Forget the goal; focus on the journey!

What does it mean to walk the spiritual path? What is it we hope to achieve?

The answers are different for everyone but there will always be some sort of end goal:

Enlightenment;  Peace and happiness;  Nirvana;  To be free of suffering

But are these goals ultimately achievable in this lifetime?

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Does the path lead anywhere? Does it have an end?

Often we set off on The Path with a huge amount of enthusiasm but soon find we flounder and – worst of all – criticise ourselves for lack of commitment and discipline.

Despite a deep desire to ‘become a better person’ to ‘discover reality’ and to ‘be free from pain and suffering’ the truth is that not much seems to really change. The progress is slow. Meditation and study is sporadic and, just as we believe we are finally getting somewhere, an incident occurs that proves we have not come as far as we thought.

The great spiritual teacher Ram Dass said:

“If you think you are so enlightened, go and spend a week with your parents

After many years of struggling on the path to enlightenment I have recently felt frustrated that progress appears minimal. I have devoured hundreds of books, spent years practising mediation and yet still, when pushed, throw tantrums when annoyed and often lack empathy and compassion. I can be like Jekyll and Hyde: kind and tolerant one minute; mean and irritable the next.

Despite all the books saying this is fine, this is what happens, this is actually ok, a sense of failure envelopes me causing a break in meditation practise for a few days – sometimes weeks – until I manage to centre myself again and get back on track. It is very similar to breaking a diet with a binge of chocolate and cakes. It breaks the resolve and takes a while to regain momentum.

After much reflection I am understanding that spiritual practice is not about attaining goals – especially ones that are so far out of reach –  but is more about the journey and an immense weight has been lifted. I feel calmer and more accepting of the process.

I realise, after comparing my responses now with how I would have behaved, say, ten years ago that I have made progress. I cope much better with what life churns up. I panic less. I am learning to let life ‘just happen’.

I previously had this vision that with meditation practice, and a concerted effort at controlling my emotions, life would be free of problems but I understand now that life’s problems will continue. The car may get bumped, my children may be unhappy, life will not always be kind. But it is how I respond to these issues that define my progress. Can I remain calm and centred? Can I accept these situations and let them pass through me rather than dwelling on them far into the future?

Clearly, some situations will pass through quicker than others but the key is to let go of them as soon as possible. Don’t hang on to life’s traumas. Experience them, cry and moan if necessary and then let them go. Don’t keep relating them, with relish, to everyone we meet.

I haven’t posted regularly on this blog for some time as I had lost focus of what I was trying to achieve so have decided to take a new direction.

I will take words of wisdom from works such as the Tao Te Ching and attempt to analyse them – with the help of others – in order to reach some clarity of their meaning and how they can influence our everyday lives. I will also review books – old and new – which provide insight and guidance to those interested in the spiritual and metaphysical. Authors such as Deepak Chopra, Eckhart Tolle and Michael A. Singer have a lot to say!

I have just reposted a review of Buddha by Karen Armstrong – which I originally posted last October – because it is an excellent book and well worth a read.

I hope you will find the posts interesting and useful and I know that the process will provide me with greater insight into what I am trying to achieve.

I invite you to join my journey.