How to Get What You Want (Part 1) – On Goals and Goal Setting
There’s a big difference between what they call “setting goals” and pursuing them – such as in the self-help field – and the way that life happens in actual experience, when one really knows what one wants and lives in love and happiness as the orientation.
Of course, there is a time and place for that sort of objective action we see in the self-help arena, such as in particular circumstances in the world. What is really effective though, for “big” goals, is something deeper…
Here we are talking of more “wholistic” goals you could say: life goals, what one really, really wants in life – not detailed goals and goal-fulfilling, such as having, for example, a target of going to the store for food, and how to get to the store.
What I am pointing to isn’t really a setting of goals, it’s a knowing of them. Big difference. If you try and set goals, by effort and thinking, churning and analyzing, it will not work, will not be effective in the long run. It will not have legs.
The mind doesn’t have any power – it will just be a shuffling around of dead components without any real energy to them – like pieces on a chess board: these things gets all their power, all the impetus, from a deeper dimension, so to speak.
Call it “consciousness” or whatever you want to call that Reality – the quantum field of intelligence or whatever – that we really are. You can’t really put a permanent tag on it, like an object, or contain it in your mind or hand, because it’s not subject to time and space and the duality of language. Call it the Source – the Source of all experience and all creation, here and Now. The “unseen see-er”, as St. Francis of Assisi called it, or the “Unborn” as the Zen teacher Bankei called it.
Practical Actions for this Bodymind
That being said, pursuing goals is appropriate and effective in detailed action. You decide it’s time to go to the store because you are out of bread, so you get up, get ready, and put one foot in front of the other, set the navigation computer, get in the vehicle, and take all the steps to get there (hopefully enjoying it and getting in the flow, listening to some music while going!)
Knowing & Certainty
This knowing what one wants is more fundamental – that timeless certainty, clear intention – because it sort of sets the ground for action, the impersonal & (seeming) personal movements and arrangements of the world. It is a self-evident certainty that comes from a deep “place” than the mind.
A Story of a House
Let me give an example from an experience in my life: finding the house I am living in right now. A few years back, I was sitting with a friend – she happened to be a spiritual teacher (of the non-duality sort) – in their den, and talking about where I was living at the time. I was not happy with it. I had various complaints, such the noise, the landlord, lack of a garden and light, and so forth.
Now, at one point, after lovingly listening to all this garbage, she said, “All those things you’ve talked about are what you don’t want… What is it you do want? What kind of experience?”
That hit me like a lightning bolt. I was tempted to feel foolish. Of course: see what I do want, instead of all this mind garbage of what I don’t want! Duh. How could one get what one wants, experience what one wants, if you’re stuck in the soup, blinded by all this nonsense of the mind going around and around and around (whining and complaining t oneself and others … loving the drama? Or being a critic, whatever…).
From the obvious, I said, “Well, I mean, I would like some light, and quiet, and some sense of spaciousness, and of course be close to nature, and have some gardening space … like a sort of writer’s retreat.
“Then I saw, Ah… those are all things I LOVE. It was self-evident, given. Natural. Effortless. The light dawned.
And why should I not have them, or rather enjoy them, ot the objects perse, but what was important, or real, or direct, which is the experience? Why not allow that, and let go or not hold what was in the way.
You see it, and forget it. It is done. Already. No worries. No “how”.
Side Note on Satisfying Desires, and Pleasure as a Good, as the Goal
One thing to note: it is not about pleasure or satisfying desires. Pleasure and satisfaction are not bad, and come as part of the package, but they are not the goals in themselves. Pleasure is a very ephemeral “good”, and one can discover this by going very deeply into some pleasure, and satisfying desires (such as for sex or food or a drug or an activity…).
One will discover that there is always an emptiness at the bottom of the pot, such that it’s never satisfied for long, and one is left wanting even more – in fact it can be a gateway to addictions of all kinds, trying to fill that kind of sense of emptiness.
If you really think you would be genuinely happy having nothing but sex and fine food all day, or making lots of money, or taking some drug repeatedly, go ahead and try it, and see what happens (I have). You will find yourself on a treadmill, more like a slave than a free man or woman. There’s nothing like experience as teacher!
Back to the Story of the Housing …
A couple of months later, I was at a potluck lunch party with some friends, and the friend sitting next to me was talking about a friend and how they are moving out because her friend’s boyfriend got a new position in Oregon, and what a nice house it was, except she (the friend sitting next to me) could not take it because of various reasons. Out of curiosity, I asked more about it, and the more she describes it, the more I realized it was EXACTLY what I wanted. She encouraged me to look into it, and gave me the contact information for her friend’s boyfriend.
I then managed to get in touch with her friend, and the owner of the house and arranged to see it – I had to act fast because there were other people in line wanting the apartment. My quick moves though, and the fact that I knew, indirectly, the person that was moving out, helped me secure the lease.
