It’s so important to have a goal and to know the methods that lead to it. Without a direction and the means to reach it, one will spend one’s life on a journey, but might not arrive where one wants to be. On the other hand, when one has a goal and regularly practices according to it, one won’t get lost and will even in crisis fall on one’s template and continue the journey towards one’s goal.
This is common sense and it holds true in business, in the army, in science, in sports, in art, as well as in our everyday life, including our spiritual journey. Our life needs a direction.
When everything is fine, we might think that we don’t need it and that we intuitively find the way, but then comes the time of hardship and uncertainty, when external conditions change and usual habits lose their effectiveness. Then what?
Crisis is the time to fall on the template, to use the methods we’ve been trained in and to focus on our goal. Due to their training, a skilled sportsman will perform well even under stress. The same is true for our personal journey. Without a goal and related methods, a crisis results in confusion and fears. It’s a source of suffering, but it does not need to be like this. During the coronavirus pandemic some are calling me to tell how peaceful they feel in isolation and how grateful they are for all the support they are getting from other people and their spiritual practice, appreciating it as a time to turn inside to what matters most, while I’m receiving several calls during the coronavirus pandemic and it sounds like people would be living in two different worlds. Those who have been overwhelmed with mundane activities and roles (professional, parental or other) which are temporal by nature and bound to change and pass, can suffer a lot during the time of crisis like this – lost, scared and without anything to rely on. It can happen also to religious people. According to my experience, a person who has been cultivating virtue, even when they were focused mostly on mundane activities, can be in the times of crisis supported by other people or their spiritual practice, religious or without -isms.
Ideal scenario is that one has defined one’s spiritual goal ahead of time and has been progressing in its direction for a certain period of time, the longer the better. Buddhist meditations on impermanence and death have a great purpose in putting our lives in a perspective. Buddha said that suffering is inevitable and that all composed phenomena are bound to change and be gone, so we shouldn’t be surprised when it happens. What matters is what have we done with our life, how has our mind changed through time, are we getting closer to becoming the person we want to be. Time of crisis is a litmus paper, traditionally pointed out through sickness, old age and death.
Our encounters with impermanence and change do not have to be a source of confusion and fear, they can be a source of strength, peace and increased dedication to our virtuous goal, in Buddhist terms – to progress on the path until Buddhahood so that we can benefit all sentient beings. To have a goal is essential and it is never too late.