Always Well Within

Calm Your Mind, Ease Your Heart, Embrace Your Inner Wisdom

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Why Do You Do What You Do?

Taking life seriously does not mean spending our whole lives meditating as if we were living in the Himalaya Mountains or in the old days in Tibet. In the modern world, we have to work to earn our living, but we should not get entangled in a nine-to-five existence, where we live without any view of the deeper meaning of life.

Our task is to strike a balance, to find a middle way, to learn not to overextend ourselves with extraneous activities and preoccupations, but to simplify our lives more and more. The key to finding a happy balance in modern life is simplicity. – Sogyal Rinpoche, Glimpse After Glimpse

“Why am I doing this?”

This question popped up in my journal so many times this year.  It’s a good question to ask from time-to-time to be sure you’re on track with your genuine heart wishes.  After all, life streams by so quickly.  I don’t want to be left with regrets.  But I also don’t want to get all wound up in fear about that either.

In my case, this question primarily pertains to my social media activity, which sometimes seems meaningless, too much, or discouraging.  From another perspective, it’s an honor to be able to touch so many peoples’ minds and hearts, with the thoughts and images I share on my Always Well Within Facebook page.   But will this activity make a substantial difference in anyone’s life aside from  a momentary feeling of inspiration?

These feelings and questions do not stem from any sense of depression, but rather the call of renunciation. This means the desire to let go of negative emotions and actions, which requires dedicated practice.  This urge provides the impetus to reduce outside distractions and busyness as well.

Why I Do, What I Do

On one level, I know why I do what I do:

  • I care. I want to inspire, help, and support others.
  • I’m attached.  This is the identity I’ve created for myself.  That doesn’t mean it’s false, it’s just the bundle of concepts I hold about who I am in this world and my purpose for being here.  I will be forced to let the current identity go one day (that’s called change, illness, and/or death), but in this moment, I remain attached.  That’s not ideal, but that is what is.   Until I can let go entirely, I continually aspire to soften the attachment, see all that I do with more humor and spaciousness, and express goodness through my thoughts, words, and actions.
  • I’m afraid.  I’m afraid of the wide-open space I would encounter if I suddenly dropped it all.  Who would I be without all these reference points?  Would I still exist?  Would I simply create a replacement identity and cling to that instead?
  • I value the sense of connection I feel to those in my online world.
  • I enjoy expressing my creativity and the sense of validation I receive from sharing my words and guidance.

It’s a mix of positive motivation and human attachment.  I’m good with that.  I’m still a work in progress.  I know as humans we need connection, love, and validation.  The key, I know, is to cultivate inner confidence and not depend on external feedback alone.

Web Reality

I do feel discouraged at times because the blogosphere has grown enormously since I first began about 5 years ago.  It seems you now need an enormous amount of glitter, gusto, and guts to be seen and read, all of which is decidedly not in tune with my quiet style.

I won’t be pulling any 13 to 19-hour workdays either,  like some of my blogging friends – although to be fair, some love their work, extra hours and all.  I’ve been an over-worker (in another context), burned out, and will not be going back.

In an ideal world, I would simply write a potent and meaningful blog post each week because that brings me tremendous satisfaction. I suspect it’s the deeper meaning between the lines as well as the practical tips that make a difference for you too.

I would also continue to put all my heart into my Joyful Wisdom Letter and Circle, where I offer monthly guidance on self-mastery and weekly inspiration and encouragement.  This letter and circle is absolutely the best thing I’ve done of late, in addition to my blog posts, of course.   The deep conversations nourish me.  The “ahas” inspire me.  The positive changes encourage me.   The form allows me to focus on the qualities I would like to grow while holding space for others to develop them at the same time.

I would rarely – if ever – go to Pinterest, Twitter, or Google+.  I would visit Facebook occasionally to connect with friends, the true intention, I believe, behind social media.

But I’m not sure it’s possible to keep your blog visible without participating in social media even though a few well known people have accomplished this.  So, for now, these are regular stops on my agenda. At the same time, I’m hesitant about overextending myself so there’s no time left for formal spiritual practice.

