Right View and Understanding What We See
Right View is the first of eight practices on the Buddha’s Noble Eight-Fold Path for navigating the world and for developing joy and insight.
Right View asks us to become deeply curious about our perceptions and the subsequent ways in which they manifest in the world. Have you ever experienced a guttural reaction upon seeing a person for the first time? It is common that we make judgements based on our past experiences and we end up repeating patterns of behaviour, sometimes for no reason!
Right View reminds us to pay attention to the seeds inside of us that we water. In his book The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching Thich Naht Hanh writes, “our perceptions are made of our afflictions – craving, anger, ignorance, wrong views and prejudice. Whether we are happy or we suffer depends largely on our perceptions. It is important to look deeply at our perceptions and know their source”. Knowing their source means that we may be able to understand why our initial reaction was perhaps a negative one, and through the practice of Right View move to a place of understanding and compassion.
As a yoga teacher Right View is an extremely useful practice. In order to not favour certain students, to not make assumptions about others, it’s important that I take the time to understand my perceptions. Regardless of how others act, my perception is based on my past experiences, and I have a choice to acknowledge that and to see people from a mindful and true perspective. Right View reminds me to not always believe what I see!
From a sequencing standpoint, if during a class I decide that it “looks” as though students are tired and subsequently alter the rest of the class, I’m called to question my perception. By practicing mindfulness and Right View I can discern if perhaps I’m the person who is tired and need to alter the class, or if I read the situation accurately and students need a break.
From this place of Right View I can make the changes necessary to support myself or my students. This practice asks us to delve into our perceptions with curiosity. Just like mindfulness, Right View is a practice that develops with time.
Have you ever caught yourself looking around the yoga class creating stories about what you see?
by Mark Atherton, ERYT200, Yogacara Teacher Trainer