I’ve rediscovered Western Buddhism and subsequently the concept of “the right view” (I’ll explain that shortly). By “rediscover,” I mean that I read a book about it once. I then nodded my head at some fascinating concepts, set it aside for several years to go on with my life as it was, and finally circled back to it along with related resources.
I’ve always been drawn to the notion of a religion that didn’t have to be a religion. Although it can be treated as deeply spiritual, Buddhism has multiple schools of thought. That means the basic philosophy actually encourages each individual’s own interpretation.
Note of warning: This post is a bit of a departure from my usual ones. It has less structure than my regular writings because I’m still learning where to take these thoughts. Thanks in advance for bearing with me on my little journey …
So I’ve begun to really take this life view, this right view, more seriously in my search for peace and purpose. Actually, I began with the goal of finding a way to manage my anxiety.
In my research, I’ve been most fascinated so far with the concept of “right view.” And that’s the first step on that famous eightfold path you may have heard about.
The right view means that you see things as they truly are—as far as I’ve learned in my limited initial studies anyway, which include:
- joining the Secular Buddhism Facebook group and listening to the related podcasts by Noah Rasheta;
- rereading that first book Buddhism: Plain and Simple; and
- examining Robert Wright’s engaging and provocatively titled Why Buddhism Is True.
But having the right view doesn’t mean that you can tell that your neighbor is lying about the dog poo on your yard. Neither can you tell that my makeup is just a mask to cover up my puffy eyes. It means that you shed the delusions that were imposed by society, your own fears and judgments, and even natural selection.
This last, natural selection, fascinates me the most because I am drawn to the science of it all. I mean you could argue the other two are also scientific if you look at the right view from a sociological and psychological standpoint. And I’m not going to say I’m not curious about that as well.
In fact, the field of evolutionary psychology likely tackles all of that. I don’t know. That’s next on my reading list.
Anyway, to get back to these delusions, natural selection comes into play when we worry about what others think of us and become obsessed when we fear we’ve said the wrong thing in a brief exchange at a friend’s barbecue.
(I mean, there’s more to it than that, but I need to focus on something or I’ll end up going off on a confusing tangent.)
Back in hunter-gatherer days, as Robert Wright describes, you would likely see the potential offendee 20 minutes later and would resolve the issue that quickly. This was a useful fear in those times because it kept the peace in a fragile community.
But in modern times, you may never see that person again. And fearing others’ judgments can literally be detrimental to your health and well-being.
If you constantly think that others are upset with you or even hate you, you can end up depressed, unable to work, and unable to take proper care of yourself.
Natural selection does that on purpose for the primitive society it was meant for. But it didn’t envision our modern world in which we are less likely to see the person again anytime soon.
The Right View in Freelancing
How does all this discussion on the right view relate to freelancing? As a freelancer, I not only have to cope with the anxiety around constantly needing to drum up business and keep up with my own projects at the same time, but I also have to cope with the isolation that contributes to my anxiety.
When I do venture out of my cave, er, office, I have to think about what I’m going to wear besides my usual yoga pants and whether I should listen to music instead of be more open to the world around me.
All this is worsened by my understanding that others will see me, and I have to interact politely. They’ll all be looking at me! Should I even bother?
The right view is to realize, though, that they are not all looking at me. The right view is also understanding that worrying about what others think of me contributes to the delusion that they even care at all.
They may notice my yoga pants and that I’m listening to music. However, my concern that they really give a hoot about that is evolution ensuring that I keep the peace in the community.
Sure, if one were to flip a neighbor off or go out wearing symbols of hate speech, the peace will certainly be disrupted. But that extreme is rare when I consider what I normally see from day to day. And those are certainly not actions I would ever consider taking anyway!
The Right View in Life
The right view is also seeing the other people going about their lives planting flowers, cleaning out their garage, and heading off to work.
It’s seeing the birds flying overhead, the lizards darting on the sidewalk, the clouds moving across the blue, and even the incessant leaf blower across the street (also don’t forget the person managing that contraption).
The right view is also the smell of freshly cut grass, the promise of coming rain, the scent of sunblock on my skin, and even dog poo. It’s the honking of cranes, purring of my cat, buzzing of cicadas, and screaming of car alarms.
All of these exist at once, before me and all of us. It’s with us as we cope with everyday anxiety and the business of running a business.
Thus, getting wrapped up in the specifics may hold us back from the lovely whole outside and all around us. The inner worries were put there by natural selection to keep us in check, but we can free ourselves by remembering to take the right view by looking up and all around every once in a while.
Thanks for joining me on this first meander!