QUESTION: How do I proceed to live your Amidist take on the 4 Noble Truths and Eightfold Path?
SHORT ANSWER: Live wholeheartedly
LONGER ANSWER: In my understanding, the eightfold path is an outcome. You can try to mimic it if you like, but one is bound to do so with one's deluded mind unless one is enlightened and if one were enlightened it wwould come naturally anyway. Really it is a description of how a Buddha lives, which is to say, wholeheartedly. This gives a clue. If one lives wholeheartedly, even the mistakes one makes will be instructive - in fact, they will be more instructive than one's successes, generally speaking. So one answer to your question is 'one mistake after another', but keeping faith through it all no matter what comes along.
The four truths are not so much a practice as a description that liberates. They tell us
- that dukkha is a truth for noble ones. This means both that (a) the path is not a matter of eliminating dukkha but of learning through it and (b) that the 'noble one' accepts, faces and learns from the afflictions that inevitably arrive in life, rather than running away from or hiding them.
- that when there is dukkha there is samudaya which is arising energy and this energy can go different ways. It can go into escapism and compulsive avoidance, into actions such as retaliation that are destructive, or into constructive, equitable response. For instance, as we get older (see Decay of the Body) physical dukkha tends to get more and more prevalent. That can ruin one's life or it can, at the other extreme, generate saintliness, wisdom and great compassion.
- that the noble one is able to use the arising samudaya energy constructively because of having diminished or let go of 'self'. This is a matter of faith and of 'accepting one's lot' in a deep way. Everybody has faith - it is just a question of 'in what?' When it is faith in 'self' it is only a little light that does not let us see very far ahead. When it is faith in Buddha it is a great light. If one has faith in one's body, for instance, well, it fades. If one has faith in eternity, it lasts a long time.
- that when we walk in the great light we are naturally upon the eightfold path whether we know so or not.
So, whether we are hale or sick, young or old, dukkha happens, but there is world of difference between living wholeheartedly in the midst of it and being daunted by it and overly precious about one's supposed personal needs.