of them a lot. Those are your most common emotional conclusions. You’ll look at facts but you’re subconsciously heading toward a particularly family of negative energy conclusions.

This is why it is important to become conscious. Your brain should not be allowed to chew through the world all willy-nilly without someone guiding it. It doesn’t matter what happens you always have choices about how you react to anything so it makes sense that we would want to practice that sort of control. That means slowing down our processes.

We have to get off autopilot by forgetting our objective. We can’t have a destination we’re trying to force a conversation toward. That silent objective is our enemy. It is created in a false future by our ego. We need to be fully aware of the person we’re communicating with in the present moment. We need to hear what they say with no expectation and we have to simply let the information be, and trust that our real answer will emerge naturally. We must be patient for wisdom to become known to us.

984-relax-and-succeed-conclusionYou’ll have a personality. There’s nothing wrong with that. Bands need both lead singers and drummers. So don’t be afraid to be yourself, but be a conscious self. Be aware that your ego tilts towards particular types of thoughts. Some people are more afraid where others are more adventurous. Some are strict and some play fast and loose. Some are very serious and others are very humorous. Some are helpful others are selfish. And some of these people are us.

You’ll still get caught in ego and have reactions you regret, but as you get more distance between your true self and your automatic ego-responses you will find it easier to apologise for your ego. It’s almost as though it’s another person, like it’s your dumb twin that often does the wrong and selfish thing.

Egos think the world is about them, although they see those times as the world being “wrong.” Your higher self has no personal perspective at all and it’s that very open awareness that helps your soul divine the direction of your path through life. To struggle is to swim across or against the current. To soar is to float in the centre of the Tao, in the flow of not-being. Don’t let subconscious thought habits prevent you from experiencing the clarity of that reality. Find your primarily conclusion today, become conscious and be free of needless suffering.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.