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Goals

What the World Needs Now, Is More Than Good Intentions

Guest Writer, Life LessonsHelen AveryComment

Praying and meditating won’t stop violence, environmental disasters, or inequality. Our spiritual path needs to become one of action.

When it comes to solving the world’s problems, spiritual wisdom can unfortunately offer some confusing messages. Consider the phrase: The world is your mirror. Taken at face value I can only conclude that a large portion of myself is intolerant, violent, fearful, racist, selfish, greedy, and polluting. If you’re seeing the world I am seeing, then perhaps this is you too…

This is not entirely true of course—well, I hope not…

Rather, the teaching is this:

If we want to change how we see the world, we have to change what’s in our minds. The promise is that if we work on ourselves through meditation or whatever means resonates, we will be able to look upon all the problems of the world with a calmness and acceptance. Indeed it is this search for inner peace that entices hundreds of millions of us to follow a spiritual path.

But here is the rub—and I know I’m not alone—I have spent the last 15 years working on my inner self, and, yes, I am happier, and calmer. I have more love, and less fear. But, in spite of the increased inner work, the world seems to be experiencing greater violence, more pollution, and an increasing gap between the rich and poor. Something about this reflection doesn’t quite add up.

My heart seems to be telling me that this spiritual approach is not going to be enough.

The big issues are just too big. Enter confusing and somewhat contradictory spiritual teaching number two:

We live in a world of duality.

Indeed whether it’s yoga philosophy, New Age wisdom, mystical teachings, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, or Judaism, we are told that the very nature of this world is suffering. It is one of ups and downs, and perceived ‘goods’ and ‘bads.’ So all that inner work is great in helping us to cope with this realization, but the reflection is never going to change, so don’t even try. Is that the truth here? Some teachings even refer to the world as an illusion. Why get caught up in the world when it’s not even real? Rather, our time would be better spent accepting that the world is how it is, and aiming to transcend it by attaining enlightenment.

Intellectually I understand these points, but my heart has never really agreed that I should sit back on my cushion and watch while the world goes to hell in a handbasket. So instead I have played my small part—volunteering in my community, composting, donating—and for the big issues? Well, I largely rely on prayer, and meditating on world peace.

But lately, my heart seems to be telling me that this spiritual approach is not going to be enough. The big issues are just too big. And spiritual leaders, among many others, seem to be saying the same thing.

Take Pope Francis. There’s a man you would lay odds on is relying on prayer, but instead he has become one of the world’s most active defenders of the environment. His June encyclical was tweeted by world leaders as it laid out in no uncertain terms why the world needs to come up with actions to respond to climate change and save the planet. This week at the Paris Climate Conference the pontiff not only sent his shoes to represent him at the cancelled march, but in his speech he further called the world to action:

“Every year the problems are getting worse… We are at the limits. If I may use a strong word I would say that we are at the limits of suicide.”

With regards to terrorism, following the Paris attacks, the Dalai Lama also made the unusual statement that prayer was not going to be enough. Speaking to a German newspaper, the 80-year-old spiritual leader said:

“I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.”

Rather, the Dalai Lama said that what is required is to stop expecting help from God, Buddha, or governments, and instead start working for peace. He said that if we are to “foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony” then what is called for is not a spiritual approach, but rather “a systematic approach.”

Several politicians have also emphasized this point this week following the mass shooting in San Bernardino—proclaiming that prayers for the victims of shootings, as compassionate as those may be, do not stop gun violence—only a change in legislation can do that.

There seems to be a global call to action happening.

Renowned spiritual teacher Marianne Williamson ran to be a politician in California, and urges that it’s time for the spiritual community to get involved in structural change. Because yes, we can all feel better about the state of the world after an hour on our cushion chanting, but it won’t close the hole in the ozone layer, or solve a refugee crisis.

David Loy, a zen teacher, lays out in his article in Lion’s Roar why we, as a spiritual community, need to become more proactive. This means shifting our sole focus from escaping the world, to becoming a bodhisattva. Bodhisattvas delay their nirvana because they wish to save others from their suffering. It is compassion in action. It’s Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Thich Nhat Hanh. And this proactivity could well be the path that that leads us to nirvana anyway.

Being detached from the state of the world, David says, is a confusing and misunderstood spiritual teaching that leads to inaction. Bodhisattvas are unattached to the fruits of their actions, but they are engaged in the world:

“This non-attachment is essential in the face of the inevitable setbacks and frustrations that activism involves, but it does not mean that one is unconcerned about the results of one’s efforts.”

