Tonight, after watching a thought provoking film and spending time with my beautiful grandmother, my mind began churning over the ideas of purpose, hope, love and family. The film was called Nebraska, and it brought up questions of what motivates us to lead happy and fulfilled lives. It also showed us the positive and negative effects hope can have on our lives.
When you think about what propels us forward in life, what gives us the will to live, you usually think of things like ambition, family or other dreams and desires we have created for ourselves. What happens when you strip those things away from someone? Well, more often than not, they lose the desire to live. What’s the point right? If you are just subsisting from one day to the next without any hope of… well… anything, life just loses all its color. However, when taken to the extreme, our pursuit of goals, desires and dreams can take a dangerous turn. Sometimes, we can become so focused on where we want to be that we forget completely about where we are, and thus miss out on all that life has to offer us.
Finding the balance of following your dreams and also being present for all that is given to you in the moment comes with the always popular accumulation of…Awareness! In thinking of this struggle, I’m reminded of Paulo Coelho’s famous book The Alchemist. Coelho presents a beautiful analogy for this dilemma. A young student sent to his teacher’s house is asked to walk around the estate, taking in all the beauty that surrounds him while simultaneously balancing a spoon filled with oil. The first round, the boy is so focused on not spilling the oil that he misses all of the incredible art hanging on the walls. The second time the teacher sends him out to look at the art, he spills all of the oil off his spoon. He comes back and the teacher says to him, “Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you…The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon.”
I think if any of us hope to find this balance in our lives, having a mind-body practice that allows you to cultivate awareness (both of yourself and your surroundings) is essential. By practicing such tools as meditation, yoga, dance, qigong, etc., you develop an ability to focus your attention and bring mindfulness to the present moment. This allows you to continue moving forward towards your desired goal without losing sight of the people who surround you, the beautiful sunset hitting the water or the incredible painting hanging in your grandmother’s study. You will be able to walk through this world taking in all the beauty that life has to offer and never losing a sense of those two drops of oil held in the spoon you carry.
Moral of the story: Meditate more and worry less. Worry less and smile more. Smile more and just simply, enjoy.