It was an incredible gift from out of the blue – going from what I didn’t want (but thought ins some sense I was stuck with), to what I clearly did want. Boom. It fell in my lap. Without effort, except for going through the appropriate motions once it showed up, to take actions needed, to play my part. Like an avatar in a video game, or an actor on stage…
It’s Not Passivity
Being passive is playing a part too: a passive part. You cannot avoid being an element in the field of life. So it’s not about doing or not-doing, it’s about where it’s coming from, the impetus, the “energy” behind it you could say. There is the living, real, fresh intelligent energy, and there is a repeated, mechanical, dead mental robot “beast” that runs seeming individuals and societies (and wars…). And the biggest thing in the way (for people) is the thinking-feeling habit energy.
Thinking and Feeling
If one finds oneself in unhappy life circumstances* – some issue with the work or money, the place one lives, one’s relationships, one’s body… whatever – and some kind of thinking and feeling arises about that, do you want to get on that surfboard and ride it a long ways, or jump off as soon as possible?
Over time, one is able to jump off, even very fast and intense anger energy surfboards, quicker and quicker.
The difference that makes a different is: where is one’s interest? What is your leaning? How quickly does one want to not hold on to what one is holding onto: the false, the unreal, the painful and the (seeming) past? Or do you want to lean into Truth, relaxation, and being what you really are? Aware of it or not, at some level, there is a choice, meaning a deep-seated Freedom that we intuit (at better times, or in glimpses of openings).
I realized I need to be careful in what I say, because the words have implications. Saying “unhappy circumstances” seems to imply that circumstances are unhappy (which is absurd) or that they cause unhappiness. Yes, they may seem to cause unhappiness – we have all experienced that – and there also is a tremendous resistance to seeing the role we ourselves play in the unhappiness. This can be a big blind spot. While these blinds need to be addressed, there is something more fundamental at play here, and this is the thinking and feeling, the belief, that we are somehow at the tail end of things, victims of life and circumstances. And, there can be a vicious circle of our view and expectations being self-fulling, in a feedback loop: for example we think everyone is mistrustorthy, and we see that all the time, and become victims of it. It shades and clouds our view.
However, and even more fundamentally, if one is not identified with this seeming object – an object at the whim of circumstances, of a cold harsh, unfair world for example, or an “ugly” one – there is no room for the victim, nor the blame, nor the mean cold hard world out there. And, since we are talking about experience and evidence here, note how one minute that supposedly hard cold objective world will seem absolutely beautiful, and the next moment not, nor the same to another person standing right next to you! So what is this “world”? Do you really know?
Can’t you see that that “knowing” that knowledge you believe to have, that view, is the problem: the original sin, the apple, the forbidden fruit. How can one be open if you think you know, in this sense? For example, do you really know that consciousness is limited to and shares the destiny of the body? Have you actually looked into it, questioned it?
That is the esoteric, real meaning of the story of Adam and Eve. You are Adam and Eve, eating the forbidden fruit of knowledge – the thinking dualistically (and feeling it, the pain) – and all that falls out of that. You are the fallen. Take heart though, since freedom is only a Thought away, if you can find that genuine thought, that fresh glimpse. Then you will laugh, and the plate will be clean.
Preferences and Stuff… Like Life and Death
This is not to deny or suggest that one does not have preferences, or things one wants, or wants to change. Far from it. In fact I am saying to get to know one’s preferences better, deeper, and in a more real way, rather than what you think you want, or just what the body seems to want at some moment, which is very changeable. We are all wired in a certain way, and have certain sensitivities, proclivities, and things we enjoy or dislike. All these are true, in a relative sense for a body and mind, a seeming individual person, navigating the world-game.
For example, if one, by nature and nurture– and not some some temporary psychological state of the moment – has a high sensitivity to sounds, then it makes sense, in a practical way, to work towards living in a quieter place. (And, one can put it in a frame of “I love quiet”). But that is all taking place in the show, at this relative level, where things are more or less changeable, but some patterns, such as preferences of food, sounds, touch, sex, whatever, are long-lasting patterns. But, they die with the body. So then where are you? Is what you really Are subject to life and death? You need to answer that, at some point.
It’s about one’s attitude towards life, where you are coming from, what you think life Is.
Most of the things we get all worked up about are just not front page news.
Can you see how it did not take the kind of typical pursuing or concern about the “how” of it, or any seeking and aggressive goal pursuit to get what one wants? The “how” took care of itself, behind the scenes as it were, since it was already there, already real from the get go. This is very difficult to explain, because it does not fit into the “normal” way of seeing things, of viewing the world and reality and life that we are (usually) taught, as a linear system in time and space, where we are separate entities with separate wills of our own (or where there is a separate God out there – which goes along with us being separate, and needing to pray, worship, behave, be good, be judged, get approval, make mistakes, feel guilty, responsible for the past that cannot be changed, think it could or should have been otherwise, etc.).
Harmony of Living
Over time, life gets more harmonious, and things arise that are serendipitous, if one is open to Life.