How Much Time Do We Have Left?

Recently, one of my friends died of cancer.  Before her departure, she wrote a poignant letter that reminded me of the need to be ready in your heart and in your mind if you wish to die peacefully.   The pain, she said, made it very difficult to stay present in the moment.  She was a dedicated spiritual practitioner, but she had never experienced this degree of pain before.

And another friend died unexpectedly this week.  This hit me quite strongly as she’s someone I would see two or three times a week in a course I attend.  Cancer has suddenly said hello to a few other friends as well.  Hopefully they will survive and thrive, but treatment poses its challenges, doesn’t it?

We never know how much time we have, do we?   None of these people were old or frail.

I tend to wonder if I’m doing right by my life.  Will I be ready when death approaches? After all, I haven’t moved to a Himalayan cave or become a wandering yogi.  I sometimes feel guilty about that although I know indulging in guilt is a complete waste of time.

In my spiritual tradition, there’s an active line of householders who have made spiritual practice a priority alongside their daily affairs, whether it’s farming, grinding seeds, or another occupation.

How is this possible?  It depends on your perspective and your willingness to work with your mind.

…even if he lives as a householder, [he] is not affected by negative emotions or ego-clinging.  Understanding the void nature of ordinary world activities, he is neither attracted to them nor afraid of them.  He neither hopes for success nor fears failure; and he has such confidence in his study, contemplation, and practice that whatever he does brings him closer and closer to complete liberation. – Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, The Heart Treasures of the Enlightened One

I don’t want to waste my time on the unimportant and unnecessary.  But, to brood over this inner conflict becomes just another conceptual game that binds me in hope and fear.  The best solution for me is to step back from the ruminations and to use each moment of my householder life to nourish my spirit in these ways:

  1. Be present in every moment as best I can.
  2. Refrain from harming others.
  3. Keep my heart wide open.
  4. Contribute goodness to the world in whatever ways I can.
  5. Be aware of my triggers and transform them before they become emotional storms or loaded thoughts and the cause of negative action.
  6. Remember my mortality and make each moment count.
  7. Recall the changing, illusion-like nature of my mind and this very world and thus live with more spaciousness and ease.
  8. Make spiritual practice a priority not an activity that comes second after everything else.

I’ve done long retreats, so I know there are benefits to secluding yourself.  But even if you do, the challenge is the same:  working with and transforming this mind of ours. It can go just as wild when you’re all alone.

Drawing the Line for Quiet Time

Over the last few months, I’ve come to see even more sharply that I need an enormous amount of downtime to calm and restore my nervous system.  I need quiet time to connect with my spirit.  I  need unstructured time for my inner voice to speak and my creativity to flow.

For these reasons, I’ve decided to take time off from writing on this blog twice each year, once in the summer and once in the winter.  I don’t know how long it will be, but I will keep you apprised.

I want you to know it’s truly a privilege to write for you.  I’ll be taking this time to care for myself and nourish my spirit because I think it’s important to walk my talk and to regenerate myself so what I give here will actually be of help.  I never want to dash something off just to meet a deadline.

Though our connection may be invisible, I know it exists.  I deeply appreciate your presence here and I always miss you when I’m away.

Perhaps you too would like to ask the question:  “Why do I do what I do?”   You’re answer may be very different than mine, which is perfectly fine.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this question in the comments.  Do you also obsess on this question from time to time or is the answer absolutely clear to you?

Epilogue:  So much clarity arose after asking and reflecting on the question at hand.  I now feel calmer about my direction and my spiritual practice feels more alive.

Thank you for reading! If you liked this article, please share it with your friends.  May you be well, happy, and safe – always.  With love, Sandra

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21 Comments

  1. Dear Sandra,

    Thank you for writing this sweet letter to me…for that is what it felt like, a letter direct to my heart.

    I adore the possibilities in asking this question and I will be carving out some time later today, so see what arises. I do know in my heart of hearts that this is all an illusion. When I feel the heaviness and struggle in my work, it is time to slow down, nourish myself and see the attachments for what they are.

