Applying Buddhist Philosophy To Everyday Life


     Buddhist philosophy began in the first century B.C., yet the Eightfold Path of noble truths is widely used today as a guide for improving daily well-being and for gaining control over suffering.  Please understand that the word “right” in each of the following noble truths is absolutely NOT referring to any sort of judgment about what is “correct” or the “only way to be,” as so many societal rules and expectations put on us.  Rather, “right” in these noble truths refers to being your authentic self, not conforming to others’ expectations, not being caught in a cycle of pain, regret, shame, anger, resentment, or blame, and not allowing toxic emotions to plague your precious life path.

     Right View, or Right Understanding, means being able to understand that life is full of suffering. The Right View refers to a personal commitment to know yourself genuinely and to try very hard to understand your thoughts and emotions and to derive wisdom and strength from them, not run away from them.  The Right View allows you to derive clarity from disappointment, fear, anger, and irritation.  This spiritual journey often requires stepping into the unknown while continuing to move forward and to embrace all triggers which arise.  By not trying to avoid or hide from your insecurities and fears, you can begin to gain a sense of freedom from past traumas and other negative life experiences. 

     Right Intention refers to revising your thoughts and actions. Right Intention also refers to gaining letting go of selfishness, greed, blame, and judgment. When you start to apply your bare, undistracted attention to ALL of your thoughts and emotions, you then progress toward revising those which are causing you to behave in unproductive or self-destructive ways. 

     Right Action refers to acknowledging your defense mechanisms and anger-induced behaviors and developing a new repertoire of patience, compassion, and conscious efforts.  Right Action also means that you can use meaningful mantras or prayers when you start to feel anxious or frustrated when doing your daily personal, academic, or work tasks.  When you keep reminding yourself to just “do your best” at any task, you will feel a sense of pride and personal control.  When feeling overwhelmed by a present stressor or a painful memory, you can visualize your best self as taking control of any challenge and using it as a valuable learning opportunity.

     Right Speech refers to choosing your words wisely and carefully thinking about your thoughts and intentions before speaking them.  This means that you try hard to look inward and to evaluate what is truly happening in your mind before speaking with angry or critical words.  Your words can create joy and hope or they can perpetuate a cycle of anger and victimization.  Your words manifest your moods, your intentions, and your sense of control.  When you take responsibility for all that you say, you are learning and growing.  When you use your words to promote love, compassion, and truth, you are living authentically and will feel a sense of freedom and peace.  Your words create your reality.  When you are mindful with your thoughts and feelings, you will be able to choose your words more carefully.  These actions will be a much more productive use of your energy.

     Right Livelihood means practicing kindness, dutifulness and good conduct when working.  Right Livelihood also refers to striving to maintain a balance between work and self-care.  Even when you feel anxious, depressed, or insecure, you can tell yourself that you have the power to make the most of any moment and to create order and meaning out of any obstacle or conflict.  If your life is not how you want it, you can create your Right Livelihood at any moment.

     Right Effort means being able to combine action and intention, with the purpose of attaining freedom from suffering and self-doubt.  Right Effort also means to “power through” experiences, even though they may be horrific, unwanted, and unexplainable, as tools for gathering inner strength and wisdom.  These tools can be carried on throughout your lifetime.  Right Effort enables you to feel confident in even the worst circumstances, because you have learned proactive and assertive cognitive and behavioral strategies for confronting and managing any circumstance.  This involves breaking down overwhelming problems into small, manageable steps, such as identifying just one goal to accomplish for each day which can move you in your desired direction. 

     Right Mindfulness means being aware of the exact present moment in which you are living, not dwelling on the past, which you cannot change, or on the future, which you cannot predict.  Mindfulness also means living fully and honestly in the present.  When strong emotions or painful memories arise, you CAN tap into your true higher self and your wisdom by being completely open to and aware of what you are experiencing in that present moment.  Mindfulness is not all about being thankful for the happy moments.  It is also about embracing ALL moments as part of your life’s path and not avoiding or denying moments of insecurity, anxiety, pain, sadness, shame, or fear.  When you confront your fears and insecurities, you can choose to change your reaction of panic to a reaction of strength and confidence.

     Right Concentration is the ability to let your mind focus on one task or thought.  Life is often unpredictable and stressful, and you may get into a cycle of your thoughts racing much of the time or may have great difficulty focusing on work or family.  Meditation can also be a very useful tool for diminishing your stress, suffering, anger, hate and even the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions which can knock you severely off balance.  Right Concentration occurs when you focus on the mastery of each of your small or large daily tasks and when you view each task with appreciation and gratitude, because you have the mental and physical ability to complete them. 

     Each day, you are given many opportunities for learning about yourself, for gaining wisdom, and for practicing compassion and humility.  Each day, you also may experience triggers for symptoms of anxiety, depression, trauma, or grief.  You can choose to open up and confront all that you experience, positive and negative, or you can choose to shut down and perceive yourself as a victim of circumstances.  Many of us have been programmed to hide or escape from negative emotions and thoughts.  However, you can change, at any moment, your perceptions about your reality.  You can apply these eight noble truths when you encounter uncertainty, discomfort, and fear.  If these noble truths do not speak to your soul, that is OK.  However, I do hope that you were interested in even one of these noble truths within my blog post and that you will remember it either in a joyful, appreciative moment or in an unstable, fearful moment as a source of strength.

By Dr. Rebecca Wang-Harris

Medication Management & Counseling


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