Right Livelihood – Happiness In How We Show Up In The World

This month we are going to take the Path a little out of order and skip to Right Livelihood, the 3rd of the conduct aspects.  We are skipping over Right Speech and Right Action which we will discuss in August and September.  A way to look at these three together is that Right Speech relates to the intersection between us, as individuals, and the world.  Right Action relates to the intersection between our action upon the world and Right Livelihood relates to where our personal desires intersect with the wider world.

Right Livelihood is about how practice shows up in our careers, workplaces, school, volunteering – basically anything we do for income or contribution in the world.  I think contemplating Right Livelihood comes from two layers.  The first is whether we see our livelihood as practice or as separate from practice.  The second is how we use practice within our livelihood.

In Joseph Goldstein’s book Mindfulness, he pointed out that “[i]n Buddha’s teachings, wealth rightfully gained is seen as a blessing that can be used for the benefit and welfare of [one’s self and] of others.”  So this first layer involves ultimately seeing whatever we do in the world as a benefit for all beings.  It means that we see our livelihood more as service to the world.  We only acquire wealth by legal means, without coercion/violence or trickery/deceit and in ways that do not cause harm or suffering to ourselves or others. 

The second layer is about approaching our livelihood within the context of Right View (awareness of the karmic implications of our actions) and Right Intention (desire to live within restraint, kindness and harmlessness).   The Buddha listed 5 basic livelihoods that violate both of these Path aspects – dealing in weapons/killing; dealing in living beings; dealing in slaughtering of animals; dealing in poisons and dealing in intoxicants.  I think the main difficulty with livelihoods in these fields is the disconnect (that would be required) between what one does and the ultimate harm caused.  In this second layer we want to stay connected to our restraint from greed and direct/indirect harm from our actions even in the context of needing to earn money to live.

We will explore these to layers as the month progress.  We will consider how we feel about our livelihood, how to become more connected to livelihood, whether we bring practice into the workplace and how to; ways in which our practice can support us with hectic schedules, stress, boredom, difficult people, etc.  Basically, we will spend the month remembering that practice doesn’t stop at the bell.  See you tonight…




A little serendipity…

One of the teachers I most admire, Thanissara, posted this today.  I thought it was so on point from our discussion last night.  

From Rebecca Solnit–here quoting L.A. Kauffman:”

The scale of protest under Trump, thus far, has certainly been extraordinary. Researchers with the Crowd Counting Consortium have tallied more than 20,000 separate demonstrations over the period from January 2017 through May 2018, involving something on the order of 11 million to 16 million total participants. That’s more people protesting than at any previous time in U.S. history, including the most tempestuous years of the Vietnam antiwar movement.

“What’s more, it’s not just the size of these demonstrations that’s been unprecedented. It’s also their geographic reach — with protests being staged in record numbers of locations around the United States. A major day of action against Trump’s immigration policies is planned for this Saturday, June 30, with more than 600 demonstrations being staged all around the country, taking place in more than 80 percent of the nation’s congressional districts.

She continues ,”Until now, though, protests against Trump have mostly been marches and rallies: legal, permitted events…   It’s suddenly ramping up, though, as a growing number of people are now ready to do more than march….  “People didn’t know how to be in the Resistance, how to overcome Nazis or if they ever would; they just did what made the most sense and acted with extraordinary courage.

Eight days ago, I wrote: “Do it in faith. Do it knowing that the consequences will not be foreseeable. Do it knowing that all these look like nothing beforehand. Winston Churchill: “During that war we repeatedly asked ourselves the question, “How are we going to win?” and no one was able ever to answer it with much precision, until at the end, quite suddenly, quite unexpectedly, our terrible foe collapsed before us.”

Do it remembering that we did not know the Berlin Wall would fall, that #metoo would erupt and a thousand patriarchs would fall, that Nelson Mandela would not die in prison, that marriage equality would proceed like wildfire around the world, that Ireland would vote for abortion by a landslide last month.”

One of the reason that many people inside and outside government have hesitated is that there is no precedent for this. We have not had a foreign power corrupt an election, or quite such a clownish would-be tyrant take power or seen an administration occupy the seat of power as though they are conquerors of an enemy state that must be punished, dismantled and weakened. We have had some very bad presidents, not long ago. Unprecedented reminds me how much we don’t know what happens next. But the best case scenario is that we make it ourselves. That process has already begun.

It is entirely possible for us to win on a scale that transforms the country.  If we act.