    For me, mindful awareness brings me home and I support this with meditation and self-inquiry but oh so tricky with little ones around me. I find I must always be so vigilant against my own mind, its a full-time job in itself 🙂

    So much goodness to ponder here, thank you!

    • Thank you, dear Liz. I’m so touched by your reply. You have a wonderful approach to lightning the heaviness and letting go of the struggle. Yes, there is an illusion-like quality to our reality, but at the same time our thoughts, words, and actions have an impact. I appreciate how cognizant you are of this. I see this vigilance as part of mindfulness, which does require effort in the beginning but eventually requires less effort. But, really is a big part of why I believe we’re here.

      Thank you again. Your insight is shining brightly.

  2. Sandra,

    Thank you for sharing your intimate thoughts. I too find myself sitting in front of my computer touching base on social media sites wondering why I am spending so much of my time doing this. Oftentimes, it’s a beautiful day, and I ‘d rather be doing something – anything else. But then there are the times when I get to “go to work” by shuffling in the next room in my robe and a cup of coffee, or I do take a long walk with the dog in the sunshine in the middle of the day or I get a message from someone who a blog or my book has touched, and it all seems to make sense and be kind of wonderful even.

    So for now, I’ll keep on and just see what happens down the road!

    • I completely understand, Debbie! For me too, it’s hard to come to one conclusion about it. I’m glad you are able to take those long walks with your dog during the middle of the day and get messages of appreciation from your readers. So nice that it even seems wonderful at times! I do think we make a difference and we’re putting our talent into service for the good of others. I appreciate all the helpful information and insights you share with the world.

  3. Thanks for sharing this Sandra. It’s definitely something I think about from time to time (I had a big soul search this year when I went to the World Domination Summit), but probably not something I give enough time to. I think your idea of taking time off – consciously – is a great idea, and I am sure readers like me will only love your work the more for this role modelling. Be well x

    • You’re welcome, Ellen! That’s interesting that you had a soul search at the World Domination Summit. I would have assumed the opposite, but I can understand why that might have been what emerged too. You put so much beautiful energy into all that you give. I hope it brings you goodness in return. Thanks for the support for taking time off. I appreciate it so much.

  4. I ask myself this question frequently Sandra and I totally understand your need for your quiet time. Going into the silence is beneficial for us all in every way and a short 15 minute meditation (my daily practice) often needs to be supercharged.

    I applaud your decision. May you find wisdom, contentment and joy in your re-connection with your inner being. 🙂

    • It’s so nice to know that I’m not alone in asking this question, Elle. Silence is like food for me. I do need it daily. Thanks for your kindness and support.

  5. Judith Brown Meyers

    Hi Sandra,

    Very thoughtful and thought-provoking blog. I’ve been going through a similar process of evaluating how I spend my time, my priorities and the role of practice in my life. And I’ve made some big changes. Practice is now the foundation of my life – on and off the cushion. Creative expression through painting and photography has replaced most of my organizational development work and I’ve pretty much abandoned Facebook, Twitter and other forms of social media. Though social media is good for reminding me of my friends’ birthdays and is apparently important to publicizing artistic websites (sigh). Quiet and alone time becomes more precious each day and I applaud you for taking time off from your blog twice a year.

    Your blog is beneficial to others. As we’ve both been taught, even a small inspiration can have cascading positive effects in others’ lives. Thank you for offering what you do.

    Much love, Judith

    • Dear Judith,

      It’s always so special to “hear” from you. I feel reassured that you’ve gone through a similar process and found a new path for yourself that feels so right and so nourishing. It’s exciting to see that creative expression is taking on a larger role in your life. I wish you the very best with that. Yes, social media can be important for advertising artist websites (I relate to the sigh!), but maybe word of mouth might play a role too.

      Thanks for your encouragement. I’m glad we’re walking this path together. Love you tons!

