Find Your Own Way

Freedom #2Did you truly choose this path?
The Practice: Find your own way.
Why?

The human body has about 100 trillion cells (plus another 10 quadrillion microscopic critters hitching a ride, most of them beneficial or harmless). Each one of your cells has aims — goals, in a sense — controlled by its DNA: Cells conduct processes aimed at particular functions, like building bones or gobbling up harmful invaders. Cells also work together in larger and larger assemblies in pursuit of broader goals, such as the 100 billion neurons in your brain that run the nervous system, which as a whole is itself the master regulator of the body.

In effect, there are layers, hierarchies, of goals in the body — and a similar architecture of aims in the mind. For example, operating right now is the goal of moving your eyes over these words, which serves the goal of understanding them, which serves larger goals such as desires to learn new things, new skills, and to be truly happy.

In short, whether in the body or the mind, there is no life without goals. Trying to “transcend” goals is itself a goal. The only question is: Are your goals good ones? In other words, do they lead to happiness and benefits for you and others rather than suffering and harms?

To choose good goals we must balance the influences of the world and the murmurings of the heart. Some counsel from others is good: I wish I’d listened to my parents’ advice to start saving in my 20s (rather than in my 50s when I finally got around to it).

But often we get nudged, cowed, persuaded, bullied, seduced, enveloped, swept along, or otherwise drawn into values, priorities, gender or culture roles, perspectives on life, assumptions, addictions, career choices, marriages, spiritual practices or orientations, etc. that in ways large or small are not really, not deeply, right for us. And sometimes we are an active participant in this process. For example, it was a combination of external hype and internal laziness that led me to try to take a shortcut in my early 30s with my training as a psychologist, which then cost me a couple years of effort to get back on the right path.

In effect, a thousand little threads tug at us this way and that, many of them originating from within, internalized voices and faces from the past and “should” and “musts” from the present. When these threads pull you from your true course — the one that is authentic, at the intersection of your talents and joys and values, appropriate to your temperament and nature, and filled with heart — you end up feeling sidetracked, caught in a backwater, unfulfilled, unused, adrift, trapped, even alienated from your own life. Do you have any sense of this, yourself?

So it’s important to find your own way.

How? Find out here

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