In last week's blog ‘New Year Omisoka And The Big Clean Osoji’, we looked at the fact that people tend to embark on a journey of self-discovery via “resolutions” at this time of year. We suggested approaching New Year's Resolutions in a way similar to Osoji which parallels the principle of cleansing the mind in Buddhism.
This Osoji "big cleaning" involves removing everything from the house, cleaning thoroughly, and scrutinising possessions before bringing them back inside—a metaphor for the purification of the mind and examining what we have taken on by society's norms.
Greeting this inclination to reset via resolutions with a more flexible and compassionate mindset, where no fixed ego guides rather than drives our intentions. Void of any harsh judgments that might make us feel like a failure and make us quit.
Gentle intentions that guide us forward,
rather than judgemental resolutions that may take us upwards or downwards.
But how might we shift into intentional living? All Buddhists walk the Eightfold Noble Path guided by the Three Treasures: Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Through these we can try to shape the rigid desires of ego into ego-less gratitude and togetherness, forging a flexible foundation of open-heartedness and open-mindfulness. The Noble Eightfold Path is a simplification of the Buddha’s teachings.
We can remember these through the acronym VISA LEM C.
'Right’ doesn’t mean the only acceptable way, rather it is guidance given by Buddha, recorded in the Dharma, and supported by Sangha. Our connection with Sangha and our Teacher helps us keep the compassionate view of; no judgements, no errors. Just stepping back on the path when we see we’ve fallen off.
V = Right View: Seeing the Forest for the Trees
Right View is like putting on a pair of glasses that allow you to see the world as it truly is.
Imagine life as a vast, dense forest. Right View enables you to see the entire forest, not just individual trees. It's about understanding the interconnectedness of all things, acknowledging the impermanence of life, and embracing the nature of suffering without being engulfed by any of it.
To cultivate: Right View starts by gently questioning your assumptions and preconceptions. Examining and perhaps challenging the narratives that cloud our perceptions and hinder a clear understanding of reality. It's like cleaning the lenses of your glasses; the clearer your view, the better you navigate the intricate terrain of existence. Just like Osoji cleans the home, it opens up the spaces within. And... just as with housework, we practice clearing our view over and over, to keep stepping back onto the path of ‘Right’: openhearted, open-minded. There is a compassionate acceptance that we will be hooked by things that will make us feel like responding to that instinct to protect ourselves and our views about things.
What assumptions do I hold about myself and the world around me?
This simple yet profound question serves as a key to unlock the door of Right View. Take a moment to reflect and jot down your thoughts. It could be assumptions about your capabilities, relationships, or the nature of happiness. Are there beliefs that might be clouding your view, preventing you from seeing the interconnectedness and impermanence inherent in life?
In the spirit of gentleness, approach this exercise with curiosity rather than judgment. Think of it as a friendly conversation with yourself, an opportunity to explore the narratives that shape your worldview.
As you delve into your reflections, consider how these assumptions may have influenced your past actions and reactions. Like a gentle breeze that clears away the mist, questioning these assumptions begins the process of cultivating a clearer and more compassionate perspective, opening doorways to proceed through. Don’t forget to include gratitude for those views you have that bring about togetherness.
Remember, the journey towards ‘Right’ View is not about condemnation but about understanding. Just as a skilled forester tends to the forest floor to nurture a flourishing canopy, we tend to our thoughts to cultivate a mind capable of seeing the entirety of interconnectedness.
May your reflections be a lantern, illuminating the path towards a more intentional and insightful existence. 🙏 A practical lay-life: We aren’t monastics, so how do we bring this into our daily lives? The observations you gain from journaling can allow you to see any views that you hold, that are causing you or others to suffer; recoil, hide or close off. Can you work on letting go, or opening space around some of these this week? It may be that you look at establishing or rebuilding healthy boundaries within some relationships.
Any places where your closed-heartedness means you're cutting off some kind of connection to yourself or another? Sometimes we don’t particularly like our ‘negative’ emotions and suppress them. Yet they have a job to inform us that something is misaligned with our views. Can we listen to them this week? Nurturing a safe place for them and responding to them, rather than reacting to them. These steps to bring the intention of 'Right' View might involve reframing how we look back on things using ‘pleasant, unpleasant or neutral’ as a way to safely hold onto things or release them. No one is asking us to forgive or forget, but rather to look at the lessons we gained - opening us up or closing us off. No judgement. Just accepting where we are at this moment.
Metta to ‘clear’ our view:
This is a chanted verse practice, where words spoken aloud carry different energies than those said in our head.
It starts with wishing ourselves well. It does not have to be complex. With each phrase, we might feel different things arising in us. Note, gently, are these open or closed feelings? Pleasant, unpleasant, neutral?
Try: “May I be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
We would then send Metta to those who support our open-heartedness and open-mindedness, collectively or individually.“May they be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
We can also send it to those who challenge our willingness to be open-hearted: “May they be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.”
To those who seriously make us feel closed-off, those whose presence in our minds might make us sense recoil, we can also extend Metta.“May we be safe, peaceful, and free of suffering.” It is hoped that Metta practice, like all our practices, accumulates and brings about change. No judgements. No fixed views. The wheel will turn.
Go gently and compassionately with yourself,
so as to go gently and compassionately with others.