My friend used to be a competitive bodybuilder, and he did quite well for himself. He used to talk about how he and his friends set ridiculous goals for themselves of gaining weight, lifting more weight in the gym, and reaching points of fitness they hadn’t achieved before. It was all about the goals.
All Anyone Ever Cares About are the Goals
Our society is very goal-oriented, and no matter who you talk to this idea of achieving results seems to permeate throughout all walks of life. One area, however, that it does not work, nor does it belong, is in the arena of spiritual enlightenment. The goal of spiritual enlightenment is not attainable if you are only focused on the outcome. It’s about the progress and incremental benefits you receive. You will never achieve pure enlightenment. Therefore, it should not be the goal of any mindful practice.
Setting the Bar Too High
Many of us feel like if we meditate daily, we read all the spiritual texts, follow the gurus like Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle, Gabby Bernstein, and others, we will reach new heights and suddenly life will magically be perfect every day for the rest of life. Unfortunately, that is not how it works.
During one of last week’s Calm meditations, Tamara Levitt talked about results and why or why not they don’t happen for some people. This is an excellent topic, and I have had numerous conversations about this with my friends. As with anything, it must be practiced, to work. It’s not enough to just do it once a day and expect perfection in all areas of life.
One and Done
One example I can think of is people who go to church once each week and then walk out that door and mistreat others, they lie, they cheat, and their lives don’t improve. Another example is people who meditate a few times a week, while their minds wander and race, and then they can’t understand why life hasn’t gotten any better.
It’s because the work needs to be a “daily practice” of being present and aware rather than some goal. We are given many opportunities throughout the day and week to practice what we learn. You can improve your patience when you get frustrated. We can focus on our breath and slow down our anger when dealing with a difficult person. We can use what we have learned through all these great resources to improve all the circumstances of our lives. But if we read it and then forget about it, nothing will get any better, and we will not evolve.
Instead, Toss Out the Goals and Lean into the Little Things
Goals have no place in spiritual enlightenment because those results will appear subtle and over time. Spiritual help, like many things, occurs when it is ready, not when you are ready. People in AA want the results of a sober life, but some don’t want to put in the work to get there. It’s never going to happen for them.
Benefits of living a more mindful life don’t come crashing in; it’s more like a whisper. The magical part is when you actually start to practice what you learn every day, all day, things do improve, and the side effects are amazing!
So instead of setting some lofty spiritual goal, simply dig deep and relax into your meditation or reflective reading and let it wash over you and do its thing. Then pay attention throughout the day to how you can use what you learned.