The Eightfold Path: Mindfulness
Well, folks, we have come to the end of my thoughts on the Buddhist Eightfold Path. I have talked about Right Intention, Right Effort, Right Speech, Right Livelihood, Right Concentration and Right Understanding. Wow, what a long strange trip it's been ;-). I thought it fitting that I leave Right Mindfulness for last. Mindfulness is something that we talk about all the time with regards to anxiety and stress and by association; IBS. My intention with this article is not to talk about what mindfulness is, as has been done so many times before. My intention is to share how I think it fits into a healthful lifestyle and contributes to our overall wellness as sentient beings.
Mindfulness takes practice
In a spiritual sense, mindfulness promotes peace. Peace of mind, peace towards your fellow men and women and internal peace. With each of these, we become more capable of dealing with the struggles that our lives and our illness(s) present. The word mindfulness is often preceded by the word ‘practice’, and while ‘practice’ can simply mean the act of doing or performing an action, it brings something else to mind. A lasting sense of mindfulness cannot exist with actual PRACTICE. You know, like practicing the piano, your ABC’s, your times tables…you get it. When someone says that mindfulness ‘doesn’t work’ or ‘it’s too hard’, I begin to wonder if people think that it is really easy and just another ‘tool’ to use to stay calm or relieve anxiety. Mindfulness should be practiced in the same way a classical musician practices a piece of difficult music. Diligence, attention, focus, repetition and patience are all attributes required to achieve Right Mindfulness. If you consider each of these attributes, you will find by developing each of these in their own right, they will strengthen your resolve and your ability to manage not only your illness, but your life as living, breathing entity.
Get better and be better
I mentioned before that the Eightfold Path is not a series of steps to take in order to help yourself to live the ‘right’ way. The eight concepts can exist together or independently. How does mindfulness fit in with the other ideas on the ‘Path’?. Mindfulness can be helpful when trying to live a more peaceful life, or Right Livelihood in this case. Mindfulness is rooted in Right Action, Right Concentration and Right Intention. When acquired, mindfulness can be beneficial in your efforts to speak to people the way you would like to (Right Speech) and can bring Right Understanding through your focus and awareness of the present moment. Being mindful requires Right Effort and Right Action. This is one way to look at how Right Mindfulness exists on a much higher plane than simply being present and calm.
I hope that, at the very least, sharing the parts of the Eightfold Path has been interesting. Perhaps you may even take bits and pieces to make your life a little easier and perhaps more fulfilling. Or...you can convert to Buddhism :-). We are all trying to get better and to be better. This is just one set of ideas. I wonder what works for you?
Do you read nutrition labels on the food you buy?