Eightfold Path: All Speech, No Action?

As we move from discussing Right Speech to discussing Right Action, let’s pause at the conjunction of the two. Where in our lives are we talking about something but not doing anything about it? Perhaps we have strong opinions about something that we are only to happy to voice, but we don’t act upon them. We don’t use whatever skills we have to bring about the change we see as necessary.

Or perhaps we talk a lot about what we plan to do, putting words to our fantasies, but after a while people realize that they are only that, just fantasies, not plans that we will actually fulfill.

When we are paralyzed, unable to act, yet continually complain about the way things are or fantasize about the way we want them to be, we are ineffectual, inauthentic, and let’s face it, annoying. We cause suffering to ourselves and to those who must listen to our continual harangue. Our expressions of dissatisfaction have become a habit that we may not even be aware of. They become black holes that suck out our energy and leave us feeling powerless. People don’t like to be around us because they don’t want to be sucked into the black hole.

Perhaps our harangue is fueled by what we hear on the radio. Since what the speaker says resonates with some fear-rooted anger within us, we are ready to believe what we hear, and we may repeat it, spreading the fear with a sense of authority that is based on hearsay. The people we draw to us are others who are rooted in fear, who resonate with the despair and anger of our words, and are fueled by it. Then we wonder why we are surrounded with such angry challenging friends.

Without questioning what we hear, without making any effort to confirm it with other sources, we mindlessly spew out this information like gossip to pepper a conversation, instead of exploring how, if this is a real concern, we can be effective agents of change. This is a kind of purgatory of the mind where suffering is endless.

But before we rush out to ‘walk the walk’ of our talk, we need to be sure our planned actions will be skillful. For this we can do a little self-exploration. We bring our full consciousness to our judgments and beliefs. We question them: Is this true? How do I know this is true? Is this statement aligned with my deepest wisdom and my deepest intention? Is it coming from a whole hearted love or is it rooted in divisive fear? If it is indeed aligned and loving, is this concern one I am ready and willing to work to remedy? If so, can I use my creative energy to find skillful means to be useful? For example, is there an existing organization working on this issue where I can volunteer or at the very least send funds? If it is a fantasy for myself, can I put together a detailed step by step plan of action? And if not can I employ the skills of someone trained in doing so to help me?

If I can’t honestly say I will work toward remedying this situation, can I compassionately let go of my habitual commenting on it? Can I open to the possibility of perceived imperfection being an integral part of this life?

The pursuit of perfection is just one more allure of Mara, trying to keep us from awakening. Seduced by the pursuit, we feel we can’t really live until everything is ‘just right.’ We are holding out for a certain level of satisfaction when all aspects of our lives or the world are perfectly aligned with our personal preferences or our greater global vision. But nothing can ever be just right, it can only be as it is. True awakening happens in this moment, seeing the integral nature of existence, seeing through the drama, the violence, the pain, the boredom, and recognizing the infinite beauty that permeates it all – the patterns, the cycles, the seasons.

The answers that arise out of a spacious, calm honest exploration will provide either acceptance of the way things are or a means to be an effective agent for change. Either way, we have skillfully alleviated some suffering in ourselves and those around us.

Let me know your thoughts on this.

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