Right View (aka Wise Understanding) is the first guidepost on the Eightfold Path, and rightly so. Without the Right View, we might approach the Eightfold Path as a checklist of goals to be achieved. There is nothing to achieve. Striving to achieve takes us out of the present moment, and only in this moment can we fully experience life. Without the Right View we might take the Eightfold Path as strict rules to follow and beat ourselves up if we fail to adhere to them. So we need the Right View in order to be in a healthy relationship with the seven other aspects of the Eightfold Path.
So what is this Right View? Well, like any ‘view’ it depends a lot on our vantage point. If we are down in the valley we have a different view of the world than if we are on the hill top. The sun and moon seem to rise later and set earlier than when we are atop a mountain. So with our inner life, vantage point informs our view of what is.
The vantage point for the Right View is both deeper and more expansive than the limited surface view of life we often have. From this vantage point we feel more embodied, more present with whatever sensation arises.
From this vantage point our heart is not finite and fragile in need of protection, but open, infinite and radiant.
From this vantage point we see through the illusion that we are our thoughts. Our mind is spacious, with room for all that arises, like the sky has room for all weather.
From this vantage point we can see how our fear-based defensive behavior keeps us feeling separate and causes suffering in ourselves and others.
From this vantage point we see others with great compassion. The things about them that may have annoyed us from our limited view, we now see as merely unskillful responses to the tangle of suffering caused by their own limited vantage point. We see through all that to the authentic, lovable being with whom we are connected.
From this vantage point, the world is not a mess. It is a wondrous mystery: a rich, vital and volatile mix of pain and pleasure, cause and effect, patterns of cycles and seasons. All that birth, death, decay and rebirth! From this vantage point our awe increases and our harsh judgments and our need to be right simply fall away. Yet we are more able to be powerful agents of change from this vantage point.
How do we come to the Right View?
Chances are if you are reading this, you have at least had glimpses of Right View. Or if not even glimpses, you have some sense of its existence because you feel its absence in your life. Perhaps reading and hearing about it feels like coming home to you.
Giving yourself regular opportunity to experience Right View through the practice of meditation on a daily basis is the simplest and most effective way to access this vantage point. By staying physically relaxed yet mentally alert in our practice and mindful of our thoughts and behavior, we deepen our ability to access Right View. Through regular practice this will become more and more your natural vantage point.