Again and again it encourages me to discover what people feel is most important at the end of life. It is so much more about giving and developing love than any outer appreciation, success, or possession.
At any moment in life we have an idea about what we should be doing, and why. But knowledge really only comes with experience, with living. Once we’ve lived through, then we can say, yes, I understand. We constantly learn and understand more about how things actually work. As we move along in life new interests, needs, and worries arise; passing through them, new challenges come into our vision. And maybe there is also the question of what we want to have realized before we move on.
All the steps we take in life call for some kind of orientation, an idea about what is actually meaningful. The younger we are the less we might feel the urgency to find the right orientation or truth for ourselves. There is more the notion of having enough time to try different things out and find our way. The more we mature, the more the reality of our life has us in its grip. We live in all the necessities but in the back of our mind is sometimes this question: Is this right? Is this the best I can do? Is this how I want to live?
According to the model of the different realms of existence that is found in Tibetan Buddhism, we humans live in the desire realm. This means that one of the most powerful forces in human being is our wanting. Though we each may have different stories about it, I think we all can see how our craving sometimes seems an automatic, almost impersonal force. It’s like we live in a glass house and the world is always there for our wanting. We seem forced to act without even noticing what is going on. This is neither good nor bad, it just is.
There are many forces at work that are much stronger than we are, but within this field of forces we have the chance to turn in a direction in any moment. We turn in a certain direction. Sometimes our orientation is driven by wanting, sometimes by something else, maybe something deeper than that. How to navigate this field? What do we orient on and how can we be clear enough in the different moments to make conscious decisions?
I believe we can find a stable and safe root that will nourish our inner life, our well-being, and our existence. It’s like sitting in that glass house with a paradise outside that we can’t quite touch, but inside we’re also connected to something precious. Certainly we need safety, a home, work, love, and food. We want these things. But what actually gives us the energy to do all of the things we have to do? Wanting is an energy, but what really helps us to stay resilient as we’re blown about by the winds of reality? Many religions, traditions, and disciplines offer answers for these questions. What is yours?
We all need an inner nourishing root in order to stay well-grounded and held on our own path. Sometimes we might feel we lack clarity about it, and if we are not clear about where this energy comes from, then we will likely consume diverse kinds of mental and emotional “fast foods” in an effort to find this energy. Our diet, our lifestyle, and how we treat the natural world around us might help us see where we are getting our energy. Finding our energy in unsustainable ways, our life will get out of balance, and we will try to lean back on some kind of inner clarity. And here we will find it—our ethical and personal orientation, our basic root. It can hold us, it can lead us, it can help us make good choices and stay on our path even if we feel lost. For me, my supportive root is trust in our goodness, the belief that we all do the best we can, and following from that, my own wish to live in a way that leads to more meaning, benefit, and positive development.
This inner clarity, these go-to resources for orientation, nourishment, and balance are essential. For me this is the support of the warmth of my heart, my priority not to hurt anyone, the wish to be mindful of how I affect the environment. If I can live according to this clarity, I feel good even if I’m exhausted. I can find gratitude, ease, and joy right where I am. If I notice one of those moments where my automatic craving patterns take over for whatever reason and I do something contrary to my basic orientation, I feel bad, weakened.
So what is the orientation that guides your life? What is your go-to support system, your nourishing root? Does a focus on your orientation and values have a conscious place in your life? In calm moments and in conversations with friends I love to reflect on and clarify these matters. It’s like remembering a home that I love. Every time I reconnect to my roots I feel more integrated, authentic, clear, and find self-trust growing. Every time I notice myself acting out of my chosen orientation I feel self-doubt and insecurity rising up. Noticing this inspires self-compassion and more energy and strength to clarify my consciously chosen orientation and my nourishing roots.
I wish for all of us that we can see with more and more compassion and clarity what actually fuels our activities. From there we can grow our roots more and more into the never-ending reservoirs of compassion, wisdom, truth, and goodness.
Enjoy the journey,