  6. Hi Sandra—never doubt whether or not what you share is touching the hearts of your readers/friends! I find it impossible to read books about non-attachment, but when you write about it and related subjects, I can take it in and be aware of it in my life. I think that you are able to distill the information in a way that is not overwhelming and it usable. Thank you for that. I also appreciate your honesty and your vulnerability in what you share here. It encourages me to be the same in my life. I feel that I was led to the several blogs written by beautiful spiritually evolving people who are leading me on the path I want to walk through life. I feel so blessed to have found you and the others and really look forward to what you have to share. You have worked hard to become who you are, and I am doing the same. Having a soul sister along the path makes me feel not so alone and that is important. I am at the age where my friends are getting older and developing diseases that we all thought would never catch us! I have some health challenges that are more aggravating than dangerous, so far, but I do have friends who have had and survived more than one bout with breast cancer. I feel blessed that no one has died from it so far, and that I do not have it —–but I do know that friends will die as I age, and that is a fact of aging.
    I think that I keep my studio and do lots of work at the art center and also teach because I want to make a contribution in the years I have left on earth. I am REALLY aware of the time limits that are ahead and I want to do the things that keep me healthy and also help non-artists discover that they can make art and that it is a matter of desire and not giving up that makes an artist, not so much talent. I try to make art not seem so esoteric and exclusive, so everyone who wants to see if they enjoy art will have a way to do that so it is not threatening and so scary. Sorry for the long answer, but it is what it is 🙂 Love to you, and enjoy your break! <3

    • Dear Jean,
      Thanks for your appreciative words and loving support. I’m going to copy them so they’re nearby when I have doubts. Thank you! You are a wonderful soul sister.

      You have quite an honest relationship with the truth of our mortality. This inspires me so much.

      I love your vision for teaching art and that it’s desire that matters as well as the willingness to keep going. It really makes sense to do what you love, which is part of keep ourselves healthy too, isn’t it! I admire how you are contributing to other peoples’ life and the experience of beauty in our world. Thanks for all your love and support over the years.

  7. Sandra, this hits home for me as it has seemed to for others. Being here online is something I totally love, but I can relate about how hard it can be to make a dent in the blogoverse. It opens me up for so many questions I’ve been wrestling with lately – some of which you listed in your post.

    As always, I love your honesty. 🙂

    Jess

    • Hi Jessica,

      I thrilled that you totally love being online and completely understand there can be questions to wrestle with. You’re not alone. We’re going through this together. Thanks for your honesty too!

  8. This is a great article. Often we feel as though we need to fit into preconceived “box” of what our lives should look like. Each of our journeys are unique. I agree with you that we need to live in the moment and make the most of each day. I recently lost my mother and through this I learned the importance of living each day to fullest.

    • Thank you, Cindy. I’m sorry for your loss. At the same time, I appreciate how loss has given you such a positive perspective on living each day to the fullest. Yes, let’s not go for the pre-programmed box!

  9. Sandra, you speak my heart & we are on a similar path it seems. This post is very timely for me, since I’ve been already reflecting upon that question these past few months as I stepped back from what I have been creating to see how it might want to change. I use my work as part of my own personal/spiritual growth, so it makes sense to hold it lightly and let it lead me/teach me where it wants to take me next. I pray that more of us will learn to hold our work in this way. That’s the true Inspiration. Thank you, Sor’a

    • Sora,

      What a beautiful way to see your work and allow it to take you to what’s next for your own personal evolution. There’s a big teaching in this for all of us. So thank you so much for sharing your way of being with us, which speaks to my heart too. I look forward to see what’s next for you. Much love to you, Sora.

  10. Thanks Sandra for sharing. We all have to evaluate our lives from time to time. None of us knows what life has in store but we can all support and love each other through the difficult times.
    Life is filled with ups and downs and when you are on your downs I might be on my highs but it always changes.
    Thanks also for the reminder how important it is to be mindful. It is always encouraging to read your posts.

    • You’re welcome, Rose. You’re so right, life is impermanent! I love what you say about how we can support each other as we go through the ups and downs of life.

  11. Girl, you’re speaking my language. I just wanted to let you know that I agree with just about everything you said. I’ve made it my mission, my business, my hobby, my purpose to figure this out. My answers will be changing constantly but for now, I’m in direct alignment with you.

    Best,
    Sondra

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