If we want to go someplace it’s very helpful to know the direction. The Pole Star has long guided voyagers in the North, a constant they relied upon to alter their course if necessary. This goes for inside too—it’s good to have a kind of inner compass that is oriented towards our aim in life. Knowing that we are held by and connected to this Pole Star gives support, ease, and clarity to everything we do. Even some “long roads” of difficulty and challenge are not so frustrating and depleting if we are nourished by this inner orientation. It’s almost as if the distant star feeds us in the present, helping us make our way.
Our Inner Climate
Reflecting on our goals and on the way we’d like to approach them is the key to knowing how to move on, what to schedule next, which break and nice treat to allow for ourselves. I feel so much more integrated when I’m doing what makes sense to me, when I’m able to accomplish what was scheduled for the day or week and when I can look back to the distance covered with acceptance and contentment. If I notice that I’m getting more and more exhausted, that I have trouble staying motivated and trouble recovering when I’m done; when I’m feeling desperate with a lack of energy in general, then I know that I have strayed from my inner North Star.
It’s very helpful to have a basic direction and orientation in life and to have daily and weekly intentions and goals within that framework. What motivates us are the moment by moment needs and wishes of ourselves and the people around us and the bigger challenges, wishes, and questions in the background of our reality. In Buddhism there is the belief that the actual intentions that motivate us to do a certain activity determine its outcome. This means that we will not be successful in reaching an expansive and positive goal with a narrow and negative intention.
Are we longing for a peaceful life without conflicts for ourselves and our loved ones? Or do we wish to change the world with big impacts? Do we feel the longing that all our activities may be beneficial for as many beings as possible, to eliminate their suffering and if possible, lead them to liberation? All these motivations are good and they will have their respective effects on our life and our activities. If we sense with curiosity, interest, and honesty what motivates us in the different decisions and activities we do, we will have much more influence upon and clarity about their outcomes.
Since one of my intentions is to use whatever shows up in my experience to understand life, our humanity, and the meaning and potential of this (human) existence more deeply, I meet new challenges with a mixture of respect, curiosity, and some kind of energetic sportiness. My intention is to use every situation as well as I can to understand myself and others better and to create more acceptance and loving connections within and around myself. Does this mean I follow this intention perfectly in every respect? Of course not! But the intention is there, and it has its effect.
On the other hand I notice at different times during my day the motivation simply to find ease and avoid difficulties for myself. In those moments I can choose if I’m okay with that, or if I’d like to pause for a minute to reflect on what I’m doing and to maybe continue with a different, a little broader motivation. Similar to the captain of a ship or an airplane, I review the information I’m seeing and correct my course accordingly. This allows me to move on in the direction I really choose to go in work and life and not just towards the next wish that habitually grabs my attention. The more conscious, open, honest, and friendly my inner orientation is, the greater the ease, speed, and clarity with which I can move on towards my highest goals.
In my experience, intention and orientation are key elements to reach and maintain a well-balanced, resilient, and satisfying way of life. Autopilot is not enough! Challenges will inevitably show up, but carrying on continuously with good orientation and energy will enable us to stay on our chosen path and make the best out of them. Maybe we’ll lose orientation at different points along the way; not everything will go according to our plan; it will be painful here and there and the journey might take longer than we thought. But with our authentic North Star we’ll find our way again and again.
Here you can find two inspiring texts by Jack Kornfield and a short talk by Joseph Goldstein:
I wish a healthy time for you all and am curious if this post inspires some thought in you. Whoever wishes, I invite you to share your thoughts with all of us in the comment section below.
P.S.: … and I’m sorry for the delay:
My plan is to publish a new post every Monday. The last two weeks my family from Germany was visiting and we had a beautiful time travelling the southwestern States of the US. So I’m one day late this time:). Enjoy your time!