Essentially, let’s work out how we can best help, with the intention of changing the reflection of the world in the mirror—but not being disheartened if it stays the same.

“Given the urgency of the ecological and social challenges that face us today, are we not all called upon to become bodhisattvas?” asks David. And indeed, why wouldn’t we want to help one another in the best way possible? One less confusing pearl of spiritual wisdom is that we are all interconnected. And perhaps the ‘best way’ to help, in this age, may entail setting aside the cushion for a moment, to take a more proactive stance.

How we are each called to action will be different and unique to our journey, and skills, but for what it’s worth, here is some sage advice...

1. Work on yourself.

It’s true that the only way we can really be of service is if we have a calm mind and a loving heart. Whatever it takes to get there is what we do.

2. Continue to pray and meditate.

As far as I am aware there are no studies that show complaining producing positive results. But there is plenty of research that points to prayer and meditation as being beneficial for both the individual taking part and those around them.

3. Find your unique skill.

We cannot solve all of the world’s problems. But there are plenty of people with the right skills who collectively can. We are one of them and we need to find our skill. This is not to be confused with our gift. We may be a great artist, but we may also be rightly placed to do work towards conserving the oceans, too. For example, a yoga teacher is making a difference by developing machines to manufacture sanitary pads for women in refugee camps.

4. Be proactive—not random—with kindness.

Why do acts of kindness need to be random? We can plan acts of kindness targeted to where it is most needed. There are some great ideas in this blog, such as sending flowers to people who may be suffering. If we listen to our intuition, we will know how best to serve through kindness.

5. Work on yourself.

Yes, it’s this one again. We cannot give if we are depleted. When we feel overwhelmed, overworked, or overstretched in our giving, it’s time to take a break and go back to working on ourselves. What lessons can we learn? After all, the world doesn’t need martyrs, it needs bodhisattvas.


Helen Avery Guest Writer Explore Deeply

Helen Avery is a journalist, writer, yoga teacher, & ordained Minister, living in New York City. This article was origially posted on Wanderlust.com where Helen is a Section Editor working on the Vitality & Wisdom channels.
 
"Asana. meditation, reading and writing - for me, these all are gifts that enable me to learn and practice what it means to live from my heart. They help me to remember in all moments, outside of solitude, that there is only love."


Chloë Rain is the Founder of Explore Deeply and the Explore Deeply Movement.

She has had the pleasure of mentoring women and men all over the globe to learn to source their inner power, deepen their relationship to their own guidance, and experience greater love and fulfillment, so they can enjoy the happiness they have always wanted, and have confidence and joy in their lives.

Many of her clients find that their relationships and careers shift dramatically in new and exciting ways after doing this work, creating freedom and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. To find out more about working with Chloë go → here.

Please feel free to share content freely from Explore Deeply™. However, please be courteous and link back to the original post, and credit Explore Deeply as well as the writer where applicable. I hope you find many resources here to serve you as you walk your path of purpose.

What if your goals are getting in the way of you actually achieving them?

Be who you want, Healing, Life LessonsChloë RainComment
Your constant goal focus may be undermining your ability to achieve what it is you set out to accomplish in the first place.

The year is coming to a close, maybe you’ve set your goals for the upcoming year, or maybe you’ve decided you don’t believe in New Year's resolutions.

Either way, it boggles the mind to think of how many of us, whether we set out with good intentions or no intentions at all, end up in the same place year after year. What’s up with that?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines intention as "the thing that you plan to do or achieve : an aim or purpose” and a goal as "something that you are trying to do or achieve”. You would think that a person motivated enough to set a goal and stay focused on that intention would be the person who would achieve what they set out time and and time. But that doesn’t seem to be the experience for most of us.

As it turns out, it may be our continued focus on the end goal that contributes to us failing to achieve what we set out to do in the first place!

It's been studied and shown that the person who is immersed in the experience of what they are doing versus the person who is focused on achieving the end goal and receiving the benefit of the experience, is more likely to actually attain their goal and enjoy themselves more in the process, without continued focus on the goal.

A research study done by a pair of scientists from University of Chicago and the Korea Business School showed the more we think about our goals and the desired final outcome or long-term benefit the more we undermine ourselves in achieving the intended goal.

