The Eightfold Path: Right Understanding

In our continuing discussion about the Buddhist Eightfold Path, and how it may benefit you in your quest to manage your illness, we will return to the beginning. While it is not intended that the Eightfold Path be followed in any particular order, it can be said that Right Understanding is a good place to start. It is a good place to start when trying to understand what motivates you and provides you with strength. Right Understanding can also provide clarity and perspective regarding the connection between your life, as it exists in this moment and the suffering and struggle that we all inevitably experience.

What is Right Understanding?

Right Understanding asks that we first acknowledge the illness or hardship that causes suffering in our lives. Once we have accepted the problems, they somehow become more easy to live with and manage. Right Understanding does not stop with the individual, however. Right Understanding should also incorporate a worldview as well. What kinds of suffering are experienced by the people around us, near us and far away?  By coming to the realization that we all experience suffering in one way, shape or form, it can bring clarity to our understanding of our illness or illnesses.

Once we have taken a hard look at our troubles, Right Understanding requires that we look inside ourselves to see what really matters to us. What type of person do you want to be? What would you like to accomplish? Are you living well or do you struggle with certain aspects of who you want to be? Once we have established very clearly what we are living for, our understanding will bring us clarity and strength. I would think that clarity and strength might be very helpful in battling illness and disease. There is a path for each and every one of us, that can lead to a happier, healthier life. One path is as different than the next, as each of us are so different and look at the world, our lives and our bodies in such unique ways. It is not expected that we will immediately come to some grand revelation, find the path and walk it, until the day we die. Simply finding what YOUR path to greater happiness looks like, is a huge first step. It just gets harder after that :-).

Back to the basics

As with all of the individual tenets of the Eightfold Path, Right Understanding is not a complicated concept. It simply asks us to take a hard look at our lives and the lives of those around us and imagine what it might take for there to more moments of peace, love and happiness in life. To quote Jack Kornfield, a respected Buddhist writer and teacher, “Did I learn to live wisely? Did I love well?”. This resonates with me very deeply and I’m pretty sure it will with some or a lot of you. Why? Because I think most people want to live wisely and love well. Wouldn’t that be something if we could, with all sincerity, say this about ourselves? Sometimes going back to the absolute basic parts of our lives can be very liberating. This is Right Understanding.

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