Thursday, August 30, 2007

I've been spending some time reading blogs again this morning and there seems to be a common thread running through many of them. It's all about goal-setting and accomplishment. This is so foreign to my way of thinking now that I felt a bit gobsmacked by it.

Then I got to thinking....

Our individual approach to living an authentic or satisfying life seems to depend a lot on our stages of life.

In my own case, I deal with a physical and emotional framework that is much older than my chronological years. This, combined with such a tiny income drastically limits the scope of what is possible to accomplish, of all the things one might wish to do or goals one might want to pursue.

For a long time, I ranted and railed about the unfairness of my differences. Why couldn't I be like others? Why couldn't I value what it seemed everyone else values so intently? Why couldn't I care about the hunt and gather World Series that so many devote their lives to? Why couldn't I care more about "stuff", owning it and acquiring it? (That's when I wasn't busy dogpaddling around in a pool of self pity!)

There comes a time when certain realities set in, no matter how hard we try, how many lists we write, or how hard we work to set and meet goals meant to help us "accomplish stuff."

Like aging. Disabilities. Chronic illnesses. Losses or financial insecurity that simply cannot be reversed, only absorbed and incorporated into the reality of our lives.

What has been useful to me in letting go is a very simple philosophy that was (somehow?) whispered into my ear when I realized my ability to sustain a "normal" pace was coming to an end. I had no means of support and I truly feared that if I stopped, I would either die or end up on the street. I was sitting under an oak tree at the time, when the words came to me...

"You already have all you need. Use what you have."

This made no sense at the time, yet has proven to be a truth so huge I can't even begin to describe it.

I'll settle for saying this: it was the beginning of a journey that instead of being focused outward, towards what I could/must/should still do or have in the external material world to a long journey inward that I had never taken before.

Once my familiar immersion in the external, material world was taken away and there was nothing left to do but journey inward, it would prove to be one hell of a ride!

Remember scavenger hunts or treasure hunts that children play? It was like that ~ in a way. Following hints and clues and random thoughts down one inner path after another, I discovered treasure after treasure I had totally missed during the years I spent struggling against an invisible monolith.

Most all of them were tiny, shiny bits of my original self that life had chipped off or that I had deliberately amputated and discarded as unacceptable to those in this world whose acceptance I thought I had to have.

I'd examine these shiny bits, collect them up, dust them off, to find where they fit into that authentic self I'd so long ago abandoned.

As this process continued, I discovered my very own truths and beliefs, as opposed to those that were so skillfully imposed upon me. They'd never felt much like my own but I also didn't see a real alternative.

Slowly I came to see I really needed none of what I'd lost materially or function-wise (or that which I thought had been taken from me by the fickle fingers of unfair fate!)

I still have "goals" but much differently defined than ever before. None of them reach beyond this one single moment in which I am breathing. And none of them have one bit to do with doing anything, only with being.

Because those whispered words are totally true for me.

I already have all I need. And I know how to use it.

So there's really nothing to "strive toward" anymore because it's already here.

This has been a long and difficult treasure hunt and it is far from over. One I would never have had, if I hadn't accepted the limitations of my own being, to realize that there are always choices and alternatives, that authenticity has its own value and that I no longer had to try to cram my being into boxes that no longer fit.


liv said...

It was not me. I have not set any goals for myself or others! (I swear!) :)

painted maypole said...


flutter said...

You do have everything you need. I am glad to see you using it

meno said...

A toast to having all you need. Many more of us have it than know we have it.

Anvilcloud said...

Well, I try not to be a "me too" commenter, but I so agree with you about the goal setting craze. I think that the great majority of it is empty bunk. I also agree that more people would be happier living with less if it caused them to re-focus on "true wealth". I pass the pulpit back to you now. :)

heartinsanfrancisco said...

I think that we all have what we need within us, but there are so many distractions that we often forget as we look everywhere but there for fulfillment.

One of the things you have and use so well is your ability with words, Chani. You have a great talent for taking universal truths and making them explicable to all who know you.

Your line about the hunt and gather World Series says so much, so perfectly.

Anonymous said...

I suppose we could chop this down to shoe shopping. At an earlier age, we wear what is in, what looks great for our gams, what others classify as cool, we even do without to have the "Right" pair. Eventually we get bunions and cool no longer works, now we must look at our feet realisticly and make it work to our advantage. We need to change our perspective and stop worshiping the shoe, instead we worship the feet and buy comfortable pretty shoes our feet appreciate. We are then happier because our feet are happier.

I think I need a new pair of loafers now.

Snoskred said...

Actually Chani you have set goals for yourself which are further away than breathing right now.

Remember Thailand? Isn't that a goal for you? You went and got the credit card the other day despite the pain and agony it cost you?

Taking that step was one more step towards your goal.

Goal setting does not have to be lofty and consumer orientated. It could simply be a change of lifestyle, something as simple as drinking more water, losing weight.. or moving to your dream country..

I think you instinctively shy away from it because you associate it with bad things - it makes me wonder, that conference you went to where everyone was called nasty names if they didn't get it, did that have something to do with goal setting?

For me it is a useful way of charting my progress. If I weren't doing it, I'd probably be watching tv and eating more than I should. It's not for everyone, sure.

However I do think if you have a dream, breaking it down and looking at the steps you need to take to get there and then taking each individual one can be useful.

The most important part of it for me, Chani, is to *celebrate* taking each tiny step along the way.

This week, each box I have packed has brought me closer to that dream lifestyle I have wanted for a long time. If I didn't want it so much, it probably would have taken me a lot longer to pack. ;)

When I have taped up the boxes, I have smiled, given a little cheer, and breathed another sigh of relief. Today is Friday. We pick up the keys on Monday. Each day that passes - much faster than I expected - brings me one day closer to the new home and achieving that goal I have had for many months now - living near the beach in time for summer.


