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The Eight Fold Path, Step Five; Right Livelihood

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Woo Hoo! We are half way through our examination of the Eight Fold Path. Do you feel enlightened yet? Stick with it. You’re doing great!

Step five, Right Livelihood, looks at our relationship with money. While the traditional Buddhist teachings around this step focus primarily on how we make our money, I believe it’s just as important to be mindful of how we’re spending our money. Especially since our freedom surrounding the ways we spend our money is rapidly decreasing.

The big no-no professions in classical Buddhist teachings suggest avoiding trading in the following: Arms, human beings (slavery, prostitution, human trafficking), flesh (breeding animals for slaughter or experimental testing), and intoxicants or poisons. I’m fairly certain though, that not too many Meth cooking, gun toting, dog fight promoting, pimps follow me and my blog, so I’m going to guess that most of you understand about having the right type of profession.

However, when it comes to spending our money things become a little less clear and sometimes we don’t really have an option in the matter. Take oil for example. I’m fairly passionate about the evils of oil, and the problems it causes in the world. We, America, fight wars and commit heinous atrocities over oil. While I know this is a bitter pill to swallow, especially for those who joined the military hoping to make a positive difference in the world, it’s just a fact. Iraq invaded Kuwait and we had troops moving there within hours. China kills thousands taking over Burma, suddenly demanding we all call it Myanmar now, and we don’t do anything.

I hate oil, and when I see the reports showing the billions of dollars in profit the big oil companies are making quarterly, it makes me crazy. Yet, I still buy $60 of gasoline every week or so. I’ve had people say to me that if I feel this way, I should just ride public transportation, but it’s just not a realistic option for my lifestyle, and public transportation still runs on oil.

I love watching The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, but die a little inside every time the BP Oil commercial comes on.

Wal-Mart is another place where we all know we shouldn’t shop, yet millions do because we are desperate to stretch our money as far as possible, because the cost of living is now higher than a lot of us make. Many people shop there because they feel like they don’t have much of a choice in the matter.

No one eats at Little Caesars because the pizza is good.

Technology is another big financial trap we Americans often find ourselves in. Last month, in an act of depression I considered buying the new Xbox One, even though I already have an Xbox 360 that gets played with for about ten minutes every other month or so. I have four Xbox games that are still in the shrink wrap, one of them I think I even pre-ordered and paid express shipping for, yet I still wanted the new Xbox One, and was positive it would make me feel better (for the record, I didn’t buy it and felt better anyway).

A little while ago I read this article about the Apply factory in China, where they had to install a giant net around the building because so many of the workers were committing suicide by jumping off the roof, however, I hear the IPhone 6 is coming out soon. It’s supposed to have Angry Birds and Plants VS Zombies built right in. I’m going to get the purple one!

We have little choice as to how we spend our money, which is why those choices are so important. I know it takes effort, but can we maybe research where our money is going? Can we look into what exactly the companies we support and invest in do? Can we think about exactly why we are buying certain things? Mindfulness in all things includes our spending habits.

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