By Deb Avery
We tend to make things so difficult sometimes.
We read and study many books and teachings about what this teacher teaches and what that one believes. We worry about following this lineage or that. Maybe we feel that we must learn all of the proper words, mudras and rituals before we can genuinely practice Buddhism.
But, in all actuality, it is very simple: what is in our hearts and our minds creates the world around us.
At the heart of any Buddhist practice is the Eightfold Path. The Path can be as simple or as complicated as you would like; however, it is not a linear pathway. Instead, it is one that spirals and turns—ever winding back onto itself on many different levels. Serpentine in nature, it spirals upward similar to our own DNA.
Our thoughts and intentions build the world we live in. I like to think of them as non-harmful or harmful thoughts/intentions instead of “right or wrong” thoughts/intentions, but that’s just me. As I’ve said before, I like to keep things simple. The words right and wrong tend to have a lot of emotional baggage with some of us, especially those of us who were raised within strict and harsh belief systems. Regardless of what you call them, they can either be very powerful and positive aspects of our life and the lives of those around us, or they can be destructive creating a lot of karmic issues for us to deal with.
Have any of you, like me, ever experienced one of those instant karma moments that John Lennon sang about? You know how it goes: someone pulls out in front of you on the way to the grocery store, and immediately we get angry and think harsh and unkind things about the person who did this. We may change lanes, and as we pass them, we glance over to see a flustered elderly lady or man, or a maybe an overwhelmed mother with a baby and a toddler in car seats crying and having a meltdown.
Suddenly, we feel a little bad for our harsh thoughts about them. We realize that we should simply be thankful that we were paying attention and there was no crash or injuries—no harm done.
Later, after fighting the crowds in the store—trying to get the most nutritious food that fits our small budget—our heads pound as we load our groceries into the car. We are mentally exhausted from trying to make ends meet and wondering how what few items we purchased could possibly amount to so much. Then as we start our car the pinging of the low fuel indicator reverberates in our heads. As we wait to pull out into the busy four-lane, our minds are trying to do a quick calculation of how much money is left in the bank and whether we can fill up or perhaps just grab a quick 20 dollars or so of gas.
It’s a busy time of the day, but we see an opening and pull out. Seconds later we are startled to hear a horn blow and see someone flipping us off as they speed by us. Where did they come from? Had they accelerated after seeing us trying to get into the highway?
You start to get angry at the rude person that just angrily blew by, but then it hits you right between the eyes: instant karma just got you. Maybe you responded similarly to the person who had pulled out in front of you only 45 minutes earlier. Then you realize that we are all human; we all make mistakes.
Our thoughts and reactions set the tone for how each moment of our lives plays out.
We can be reactive and lash out in hurtful ways when are mistreated, encounter someone rude or when things go exactly the opposite of how we had hoped. We can get angry, say and think hurtful things. Or, we can take a deep breath and pause for a moment, breathe and practice non-harmful thoughts, reactions and intentions.
If we are willing to not react, what we will discover is that when we practice these non-reactive ways of dealing with life— remaining calm and unattached to our and others mistakes, emotions, simple human nature and just plain difficult circumstances—our thoughts, intentions, reactions, and behavior will change.
It takes a lot of practice to remain undisturbed by and unattached to life’s difficulties and the words and actions of others, but it’s such a wonderful gift that we can give to ourselves and others. It is a gift that keeps on giving long after the moment or difficulties have passed.
Kindness, mindfulness, non-attachment, compassion, and patience with ourselves and others: these are at the heart of The Eightfold Path. These are the steps to right thoughts and intentions in our everyday lives.
Editor: John Lee Pendall
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