Janet said...

You are in an enviable state-of-mind, Chani.

I hope to join you, one day.

slouching mom said...

I wonder if any of this is related to age differences? I can see feeling as you do in a few years, but not yet.

Christine said...

i read this post earlier and wanted to think on it a bit. it struck a cord and i am not sure i can truly articulate my thought, but i'll give it a try. right now i have basic little goals--some traveling some day, do things around the house, etc. but so many people have been asking me lately what i an going to do when the kids are both in grade school. why the hell do i have to "do" anything? we are not rich but society can't possibly imagine that i wouldn't either want more money or more satus/power/etc. why can't i just be? someday i'll write a whole post on this!

jen said...

trying NOT to fit into a box is a lifelong search of mine. i appreciate that there are stages to it and that as life progresses it can take different forms.

authenticity - or intentionality...the consciousness behind why we do the things we do make all the difference in the world.

River said...

I often appreciate the fact that I already have everything I "need".

Everything I "want" is a whole other matter. I know I can live my life happily without these "extras", but........I still wish, and dream...

Hel said...

Right now I'm taking considerable strain getting used to no longer being inside the box.

But like you I realised that there was no longer a choice. I had to get out or go crazy.

Now I put one foot in front of the other, keep my back turned towards the box and trust that I am walking in the right direction.

Your post reminded me to keep walking. Thank you.

blooming desertpea said...

I've never fit into a box - I wish I knew how that feels like but I'm coming to term with the fact that I never will ...

I'm a modest person, I don't need much. However I need to set little goals in my life or I would be drowing in depression - those little goals are the little strings that keep me sane, unfortunately!

Cecilieaux said...

I take it you sat at your own Bodhi tree and experienced a foreshadowing of enlightenment. What I don't get is how you differed before nor why. I'm smiling as I write that inquiring minds want to know.

thailandchani said...

Liv, LOL!! There's something to be said for flowing along with the stream.


Maypole, thanks. :)


Flutter, I'm finally getting it.. although it's been a long, hard road.


Meno, it's a birthright. We all have it. It's just a matter of discovery and acceptance.


Anvil, you're doing great! Get on the pulpit any time! It's just such a basic truth.. but the relentless propaganda makes it difficult for so many to see it.


Susan, it's that hunt and gather thing, promoted by consumerist media, that keeps so many people stuck. At least for me, it was a long time coming to understand that I did have the right to dismiss it.


Reflecting, yes.. that is a good analogy. :)


Snos, I really think this is a lot about flow. I have a lot of faith in my path and I have no need to orchestrate it. My path is my path, regardless of "dreams" (in which I put little stock.)

Here's an example: the credit card and Thailand. I didn't need to *make* that happen. I was rather peacefully in my own home, got an offer in the mail from Citibank, filled out the form and sent it back. They sent a credit card.

It was part of the path. Part of the flow.. providing me with what I need to get where I need to be.

Thailand IS my path. It's my home.. so it's only natural that I will draw the things I need to get there.


Janet, it's fairly typical Buddhist thought.. but it took me a long, long time to overcome the programming I'd had from other, more destructive, sources.


SM, I definitely think a lot of it comes with age.. and faith.


Christine, I would ignore those people. They are just responding from their own programming. You certainly have a right to just "be". Don't let the lies distract you. :)


Jen, I would say "authenticity" rather than "intentionality". We don't control the intentionality, once we've become part of the stream.


River, sure.. we all want things.. and there's nothing wrong with wanting.. as long as we don't become overly attached to it.. or make unethical choices to get it.


Hel, that's exactly it. Trusting your path. Knowing....

And I think you do :)


DesertPea, I never fit in the box, either, but I kept trying to force myself into it ~ and bought the programming that I was defective because I couldn't.

I think there's a goal set that's just practical... maintenance. Like today, I will go to Target and get more Lean Cuisine because I'm out... but that's entirely different than the goal-driven, marketcentric life most people get caught in.


Cecilieaux, yes, I suppose it was a foreshadowing of enlightenment... although I know I'm far, far from true enlightenment. It does come in those little spurts though.

How I differed before: Well, I was a miserable person who tried to fit in with a way of life that felt just as foreign to me as something from another planet. I believed, falsely, that I was a defective human being because I couldn't force myself to value that which I saw around me. Consequently, I was very conflicted.. between my authentic self and my socialized self. And I can only imagine that I had an easier time than most because the socialization for me was so weak. You know, it just didn't "take" the way it does with most.




QT said...

I love the part about finding bits of your original self laying around. I kind of felt that way after my marriage ended.

Great post, as always, Chani. My goals right now are small and focused and don't have to do with money or anything material.

thailandchani said...

QT, I know it happens often after some critical event. All of this started with me when I got to Tucson from Maryland, where I'd dealt with a stalker and a criminal situation. I was so shattered by the time I got to Tucson, there was little to do but do something with all those shattered pieces laying around on the floor.

Some cultures (Thai not one of them) hold that is the beginning of the shamanic experience.. the shattering. Native American comes to mind.




mitzh said...

I'm glad that you found yourself.

KC said...

"I already have all I need. And I know how to use it."

I wonder how many ever feel that way and at what point in their lives?

Lex said...

You seem so graciously settled into that place of acceptance.

I am still very reactionary and angry about the expectations to fit into the box. I am refusing to live there, but still very much searching for where I shall live. It's a wonderful journey.

Anonymous said...

I fret a lot about every aspect of life. Recently, my husband said to me, "Everything is not something that has to be worked on."

I believe I stood their, mouth agape, at the idea.