How is it possible to live our life in presence while pursuing important goals? Are these two facets of being and doing not mutually exclusive? In this article I will talk about how to combine these two qualities skillfully.
If life was a journey across a vast ocean it would be necessary to plan the journey according to waters leading to the destination. Without a proper goal, we would simply be drifting around aimlessly. And if we have a goal it is furthermore important to stay on course until we have reached it. If we continuously change our directions, we won’t reach our destination. The importance of surrounding factors, navigation-skills, a good vessel and a proper destination shouldn’t be underestimated. Many people are perpetually unsatisfied because they lack the knowledge and the tools to recognize and realize their goals.
It would help immensely if we could create some clarity in our outlook. Being absolutely clear about what we want is essential to get things done. Even though this is perfectly understandable, most people offer the majority of their attention to what they don’t want or what they are afraid of. There’s no question that this habit renders us highly inefficient. So if you would like to lead an inspiring life, get some clarity about the direction and learn how to navigate properly on the way.
The fear of the unknown paralyzes many. Society, upbringing, media, advertising and cultural norms etc mostly condition our will and our choices. Most human beings on this planet have learned to consume and produce. If we are good consumers and/or producers, we are rewarded. On the other hand we quickly become outsiders if we don’t fit into this scheme in some way. Endlessly following our desires doesn’t lead to genuine happiness – it will simply lead to more places, stuff and experiences.
While it is nice to navigate beautiful experiences, add quality to the places we visit and touch hearts on the way, it is a never-ending journey based on dissatisfaction. The more we move, the more it reveals the restlessness and lack of satisfaction residing underneath these movements. Moving from here to there, getting this or that, contributing, consuming and producing are fine – they are all part of life. In fact it is the duty of a skillful captain to navigate these facets of life properly.
If we just move through life without any spiritual dimension, we are bound to end up perpetually chasing something else. The next moment will always appear more attractive and this moment will always appear as a means to an end. The problem with this mode of living is the arising of an underlying sense of emptiness and meaninglessness. Most people try to get rid of this feeling by distracting themselves with more consumption and more production. It’s a vicious cycle indeed.
Recognizing that this moment is actually all there is, seeing that life is only here and now is crucial if we want to find true happiness. For many this appears absurd – most feel that there is some sort of future that they need to get to in order to become more… whatever they have learned they need to become. This endless race against life appears to actually enhance life and make it “worth living”. The sad truth however is that the race never ends. There’s no such thing as a perfect future we need to get to – there’s just presence in fact.
You are here right now. You probably don’t really notice it but it’s true. It might even feel as if it’s not significant at all, almost like something that you need to overcome. As long as this is the case, every step we take lacks quality. It’s almost like a dancer that tries to get to the end of the dance hoping it will be better somehow. Life is much like a dance. This shows us that it’s not about getting anywhere. It’s about doing this step fully and completely. That’s how you add quality to life, you see?
Now it’s not hard to know how to combine presence with direction. Taking our dancing-example again we can clearly see that the dance has a very specific direction but the important point is not the goal. The and beauty of a dance manifests when the dancer surrenders to this step right now. You can translate this to any activity, whether mundane or sophisticated. In order to perform well in life you need to be there when it happens. If your body is here and your mind dreams about possible future scenarios it renders you inefficient in this moment.
The reason for this inefficiency is that body and mind are not united in what they do, they are split. As long as you are not 100% committed to this step, there will always be some inefficiency. The key is to learn the art of dancing with life. It’s not about giving up direction, goals or ambition. But once we know where we want to go it’s all about efficient navigation. And a good navigator has the ability to adapt to the present circumstances with skill and ease. Planning is an essential part of life and requires our full attention to work well.
It doesn’t matter how much we plan, scheme and navigate though. In the end, the sea and the weather are always out of our control. Sure, we might be able to adapt and get really good at navigating (hopefully) but we can never change the awesome power of nature. For those who have realized that they can’t find true happiness within changing conditions there’s a vital shift towards truth. This shift could be described as living life from a state of being rather than from a state of searching.
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