Examining views

Further thoughts on working with the 8-fold path, in this case, Right View…

One of the challenges with right view is that we are sometimes, perhaps often, unaware that we are holding a particular view. Or we are so sure that our view is the only way to see things that we don’t question it.

Here is a sampler of problematic views we may hold:

– I should wake up feeling rested and ready for each day.
– I should be able to do physical exercise at the same level as I did ten (or twenty or thirty) years ago.
– The things that I buy/own (clothes, food) should last longer than they do.
– My home and vehicle should not have parts that wear out and need to be replaced, maintained, re-painted, etc. At least not today!
– All drivers should behave in safe and predictable ways.
– All buses and trains should run on time, be tidy and safe, not be too crowded, and not cost too much.
– All roads and other infrastructure should be well-maintained (and taxes should be cut or kept low).
– Everyone should be polite, kind, and forgiving towards me, regardless of what’s going on with them.
– My friends should reach out to me at least as often as I reach out to them.
– My friends and relatives should not have problems (that might upset me).
– My work should be engaging and rewarding, and not too demanding.
– My partner or close friend should [fill in the blank].
– People should be like me.

You get the idea. Whenever we find ourselves getting annoyed or upset with things as they are, our automatic reaction is to think that things shouldn’t be as they are. We can get into a pattern of running a continuous inner monologue about how unsatisfactory things are, or worse, become a chronic complainer. Such patterns can become self-perpetuating and define our personalities.

An alternative is to observe things from a less personal perspective. Those of us who live relatively privileged lives can forget how poorly many processes in the world work on a normal day. When we are inclined to complain (to ourselves or others) about other drivers, for example, we can think: maybe this is the law of averages at work. Most drivers are pretty good, a minority are careless or reckless. How do I want to view this situation?

Whenever we are not getting what we want, or getting what we don’t want, we can take a step back and ask ourselves: is there another way to see this situation? One that doesn’t have me at the center? The laws of karma are always at work – everything that’s happening has a multiplicity of causes, and will in turn become causes for future events. What role do we want to play in this complex unfolding?

About lynnjkelly

Australian/American. Practicing Buddhist.
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2 Responses to Examining views

  1. Mary Beth Hatem says:

    Beautiful post! I especially appreciate your taking the time to share your long list of “problematic” views. An important place for me to practice is when I’m waiting for “my bus.” It always makes me smile–first, that this idea occurs to me at all, and then a second smile at how often this view arises.

    As a writer-editor myself, I appreciate the precision of your writing. The words themselves can get in the way. It’s a great service to provide sufficient context to coax readers/listeners to not be tripped up by what they have come to think any individual word–e.g., “view” means.

    I’m so glad to have discovered your blog–thanks to Laura D. passing along the word that you will be guest teaching in Takoma Park. I hope to see you there.

  2. kristijr says:

    Exceedingly useful posting! Of course my knee-jerk reaction was to forward it to every extreme (IMO) view holder I know.
    This is definitely a re-reader. Thank you.

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