Because we don’t control the future, keep your trust in right intention (renunciation, kindness and harmlessness) and let the universe do the rest!


Right Intention – Brings The World Into Existence And Moves You Through It

June brings with it the beginning of a new month and new step within the noble search of the Eightfold Path.  This month we will be exploring and investigating Right IntentionRight Intention is the other half of the wisdom part of the Path.  It is also referred to as Right Thought, Right Aspiration or Right Resolve and is located between Right View and Right Conduct.  A good friend of mind recently sent me a quote that I think captures Right Intention better than anything I have heard to date.  It reads – “if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

Intention is what propels us in live and Right Intention is what propels us towards liberation of the mind.  The more I practice and study this path, the more intriguing it gets.  Like most, I came to the path to end suffering which I could see through my conduct.  I hoped the path would help me to change my behavior.  This is basically what most everyone does.  We focus on the outward showing and try to fix that.  But I have come to see the limitations with this way of thinking.  Even if we could reverse every bad habit, conceivable cruelty, and harmful actions – it wouldn’t last long.  In about ten seconds, the bad habits, cruelty and harm would begin again.

This is because actions are the fruits of our intentions.  If our intentions are rooted in the natural impulse of the thinking mind, our actions will based in greed, hatred and delusions and we will be propelled towards suffering and entanglement.  If, however, our intentions are rooted in renunciation, goodwill (or kindness) and harmlessness (compassion), our actions will propel us away from suffering and towards liberation.  The Eightfold Path is about being aware of the root energy propelling our actions and, without judgment or shame, continuously reestablishing our intention to practice renunciation, goodwill and harmlessness.

Renunciation is said to be the remedy for greed and desire.  It does this by cooling the thinking mind’s habitual reactivity to pleasant, unpleasant and neutral stimulus.  It is the restraint that allows us to see the gap between stimulus and reactivity.  It helps us feel the tension around the insatiable hunger of the grasping mind.  Our liberation lies in the gap.  Practicing with renunciation is about understanding the nature of greed and desire.

Goodwill, or kindness, is said to be the remedy for aversion and anger (harmlessness is also a remedy for aversion).  It is the application of Metta in the midst of anger, betrayal, bitterness, frustration, irritation, etc that cools the trigger for retaliation and/or right the wrong.  Unlike with renunciation, practicing with goodwill/kindness is not about understanding aversion or anger.  It is about cutting off the trigger that compels us to retaliate, fix and change.  Without the compulsion to retaliate and/or right the wrong, we can see more clearly what would be the most appropriate response. 

And finally, I consider harmlessness or compassion to be the remedy for delusion.  This is because harmlessness is about having a willingness to see pain, sorrow and suffering in our own lives and the lives of others.   Given that the pain and suffering is already present, this is about being willing to be with the truth of this reality.  Practicing with harmlessness is not about understanding pain and suffering, nor is it about cutting off anything.   We are trying to care or show kindness in the midst of pain and suffering.  It is about bringing clarity around the reality and frequency of harm.

Renunciation, goodwill and harmlessness are the intentions of Right Intention.  We’ll spend the month exploring ways to practice with each of these root intentions.





I’m Back :-)))!

This month we’re going to investigate Right Intention.  Unfortunately, its my nature to procrastinate and now I have run out of time to write a full post.  We’ll take a look at Right Intention generally tonight and I will prepare the month’s post next week.


Right View – What Color Are The Glasses You Are Using To Look At The World?

As we go through the next 8 factors there are two important points to always keep in mind – (1) the word “right” before each factor is not about some ultimate right but rather points to the right way to work with the factor and (2) if you keep your focus on the energy behind (you may also feel it as contained within or underneath) the factor you will be able to work with the factor in any situation or condition.

Right View, also referred to as Right Understanding, can be thought of as the book ends to the Eightfold Path.  Right View is the beginning step on the path and the first half of the Wisdom Section of the path.   As the beginning step, it sets the path in motion.  As the first half of Wisdom, it starts us off in the right direction towards the cessation of suffering in our lives.

Generally, our view is the mental application of the backdrop for our entire life orientation.  It is the framework for our movements/actions; our attitudes/moods; our opinions/judgments and our sense of self/choices.  It is conditioned by family norms, social norms, ancestral/ spiritual/cultural beliefs, education, employment, language, etc.  These conditions (and much more) affect the way we perceive the world.  Ignorance, or wrong view, is when we don’t see or remember that our view is constantly being skewed by our conditioning.  Right View would be having the wisdom to remember and therefore not take ourselves so seriously.

