We are coming down the home stretch of the Eightfold Path. In my notes, the eight practices are clustered into three groups: Wisdom (Right View, Right Thinking), Ethics (Right Action, Livelihood, Right Speech), and Concentration (Right Effort, Right Concentration, Right Mindfulness). Each cluster is also the skillful means to deal with ignorance, ill-will, and craving, respectively. Together they form a mandala of practice by supporting each other so that a deeper relationship to self and others can emerge.
As part of looking into Right Effort, I want to stop and breathe a moment at the end of the cluster of practices that comprise an ethical stance to living well. Shining the light on my practice, I’ve been asking myself about my intention as I engage in a particular action or speech. I’ve also been asking myself if my response is going to encourage the other person to counter with unskilfulness. I know this sounds like I may be taking too much responsibility for the actions of others, getting into their heads. A famous psychologist is reported to have said that we need to stop being our patient’s frontal lobe. In other words, we need to respect each person’s ability to do what is exacted of them in the moment (note: not expected but exacted).
That is true. And the flip side of allowing someone to find their skilfulness is respecting the ease with they can slide into unskilfulness. Still, the cycle of unskilfulness (or what I like to call reactive bludgeoning) has to be broken somewhere and who better to break it than the person who constantly is confronted with needing to practice breaking these links. In that sense, I believe it means me – and you and you and you over there. Effort is the burden of awareness; once the consequences of being in an ever-widening circle of relationships comes into view, we can’t claim blindness.
Oh, about the nun with the lamp. Frank gave me that when we first met and were in that buying-cutsey-things-that-seem-so-meaningful stage. I was quite affronted (and didn’t hide it) but his explanation was that it seemed just like “me”: facing everything with a sense of amazement. I don’t know about that. Yet over the years, I’ve sort of warmed up to her especially after I noticed she’s wielding a lamp.
Thank you for practising,