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  • John Thomas Dodson

Values and Actions

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

Photo credit: Ben White at
Where do you go when you've come to the end of the road?

The path of awakening begins with a step the Buddha called right understanding. Right understanding has two parts. To start with, it asks a question of our hearts. What do we really value, what do we really care about in this life?


Right understanding also requires from us a recognition and understanding of the law of karma....The term karma refers to the law of cause and effect. It means that what we do and how we act create our future experiences. If we are angry at many people, we start to live in a climate of hate. People will get angry at us in return. If we cultivate love, it returns to us. It's simply how the law works in our lives.

Joseph Goldstein & Jack Kornfield: Seeking the Heart of Wisdom


"What matters to me and how do I get it?" is a question that most everyone has asked. Since we experience the world from the perspective "I, me, mine" it's inevitable that the interests from that perspective would drive our actions. I remember arriving at a point when that point of view didn't work for me anymore. I didn't know why, and I certainly didn't know how to the fix things that weren't working, but I knew that I had come to the end of the road as I knew it.

I date my journey on the Path from that moment: when my values collided with the accumulated results of my actions.

Around that same time a Buddhist teacher looked at my life experiences from the opposite direction to the way I was used to seeing things. While I was talking about how angry and rude someone had been to me, he was asking about my interior world and my exterior version of it. "When do you experience anger? How often are YOU angry? How do you express that anger to others?"

Gradually, my understanding of "inputs" and "outputs" reversed itself. I began to see life as a delayed mirror. The world I saw was a result of what was happening inside my mind and then showing up in front of me as "reality".

We come to the end of the road when our way of seeing and acting isn't getting the results we want. Our world doesn't sync with our values. We have become strangers to our own lives.

In my case the end of the road became the beginning of the Path.

I'll close with another excerpt from Seeking the Heart of Wisdom:

"Whatever we do, however we act, creates how we become, how we will be, and how the world will be around us. To understand karma is wonderful because within this law there are possibilities of changing the direction of our lives. We can actually train ourselves and transform the climate in which we live. We can practice being more loving, more aware, more conscious, or whatever we want. We can practice in retreats or while driving or in the supermarket checkout line. If we practice kindness, then spontaneously we start to experience more and more kindness within us and from the world around us."

This isn't a passive practice, and we aren't victims of our own ignorance anymore. Seed the ground with what you want to grow. Let time and karma do the rest!

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