Whether you’re a Buddhist or not, you have to accept the First Noble Truth: suffering exists. We all experience it to some degree. It could be serious in nature, like a major illness or the loss of a loved one. There might be a tragedy on a broader scale beyond ourselves, like war, a terrorist attack, or a natural disaster. Suffering could be something small and trivial that causes us frustration or discomfort. We need to honestly assess the scope and scale of our suffering. We need to employ Right View. Then we can use that perspective as a catalyst for self-care.
What is Right View?
Right View is the first step along the Buddhist Eightfold Path. It’s not meant to imply that there is only one correct way to look at things. There is no single right answer to any given problem. Rather, Right View is a reminder to keep things in perspective and apply the proper contexts. When we start to apply Right View to self-care, we look at the actual causes of our suffering. Then we can gauge the appropriate steps to take to alleviate our misery, to prevent future hardship, and to insure that our actions don’t unwittingly result in even more suffering for ourselves or others.
An example of Right View is when we joking refer to something as a “First World problem”. The issue is still annoying, but we have the perspective that in the grand scheme of things it’s not all that important. We know that there are people who are worse off than we are, and that we should be grateful that our suffering is so small in comparison. This doesn’t mean that our feelings aren’t valid, or that the problem shouldn’t be addressed. It’s just that we know that our needs aren’t as great is if we’d lost our home or have just been diagnosed with cancer. We have context, can start making appropriate plans, and begin taking the most effective actions.
Right View as a Catalyst for Self-Care
All of us have, at some time in our life, done the right thing for the wrong reason. We’ve also done the wrong thing for the right reason. We need Right View so that we know and understand what problem we’re solving for. Our chosen actions need to be effective in addressing our needs. Self-care routines that stem from having the Right View can take us out of suffering and allow us to move forward. We’re not easting effort chasing answers to problems that don’t exist, or engaging in actions that aren’t going to do anything about our core issues.
I’ll cite the pharmaceutical ads on American television as a negative example. We’re encouraged to ask our doctor if a particular medication is right for us. Employing Right View, we should instead start with diagnosing the problem, rather than looking for an excuse to employ the solution they’re selling us. The same goes for miracle gadgets hawked on infomercials, fad diets, and exercise trends. It’s great that it worked for someone else (allegedly), but is the suffering they sought to alleviate the same suffering you’re experiencing? The nutrition plan they used to lose weight might not help my digestive issues. Nor will the meditation routine someone else used to deal with chronic pain necessarily help me get a handle on my anxiety.
Do You Have Insights on Right View and Self-Care?
We need to be honest about what our problems are. What areas of our lives are in need of better self-care? If you already have a routine, are the things you’re doing getting you results? What can you do differently that will address your unmet needs, and allow you to alleviate your own suffering? Be sure that the steps you take aren’t going to end up causing you a different sort of suffering, or accidentally create suffering for others. Employing Right View, you can improve your own self-care efforts.
I want to know your thoughts and opinions on this. Please leave your comments below. Maybe we can start a discussion!