The Eightfold Path: Right Effort
A little Eastern wisdom today, boys and girls. I thought I would share some of what is referred to as the Noble Eightfold Path in Buddhism. I am a Buddhist. I do not expect that you should become one, too. I am happy to hear about anyone’s positive spiritual beliefs, whatever they may be. I am sharing parts of the Eightfold Path because it has helped me immensely in my various struggles with illness, including of course, IBS. What this ‘Path’ lays out are very simple, yet very important aspects of how we live our lives each day. The ‘Path’ provides guidance, clarity and a reminder of what is truly important in our lives. There is nothing crazy here, just good sound thought. Today, I would like to begin with the concept of ‘Right Effort’ and how it applies to our management of IBS.
Using your energy
‘Right Effort’ within the Eightfold Path is, in its most simplified form, the idea that we have to find a balance in how much or how little effort, work, exertion and energy we spend on given responsibilities or tasks in a given day. The reason this is of importance is multifold. We may be spending too much energy or effort on something that does not benefit ourselves or the people around us. We may be expending effort on something neutral or negative and not enough on something beneficial. We may just be the type that throws too much energy all the way round. Tending tirelessly to every little aspect in our lives, with the end result being burned out. On the other side of things (there is always another side :)), we may not be giving the effort required in our lives AT ALL or NOT ENOUGH. We can look at this in any number of ways, but the importance is in finding the best use of your precious energy, by taking a good look at your life and your illness and placing that energy in the appropriate places. The places that are best for YOU.
Balance and self-awareness
Finding the balance of ‘Right Effort’ in our daily lives can be difficult and there is no perfect gauge for distributing your time and effort in the most efficient way. The best gauge, however, is your own self-awareness. Listen to your body, listen to your heart, listen to your spirit…they will all guide you in your search for balance. Listening to your internal guide may be something you have to get used to, but once you get used to it, I don’t know of a better guidance system…lol. Right…so what is important to you today? It is always easiest (and usually more effective) if we take a ‘one day at a time’ approach to our illness and indeed, our lives. So, today I have to work and I don’t feel very good at all. I have to take my child to Karate practice, I have to go to the grocery store and then to the gym. How best to spend my effort? Maybe I go to work (positive thing), I make sure that I put a good amount of effort to keep myself feeling as good as possible and get through the day. I don’t make a big thing about the drive to Karate…relaxing car ride, right? I get what I need at the grocery store in a leisurely fashion and perhaps skip the gym and meditate or journal instead. This was just one day and one example. Your day probably looks different and so will your choices regarding your distribution of effort.
I think something as simple as ‘Right Effort’ can make our very complicated lives just a little less chaotic. The Eightfold Path is intended for just such an effect. I will share more about the Eightfold Path and the positive energy it can have for our struggle with illness in a future article.
Do you have a good understanding of what triggers your flares?