Right View is also divided into two types.  The first type is called Mundane Right View.  This relates to our relative realities.  It is about learning to take responsibility for our actions.  Not in a punitive way but more so out of maturity and integrity.  This is about being willing to see the long term impact of our actions – be they thoughts, words or deeds.   This type of view is often connected to the Pali term Karma.  English covers this word in such heaviness that it’s best to consider other words that get to the same point.  Volitional action is the most accurate.  If our intentional actions stem from unskillful energy such as greed, aversion or delusion the result will be suffering for ourselves, others or both.  If our intentional actions stem from skillful energy such as non-harm, goodwill or restraint, the result will be “happiness” (contentment, joy, a sense of well-being, blamelessness – whatever word works for you).  Mundane Right View reminds us that we are responsible for results of our actions regardless of whether they stem from skillful or unskillful energy.

The second type of is called Superior (or Super) Mundane Right View.  This relates to a deepening understanding of the 4 Noble Truths.  We begin with learning the truths, studying them and reflecting upon their implications in the way we live.  At some point, we turn this intellectual understanding inward and we began to recognize suffering in our own lives, we investigate it (see our clinging) and remain patient until we see the fading away.  We see the ultimate truth – that everything that is subject to arising is subject to ceasing.

This month we want to pay attention to what aspects of our lives is impacting our views, opinions, assumptions, actions, thoughts, words, etc.  We want to check the energy behind all this as well.  We are just starting out on the path, so this is about turning towards our perception and being willing to walk our talk.






I Need A Moment….

I have to admit, I’ve been hanging out with my friend DaRa Williams who is teaching a Non-residential Retreat this weekend at SIMS.  Now I realize I totally spaced on this month’s post.  We will start a new discussion tonight on Right View.  Unfortunately, I will not be able to write the post about it later.

You are all invited to come see DaRa at SIMS this Friday night 7-9pm; and Saturday/Sunday 9am – 4pm.  DaRa is a dynamic African American Teacher.  She is a guiding teacher at Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Mass and a teacher at New York Insight Meditation Society – her home sangha.  Her Dhamma Talk will be about her Dhamma Journey and how to stay on the path.  It is very timely given our start of the Eightfold Path.

I’m very excited that SIMS has brought her here and I hope you will be able to join us this weekend.  Get more information here.



The Fourth Noble Truth

This month we will begin exploring the 4th Noble Truth – The Truth of the Path Leading to the Cessation of Dukkha (Suffering) – that path being the Eightfold Path.  The Eightfold Path consist of eight factors – Right View/Understanding, Right Intention/Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration.  These eight factors are then broken down into three groups – Wisdom (View and Intention); Moral Discipline (Speech, Action and Livelihood); and Concentration (Effort, Mindfulness and Concentration).  This month we will talk about the Path generally; looking into how it connects with the other three Truths.

To begin, cultivation of the eight factors of the Eightfold Path is how we are able to turn towards the difficult.  It gives us the strength/resilience to stay true to our vows of non-harm, goodwill and restraint.  The Path, however, is not just a guide for being good or doing the right thing.  I don’t believe the path is not about conduct at all.  It is about shifting the energy that precedes conduct.  It is a journey inward in an effort to learn more about the human condition.  The more we are able to, or better still – willing to, stay with the complexities of the human condition the less “selfing” we will get caught in.  The less “selfing” we get caught in, the less suffering (dukkha) we will experience.  Less suffering also means more freedom and a greater sense of well-being.

This all starts with an appreciation and respect for the Eightfold Path.  So this month is just about contemplating the value and importance of the Eightfold Path (we will work with each of the factor separately over the rest of the year).  The best way to see the value of the Path is by paying attention to your reactivity.  Consider what is missing when you get reactive (even if you don’t say or do anything outwardly).  Is there enough wisdom, discipline and/or mental stability?  Notice when the mind is obsessing over something – what would support you in letting the thoughts go?  What factor of the Path is missing or weak?  Become aware, as often as you can, when you are holding on to some opinion/judgement or are trying to control the outcome of a situation.  What would you need to let go of having to be right or let the situation unfold on its own?  You are not trying to change anything.  You are practicing to become aware of how difficult the landscape is in life and to see the importance of cultivating the Path.

See you tomorrow!