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.
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.
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:
- Be present in every moment as best I can.
- Refrain from harming others.
- Keep my heart wide open.
- Contribute goodness to the world in whatever ways I can.
- Be aware of my triggers and transform them before they become emotional storms or loaded thoughts and the cause of negative action.
- Remember my mortality and make each moment count.
- Recall the changing, illusion-like nature of my mind and this very world and thus live with more spaciousness and ease.
- 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