The scientists created 4 studies:  exercising on a treadmill (Study 1) creating origami (Study 2) to dental flossing (Study 3) and practicing yoga (Study 4). They documented the impact of how focusing on the goal or long-term benefits of the activity inversely affected the person's motivation to pursue the activity and complete the goal.

They found out, when it comes to exercising, health benefiting activities, or creative pursuits the more we stay focused on the desired outcome (or the long-term benefit of the activity) the greater we lessen our own enjoyment of the activity, which is a key factor in attaining our desired objective. What does this experience lead to? Quitting before you’ve given yourself the chance to see the long-term benefits of your activity, and sucking the enjoyment out of doing the thing you need to do in order to reach or achieve the long term desired benefits.

If you’re running on the treadmill to lose weight and that’s your focus you are less likely to run as long or as far as the person next you on the treadmill that is just thinking about the experience of running. In fact, the studied showed the goal focused person ran on average only 34 minutes versus 43 minutes for the experience focused person. Whoa!

This gives new fervor to the trite but apparently true statements about enjoying the journey and the process and not the destination.

Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.
— Greg Anderson

When it came to taking an origami class to “increase your hand eye-coordination” the long-term benefit focused group enjoyed their class less, were far less likely to take another class, and were not interested in buying their own origami set to create more at home. 

Furthermore the last study the scientists created involved observing yoga students and their stick-to-it-ness and enthusiasm to reap the long-term benefits of practicing yoga regularly. This study was different than the others, in that it showed that you can be negatively impacted, without even knowing it, by outside influences suggesting that you should do yoga for the long term benefits.

They found that in "accidentally observing” a magazine cover that spoke about the long term benefits of yoga the student then enjoyed their yoga class less, and subsequently expressed less commitment to come to future classes!

"This last study suggests that, once our projects are underway, not only should we beware choosing to stay too focused on our goals, we must also guard against the detrimental effect of outside reminders. So, rip down those wall posters of slender models; ignore the latest Pulitzer long list; hide the photos of Provence. That way you’re more likely to lose weight, write a bestseller, and master your French….. ” - Christian Jarrett (original article: How Goals and Good Intentions Can Hold Us Back)

"Revel in the process and you’re more likely to make it to the finishing line."

It appears that when you engage with an activity just for the sake of experiencing it, the results are that you enjoy the activity far more, and are far more likely to engage in the activity again and again. Maybe even become a master teacher or expert athlete, but that’s not the point! Because if your focus is to become a pro-golfer, a marathon winning junkie, a star studded recording artist, or a cup cake baking queen you’re less likely to actually achieve your intention. Most virtuosos have attained their level of expert authority out of the sheer obsessed enthusiasm they experience in engaging repeatedly in their area of expertise.

What does that mean for us regular Joe’s who are trying to lose a few pounds, write that book, finish that abandoned project in the garage, or learn to play guitar like Jimi Hendrix? You’ll be happier, enjoy yourself more, and are far more likely to achieve said goal if you drop your focused intention and live in the moment of the experience you are engaging in.

The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.
— Albert Einstein

Each month, each year, we hope will be better than before, and we continuously set new bars for ourselves and raise our expectations of our experiences. Each year we begin with fresh hope as we start the new year reinvigorated in our pledge to make a change in our lives. But then as the months go by its difficult to hold the vision and maintain the energy to achieve that goal… and that’s Ok.

The best focus we can keep to really create change, feel different, and finish that project is to be intent on the joy of the experience you are having in each moment of doing and being. Fuse this attitude to the core of everything we do, or set out to do, and we are far more likely to achieve our life goals and experience more enjoyment in our daily lives.

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find that after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.
— John Steinbeck

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In this radical freedom from limitation, you will experience firsthand why this exploring deeply is not only a powerful doorway to awakening, but one of the essential qualities of spiritual liberation itself.

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Chloë Rain is the Founder of Explore Deeply and the Explore Deeply Movement.

She has had the pleasure of mentoring women and men all over the globe to learn to source their inner power, deepen their relationship to their own guidance, and experience greater love and fulfillment, so they can enjoy the happiness they have always wanted, and have confidence and joy in their lives.

Many of her clients find that their relationships and careers shift dramatically in new and exciting ways after doing this work, creating freedom and fulfillment in their personal and professional lives. To find out more about working with Chloë go → here.

Please feel free to share content freely from Explore Deeply™. However, please be courteous and link back to the original post, and credit Explore Deeply as well as the writer where applicable. I hope you find many resources here to serve you as you walk your path of purpose.