Step Four: Take Action. The final step in The Misleading Mind by Karuna Cayton is to use the clarity developed through the practices of stilling and connecting with our emotions. As we see that our reality is constructed, we detach from its power to define us, to set our identity in stone. The remainder of Cayton’s book covers a lot of ground, beginning with the way we create (and re-create) our reality and diving into the need for ethics and self-compassion. By his definition, the litmus test of ethics – or rather the way one knows if an action is ethical – is if it leads to creating health and well being.
I’m chewing on this. Harkening back to the first post of this series about past actions that ripen into present karmic consequences, I have to wonder about Cayton’s definition. I wish things were so clear-cut when choosing actions that avoid harm and foster good. One thing I’ve learned about making decisions to divert harm: someone is always invested in the trajectory of the present moment and you’re bound to piss them off when you mess with their equation. And the reason is simple: in your mind, their actions may bear harmful fruit; in their mind, your actions may bear harmful fruit. I’ve often found it useful to sit with some people and, as a starting point, agree that we are likely both delusional in our perceptions. We strike up a partnership to pool our investments and determine the best course possible. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
There’s no “most times” because inevitably someone decides that their delusion is more important to defend than adapt.
In matters of determining ethical actions, I keep returning to René Girard’s monkeys and the banana (see Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World). Initially, the conflict is about eating the banana. Inevitably however, it becomes about who owns the banana. Getting caught in right and wrong is also like that. Initially, it’s about the right thing to do. Eventually, it’s about who is seen as doing the right thing. This is where the self-awareness and clarity of mind is crucial. Once I can see that I’ve become invested in being the one who is doing the right thing, I’ve lost the ground I stand on.
Nevertheless, I’m pleased that Cayton raises the issue of ethics as an important aspect of practice. There can never be enough said, written, or taught about it.