September 23, 2010, ruminations on a random Thursday morning ...

The daily reading from the Dali Lama for September 21 was as follows:

Western brains work, they work a great deal, but always in the direction of efficiency.  In that way the mind puts itself at the service of the result.  Like all servants, it renounces independence.  I am talking about another form of spiritual life, more detached and deeper, free from the obsession of a goal to be reached.  In a way, the universal invasion of technology, everywhere it goes, lessens the life of the mind. 

Medical research has clearly documented that Type A personalities are disproportionately riddled with cardiovascular disease and hypertension.  Perhaps that is why my chest hurts all the time.  But I find myself wondering sometimes whether I am really a Type A - or whether I just think I want to be a Type A, so I try to act like one.  Something akin to a schizophrenic capital-spiritual bohemian.  Been there?  I've pondered what comes first - the Type A personality or the stress and anger that accompany the frenzied mental existence that seems requisite for modern day success.  The answer is likely both varied and universal.

I am growing more comfortable with the simple desire that I grow as a spiritual man - and that if I can throw moderate success in there, great.  If not, then at least perhaps I had my priorities in order.  This has been challenging in some respects because relegating money to its important, but not "God-status," can feel a lot like resignation to inability, and therefore failure.  But I have always been blessed and capable - and I have to remember that my energy can only return so much.  In the context of recognizing my very important (and rewarding) role in providing financially for my family, where do I choose to personally invest and prioritize? 

I recently completed Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University.  I thought that I knew a little something about managing finances in years past.  I didn't have it all wrong, but was pleasantly surprised (and humbled) by how much more was out there for me to learn.  One of the things that was driven home for me was the manner in which so many of us are slaves to these "things" that we think we have to consume.  Bigger houses and cars.  We work ourselves to death to service debt so we can impress - who?

For many years, I had goals.  Finish this degree, finishing that degree, achieving this professional benchmark.  Buy a house, check.  Get married, check.  Things became so transactional.  I remember watching the video of the reception at my first wedding and being taken aback by the fact that I didn't look happy!  I was clearly in transaction mode. I think those "goals" and checking them while in a spiritual coma helped to to keep me numb.  While focused on the goal target in the distance, I didn't have to look closely at the soul.  It wasn't necessary because soul didn't fit into the equation of "goals." 
 
I told someone recently that I felt like I had stopped setting goals. The reality is that I had run out of good reasons to feel unsatisfied.

But even knowing the truth, I mentioned that perhaps I needed to set another goal.  Maybe a run for political office.  Something. Talk about an inability to be rigorously honest with myself!  It was politely suggested that perhaps I needed to set better goals.  Normally I might have taken that as an insult to my industrious and productive nature.  But I didn't get offended this time.  I credit the divine for opening my ears and helping me keep my mouth shut in that moment.  That conversation and observation have been lingering in my mind for months.  I am working on defining and figuring out some better goals.  Goals which don't necessarily have dollar signs and promissory notes attached to them.  Goals which don't have deadlines and flowcharts associated with them.  Goals which are simple but not easy.  At the forefront has been an attempt at setting a daily goal to appreciate higher faith in the divine (not just cerebral faith).

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