Despite all the striving, hoping, dreaming, achieving, at the end of the day, when all said and done and even when you think you have made (especially when you think you have made it) know that there is still work to do. But, the kind of work I am referring to is not one that requires a to-do list or an agenda, but a moment to moment practice of how to move more skillfully through this life in the most harmonious way possible.So here is my personal exploration of the Eightfold Noble Path, a part of the Four Noble Truths, and one of the core teachings by the Buddha over 2500 years ago. I have chosen to explore this path out of its original order because it simply made the most sense for me to do so, but as you will see and what the teaching clearly states, is that all the paths are interdependent and lead into one, so there really no beginning or end.
The paths fall into three categories, Samadhi (a.k.a mental discipline, or all things coming together as once), Panna (a.k.a wisdom) and Sila (a.k.a moral conduct).
There are many times in a day when effort is needed in order for me to achieve something, but when not done skillfully the effort I put forth can leave me feeling exhausted, discouraged or completely burnt out. When this happens, I remind myself the path of practicing skillful effort, the letting go of outcome of achieving anything, while still maintaining energy and enthusiasm towards it.
Skillful effort has a different energetic tone and is both energizing and relaxing because it arises out of the joy of doing something, not an outcome.
When not practicing skillful mindfulness, I can fool myself that one moment is more deserving of my attention than the next. Like as if meditation practice is more worthy of my attention then taking care of the house work. When this happens, I remind myself the path of practicing skillful mindfulness, remaining attentive and receptive in everything you do, not just in meditation practice.
Skillful mindfulness takes mundane moments and turns them into something more meaningful.
Concentration is a very useful and beneficial skill in day to day life. However, at times when I am deeply concentrated on something, I can completely shut out all other experiences. When this happens, I remind myself of the path of practicing skillful concentration; continually placing attention on a focal point, while still cultivating the qualities of openness, flexibility, and non-reactive towards whatever else is arising in the moment.
Skillful concentration allows for not only a single pointed focus, but also the entire picture.
Knowing when my view is limited is an ongoing practice. It is easy to become disillusioned into believing that I know best, even though this knowing comes from a limited point of view. When this happens, I remind myself the path of practicing skillful understanding; seeing things as they really are, multidimensional, conditional, and always changing.
Skillful understanding arises when you learn to question your view by asking yourself often “Is this the truth?” or “Am I sure?” Notice how this questioning can begin change your outlook on the situation and give rise to a more wise and compassionate heart.
When upset, it is can be comfortable and familiar to allow my mind to continuously loop into the stories of why I feel the way I feel, which only gives rise to greater states of blame, anger, irritation, etc., towards whatever the situation may be. When this happens, I remind myself the path of practicing skillful thinking; waking up right in the middle of unskillful thinking patterns and intentionally choosing to cultivate thoughts that are rooted in good will, generosity and love.
Skillful thinking helps to stop the continuous loops of story lines and brings greater clarity towards the situation that you are in and the opportunity to speech and act in ways that are more skillful.
Even when I am well intentioned, there are times that I can say something towards someone that is not helpful, which can quickly break down the lines of communications and potentially damage the relationship. When this happens, I remind myself of the path of practicing skillful speech; knowing if the words that are spoken are wise, beneficial, and true, and if the person who is at the receiving end is in a place to receive them openly.
Skillful speech also involves skillful listening, listening wholeheartedly, without an agenda, and the need to refer everything back to “me.”
When unaware, I can unknowingly be driven by desires of greed and fear and act in ways that not only harm myself, but others and the world around me, directly or indirectly. When this happens, I remind myself of the path of practicing skillful action; acting in ways that are virtuous, non-harming and embodied love, peace and compassion.
Skillful action even in the smallest ways, like not allowing water to run unnecessarily, or killing a bug out of fear, can significantly impact your internal state and give rise to a greater sense of interconnectedness towards all things.
Even though it can be said that I have a wholesome profession, one that supports others towards greater well-being, when unaware, I can make decisions about my livelihood that aren’t necessarily wholesome or serve the greater good. When this happens, I remind myself the path of practicing skillful livelihood; arising from the concern for all beings, not just from meeting your own needs and desires.
Skillful livelihood not only impacts your life, but also the world around you. Therefore, contemplating the ways in which you make your livelihood is of great importance.
I would like to thank those who have walked this path before me, beside and ahead of me, as we learn to bring greater peace and harmony into this world one step, one breath, one moment at a time.
To learn how practice these skills and cultivate greater harmony in your life, find me at www.findingstillnessinmovement.com or firstname.lastname@example.org