Buddha’s Noble Eightfold Path and Tater Tots
Posted on January 12, 2018
I love me some tots. Actually, the tot, though more famous, fails to meet the quality and taste standard set by the tater crown which I rank as superior to it’s tot cousin. Both, I would argue, if prepared correctly, well surpass French Fries with some notable exceptions including the waffle fries I had at the Four Points Lodge in Steamboat Springs a few weeks ago. Nothing like a good waffle fry at 10,000 feet!
I’ve been thinking about tots in the context of Right Action. Right Action is one of the eight practices put forth in early Buddhism designed to liberate us from suffering and to attain nirvana. I might play around with the other seven practices in the future, but in this post, I want to examine Right Action and how it provides a context to look at everyday actions, habits, and addictions in a new mindful light.
I’m currently taking a course on The Science of Mindfulness: A research-based path to well-being by Ronald Siegel. In the course he does a great job of presenting a secular approach to mindfulness while not losing the wisdom tradition of Buddhism in which it originated. In the early chapters (I’m about half-way through at this point), he connects the practice of mindfulness with the ability to reflect and act in ways that promote health and well-being for ourselves, others, and the world.
The challenge I see in Right Action is how do you utilize your knowledge and insight in the moment to make positive choices: eat a salad and not tots, even though the other options, delicious tots, is so much more appealing. If we inject just a moment of reflection, our choices usually change for the better. At the grocery, this might help me skip the tot or crown section and go straight to the fresh produce.
While tot reduction is a positive life choice, Right Action becomes even more valuable when making larger decisions or trying to make difficult life changes. How does Right Action inform decision like which car should I buy? How should I structure my diet? How do I approach drugs and alcohol use? A moment of mindful reflection shifts decision making to the pre-frontal cortex (unless there is a hot basket of tots in front of me, then the fight is lost) and as Robert Sapolsky says “the pre-frontal cortex helps us to do the right thing when the right thing is the hard thing.”
A moment of pause and reflection allows us to act in ways that support our well-being and make choices that support the health of the planet and other living things. In the time of New Year’s resolutions, we can choose one thing to change (eat less tater tots) or resolve to reflect as much as possible on the potentially harmful (dying of tot related heart disease) effects and positive outcomes of each small choice we make throughout the day.