The Eightfold Path: Right Livelihood

In our continuing discussion about the Buddhist Eightfold path, today we will look at the concept of Right Livelihood. My intention in expressing my thoughts about these eight ‘guides’ to a healthy lifestyle, is really meant to convey some very simple ways to manage the confusion, stress and the constant feelings of emptiness sometimes caused by IBS. Sometimes, breaking down the very basic essentials of our lives can bring order and peace. I think as we continue to suffer with IBS, order and peace is something that we all desire. By looking at the world in a more simplified way, one day at a time, we can find that peace. Without further ado; Right Livelihood.

What is right livelihood?

With regards to our lives, the idea of Right Livelihood can mean taking a look at how you spend your time, what work you do and the environments you inhabit. Each of these things can contribute to happiness and conversely, each of these things can have a negative impact on our wellness. Right Livelihood is usually associated directly with work. This doesn’t have to be a formal job, but any work that we do to make our lives more meaningful. This can include volunteer work, work we do for family and friends and the awful lot of work we do for ourselves to manage our illness. Right Livelihood suggests that we take a hard look at what we do and whether or not it benefits us in a positive and perhaps, spiritual way. An example from my personal life is that for a very long time I worked at a financial company and was asked to do some unkind and unethical things. The culture itself was not healthy and had a very negative impact on my mental and physical health. I also did not feel as though I was fulfilled or contributing to society in any way. This has always been important to me, because I believe service to others is excellent for both your happiness and your fulfillment. I was very unhappy in that environment and my stomach paid for it. After taking several leaps of faith and following the signs that the universe was sending, I ended up where I needed to be. Today I work with people with mental illness and substance abuse troubles. It is hard work, but I feel fulfilled.  Even though my IBS remains, my gastritis is in remission and I have the strength to manage the illness that remains. I feel good about myself. This is Right Livelihood.

I am not necessarily suggesting you make an extreme change like I did. I guess I’m just asking that you take a look at the work you do or don’t do, the environments you inhabit and your ethical beliefs regarding your own behavior. If you find that you are taking some action that conflicts with your personal beliefs or idea of peace or happiness, have the courage to make the change. Your health will thank you. If you cannot work because of IBS or any other type of illness, that is not only ok, but probably necessary for your own wellness. There have been times where I’m not sure I’m going to make it in the working world due to my various afflictions. Only we can call the game, only we can make that decision. But whatever you do, use your self-awareness to determine where you fit in and where you might be able to thrive.  This is Right Liveliness. Thank you for listening.

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