The longer I live and dive into what makes my days work I notice that the order of things really matters. I see how many things need to come at the right time, in the right season. Corn planted in the winter doesn’t bring a plentiful harvest. I’ve spent some time planting seeds in the dead of winter instead of observing the climate and paying close attention to how impactful my efforts will be. I’ve known this in my head for years before I was able to actually pause, observe, and then act accordingly.  I find that an intellectual understanding of things is far different from actually owning it and acting with the awareness.

It takes a while to get from my head to my heart and until I really get it, I don’t get it.
Right View, or as some people have interpreted it, skillful understanding, is the first of the Eightfold Path because without seeing things with some basis of spiritual practice and wisdom training the rest won’t make any sense.  Although the order isn’t supposed to matter, I find this makes a perfect starting point. The other steps…Right Intention, Right action, Right speech, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness and Right concentration all require Right view, a clear and distinct understanding of reality.

For me to ever really get something I have to know why I’m doing it. I need to be firmly grounded in common sense and have a careful understanding of reality to accomplish anything. Right view isn’t just a decision for me…it takes a rigor and daily commitment.  How I eat, what I drink, how much I move my body, who I surround myself with… it all matters and all significantly alters my outlook.
I’m influenced by emotions and past hurt and anticipated joy more than I ever understood.   For way too long, I thought I was in the present not realizing how much other moments were influencing me.
Right view requires vigilance. I can’t avoid being influenced. And I think “be here now” people are mostly full of shit. Yesterday got you to this moment and this moment will lead you to the next and next —the most we can do is see things as they really are, acknowledge the realities of this life and embrace it as fiercely as possible.

“Open our eyes and understand the choices we make lead to happiness or unhappiness.”~ Bhante G

I took some time exploring right view. I recorded my thoughts and actions and feelings for more than a year and then I went back and carefully observed what happened—what influenced me, what I was doing when my life seemed to work and what I was doing when it didn’t work as well.

I discovered a basic truth.
The same thoughts, practices and actions, in different moments, bring wildly varying results.  Sometimes life is amazing and everything feels right and whole and beautiful and alive and sometimes life is so totally crushing that I can hardly get through.
With so much data, I was able to finally really understand that both joy and misery exist, period, end of story. Things certainly can influence the range between the two, but for me, no matter what, both exist.
This awareness became my liberation.
When joy arises, I observe it’s causes and express gratitude because I know it won’t last forever.   When misery closes in, I know without a doubt now that this too shall pass. The chief virtue of Buddhism, the middle path, proves it self again. This is especially true around body image. When I’m feeling solid and healthy, I know a rough patch is coming, I never get to stay just feeling good. Thankfully I never get to stay feeling like shit either. The pendulum just keeps swinging back and forth. It’s always swung, I just fasly believed each pinnacle was going to last forever.
I spent a long time trying to experience joy and attain happiness. I tried to relieve myself from pain and suffering. It worked in fleeting bursts but I could never gain sturdiness. I finally realized that my job was to be aware and just observe the reality and the range, to accept and embrace it, to trust it all and to constantly, vigilantly practice mindfulness, acceptance, gratitude, and humility.
I know for sure now that everything I think or do is a cause that inevitably leads to some effect…so I make sure my actions, as best as I can, create a cause that leads to a life I want. The rest I embrace, put on my seat belt and prepare for the ride. All possible, because of the first step:  Right View.