Fundamental Teachings of Buddhism: Right Thought

As we move along in our eight week series of the Noble Eightfold Path, it’s time to examine the Fundamental Teaching of Buddhism: Right Thought. 

Thinking is the speech of our mind. 

Right thought makes our speech clear and beneficial. But then, as we are reminded of how each of the parts of the Noble Eightfold Path is interconnected with the other, if right thinking is solid, our right view will improve.

And then falling from that, because thinking often leads to action, Right Thinking is needed to take us down the path of Right Action. 

Practicing Right Thinking isn’t easy because our mind is often thinking about one thing while our body is doing another.

Our bodies and our minds are not always unified.

One surefire way to connect the two is through conscious breathing. When we stop to take a deep breath and actually follow our breath to the bottom and then to the top, it is a near perfect way to unify our body with our mind. It’s almost impossible to be lost in thought when we are consciously aware of our breathing.

When we concentrate on our breathing, we bring body and mind back together and become whole again. 

Mindful breathing helps us stop being preoccupied by the sorrows of the past and anxieties about the future. It helps us be in touch with life in the present moment.

Much of our thinking is completely unnecessary. 

When we practice mindfulness, we begin to hear the thoughts in our mind and notice whether our thinking is useful or not.

Thinking has two parts: the initial thought and the developing thought. 

Here are four practical practices of Right Thinking:

1. Ask “Are You Sure?”

If there’s a rope in your path and you perceive it as a snake, fear-based thinking follows. The more erroneous your perception, the incorrect your thinking will be. 

Suggestion: Write Are you sure? On a large piece of paper and hang it where you will see it often.

Throughout each day, ask yourself this question again and again. Wrong perceptions cause incorrect thinking and unnecessary suffering. 

2. Ask “What am I doing?”

Ask yourself this question just to help yourself just BE. It helps you overcome the habit of wanting to do things quickly. When you ask yourself the question, reflect on the question. 

If our thoughts carry you away, we need mindfulness to intervene.  

3. Say “Hello, Habit Energy!”

Oftentimes even without thinking about it, we stick to our habits, even the ones that make us suffer. Our way of acting depends on our way of thinking and our way of thinking depends on our habit energies. 

When we recognize this, we can say “hello, habit energy” and make good friends with our habitual patterns of thinking and acting. 

Once we accept these engrained thoughts and not feel guilty about them, they lose their power over us. Right thinking leads to right Action. 

4. Bodhichitta – Or “Mind of Love”

Coming at your life with a mind of love is the deep wish to cultivate understanding in ourselves in order to bring happiness to many beings. 

This is the motivating practice and force for mindful living.