Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Step Six on the Eightfold Path

Last week I was a day early, this week I am a day late. Life.

6. Right Effort
Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. Mental energy is the force behind right effort; it can occur in either wholesome or unwholesome states. The same type of energy that fuels desire, envy, aggression, and violence can on the other side fuel self-discipline, honesty, benevolence, and kindness. Right effort is detailed in four types of endeavors that rank in ascending order of perfection: 1. to prevent the arising of un-arisen unwholesome states, 2. to abandon unwholesome states that have already arisen, 3. to arouse wholesome states that have not yet arisen, and 4. to maintain and perfect wholesome states already arisen.

So, this entire step concerns the effort to either arouse, abandon, tamp down, or maintain and perfect "wholesome states." What does this mean? This is all in the context of concentration, or the training of our higher consciousness. We may have to meditate to gain a better understanding of how we can achieve right effort.

I am continuing my quest to be a better person by being more mindful of my thoughts, words and deeds. By watching where I step, what I say, and what I put into my mind and body.

After nearly eight months of avoiding most sugars and for the past two months really struggling to avoid sugar in the form of sweets, especially craving ice cream, I ate a huge bowl of ice cream last night. And did I pay for it. My body rejected it in every way possible, first waking me from a deep sleep, and then waking me repeatedly.

I am grateful for this reminder today of what it means to keep to the Steps, and what it means to fall off the path. Last night I fell off. Today, I'm back on track. Today I'm remembering that this body is the only one I have to get me through this precious life. Today my Right Effort is to eat healthy meals and avoid things that are bad for me. To be grateful for all that I have and to avoid self-pity because self-pity leads me to self-punishment.

Do any of you who read this blog share my foibles, I wonder? Ever indulge in ice cream because you wished you had more money to spend on Christmas gifts? Yeah, I forgot to pay my credit card bill and when I got a reminder that it is due before my next paycheck, I realized I'd have to spend the money I set aside for gifts to pay the bill instead. Oh boo hoo. So I ate a huge bowl of ice cream. That'll show me.

Please tell me this has never happened to you. Has it?