Hold Your Goals Lightly, Not Tightly
In a recent seminar, someone asked me about a spiritual experience she often has during meditation and wondered why such beautiful experience repeatedly reaches a certain height and stops despite her longing for it to go higher.
My response to her was along the lines that no one really knows, but I wonder why you want it to go “higher”? Is there a value judgement here that the higher the experience the better? It would be worthwhile to explore where such belief comes from for you.
Most of the time we have an idea of what is good or bad, right or wrong, pleasurable or painful; we then form life goals based on those ideas.
Depending on our level of tenacity we might then get so attached to our goals (holding it tightly) that we miss the beauty and wonder of the ever-changing reality. We might miss our goal anyway or if we reach it with a lot of hardship, it won’t satisfy us.
In contrast, having goals but allowing our experience to just be what it is in the (holding it lightly) might or might not take us closer to our goal, but that’s okay because along the way we experience the wonder and joy of life fresh and alive. We also end up becoming clearer about our true goals. Again who is to say our goals should remain fixed according to our fixations; which by the way are mostly rooted in our reactions to others and the world. The goals we are attached to; the ones we hold tightly; are not necessarily rooted in our own objective experience.
What matters is: to not have certain fixed expectations about the outcome of our journey be it a spiritual, physical or professional one. As mentioned above, our minds constantly make comparisons and judgements, we categorise experience into painful or pleasurable, good or bad, fun or boring, nice or not so nice, high or low, acceptable or unacceptable and so on. Yet:
Then this beautiful poem by Rumi came to me. It describes our frustration along the journey so wonderfully and gives us sound advice in exquisite poetic language (my translation does not do justice to Rumi’s masterful, powerful and magical choice of words.)
All your restlessness
is rooted in your seeking restfulness.
Be a restless seeker
of the truth.
Restfulness will find you. ~Rumi
So, in this case, the person becomes restless seeking a higher spiritual experience which may not come about. However, if we seek the truth for the sake of the truth itself; not for a higher spiritual state that we have an idea of; then restlessness and our unique expression of a higher spiritual state shall find us.
Socrates imparts the same wisdom in another brilliant sense:
If you don’t get what you want, you suffer; if you get what you don’t want, you suffer; even when you get exactly what you want, you still suffer because you can’t hold on to it forever. Your mind is your predicament. It wants to be free of change. Free of pain, free of the obligations of life and death. But change is law and no amount of pretending will alter that reality. -Socrates
And yet another pearl of wisdom:
Everybody’s mind, everybody’s basic nature is constantly changing, changing, changing. You have to accept that and bring some flexibility to your ideas of the way things should be.
Fixed ideas make life difficult. Why do we solidify ideas: “I want my life to be exactly like this”? Because “I like.” That’s the reason—because we like things that way.
None of us wants to die, but can we fix it so that we won’t? We would like to live forever, enjoying life on Earth. Can we fix it so that we will? No, it’s impossible. Your basic nature—your mind, your body, the world—is automatically changing. Wanting things to go exactly a certain way is only making trouble for yourself. ~Lama Yeshe
If you are wondering how you should go about exploring your restlessness and your wanting to change your present experience, please revisit Get to know yourself, the Wonder Why Why method.