Buddhist philosophy is founded on The Four Noble Truths, The Third Noble Truth being the truth of the goal, which is Non-Striving. Only in the absence of struggle are we able to start seeing the reality of things, including seeing through our delusions and our ego-driven, suffering inducing schemes. Our greatest pains and disappointments arise from those things we try so hard to grasp on to and secure. We are constantly struggling to achieve and possess ‘things’ which are outside our means, and ironically those very things we want, or think we want, don’t even in fact exist or satisfy beyond our illusions. They are just thought forms built out of the smoke of our ignorance. How many times did you think you might look good in a certain outfit, only to try it on and say to yourself: what was I thinking? How many times did you have a set idea or plan rooted in mind which once realized was not at all as great as you had imagined. We live in a world of a rampant imagination running wild and dictating our thirsty cravings, and a blurry reality which we must learn to befriend even in the face of our greatest fears. The perfect ‘this’ and ‘that’ doesn’t exist. Yet we convince ourselves otherwise and thus strive ad infinitum for those things which we can never possess; things we think we want but aren’t in fact sure we even know how or if we can handle. When we begin to cultivate a still mind through the Forth Noble Path, which is Meditation, we begin to embark on a transformative journey of awareness and calm which allows us to finally see the forest beyond the trees. No judgement, no attachment to outcome. In order to pacify our untrained neurotic minds we have to sit and observe our uncontrollable fears and impulses and face them head on. Buddhists believe that those who are not yet enlightened are afflicted by mental neurosis, which subjects them to delusional, obsessive, and impulsive thinking. Thus we begin to detach ourselves from those mental addictions, from those things we falsely and ignorantly identify ourselves with – wealth, power, beauty, perfection. When we reach the place where we can let go of striving to become a certain way, we are liberated from the exhausting pursuit of ‘achieving.’ Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche said, ‘There is no need to struggle to be free; the absence of struggle is in itself freedom.’ When it comes to wanting to ‘better ourselves’ we have to be mindful and compassionate in our intention, and try to put all goals aside. Goals make us strive. Goals make us fail. Goals make us blame ourselves.
When we get guilted into changing something about ourselves, by others or by our own selves, we inevitably embark on a path that is counter-productive to our own growth and well being. Psychiatry still focuses on one’s mental affliction or illness and what went wrong/failed instead of one’s intuitive righteousness, mental strength, and innate intelligence. An individual goes on a diet believing there is something wrong and bad about how he or she looks, striving to root out something that must be eradicated. We are wired to believe there is always something or someone to blame – and that blame is often self-inflicted projecting the ‘good’ versus ‘bad’ self. Where there is blame, there is guilt, and ultimately there will be punishment on some level. Sometimes we have to allow compassionate room for failure in order to succeed. We are already perfect as we are – it’s just a matter of becoming more aware of that fact, and being able to reconnect to our own perfect nature with pure, unconditional compassion, another pillar of Buddhist philosophy.
When we strive for something, or try to push or discipline ourselves to accomplish a particular goal, we tend to stand in our own way by taking an overly rigid and judgmental attitude toward ourself. That is why most people abandon their conviction that they can overcome something – because it is too hard to attain anything under those harsh self-condemning conditions. So if you want to truly get somewhere, don’t make a big fuss about it. Don’t try too hard to get there. Begin walking in the direction where you want to go, and the path will gently and unexpectedly unfold before you – leading you to a better-than-you-could-have-expected destination, beyond delusion and beyond goal reaching. Remember, it’s always been about the journey not the destination in the first place. You just never saw the forest for the trees, because you always tried too hard to see much farther. When you stop trying, you get to where you need to be.
Ask Yourself: When was the last time I was overly judgmental and hard on myself? Are the goals I set for myself unrealistic, or self-sabotaging? How can I be more compassionate toward myself and others, and struggle less in my daily life?