Awareness of Self through the Eightfold Path

I’ve become increasingly aware of how my physical surroundings affect the way I think, conduct myself, and my emotional undercurrents, as well as how each of those relate to one another. It should be obvious enough, for example, how the unwritten social rules as defined by our culture or as taught to us by our family has unconsciously piloted us, affecting the way we carry ourselves in public compared to the things we do when we’re alone. Subtle bodily behaviors as casual as posture, whether under the public eye or in solitude however, seem to have deeper implications than we’re typically conscious of. What I can conclude from the eightfold path, beyond the guidelines it provides to end suffering, it also explains that each facet of ourselves is connected and interacts with one other and serves to make us more aware.

The practice of each concept of the eightfold path in symphony with one another explains how the interlacing connectedness of a person’s mind, body, and soul affect one another. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard University, explains how expressions of power by MBA students “exhibit the full range of power nonverbals. So you have people who are like caricatures of alphas, really coming into the room, they get right into the middle of the room before class even starts, like they really want to occupy space. When they sit down, they’re sort of spread out.” This shouldn’t be surprising for business students at an Ivy League school. Her observations explains how nonverbal expressions of self are influenced directly by the thoughts and feelings held by the communicator. Reiterated by Gethin, he comments on how the eightfold path in its teachings of wisdom, ethical conduct, and meditation are “eight significant dimensions of one’s behavior – mental, spoken, and bodily – that are regarded as operating in dependence on one another…focus on the matter in which one thinks, says, does, and feels can effect – and affect – the unfolding of the path to the cessation of suffering” (82). Practice of the eightfold path’s teachings provides not only an opportunity for intentional living, but also the awareness of how the self behaves in relation to whatever else is going on in terms of thoughts, feelings, and actions.

As a whole, application of the eightfold path does not simply end at ending the human condition of suffering, but a compass to living with greater understanding of the self.

Works Cited:

How Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are. Perf. Amy Cuddy. Ted Talks. Ted Talks, n.d. Web. 15 Feb. 2015. <http://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en>.

Gethin, Rupert. The Foundations of Buddhism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.

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1 Response to Awareness of Self through the Eightfold Path

  1. azhou says:

    You bring up some good points to show the importance of acknowledging the interdependency of our thoughts and actions in order to achieve self awareness. I also liked how you included the Harvard study to connect the psychology of our non-verbal actions with the eightfold path. It would be interesting to expand on that and bring in the goal of detachment from our sense of self, where we ultimately won’t be controlled by our thoughts/feelings anymore and only then can achieve a life free of suffering.

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