The Never Ending Story
I used to think there was a finish line. It was distinct, with crowds cheering all around it and a big red ribbon I would metaphorically run through after my sweet achievement was complete.
The trouble with that concept, however, is this: the finish line doesn’t actually exist.
I can remember back in my corporate days the aggressive sales goals that would be placed in front of me every year. Upon seeing them my mouth would drop to the floor and I’d inquire as to whether they meant to include that extra zero in the total amount they were suggesting (requiring) I bring in for the firm.
That said, I would hit the goals. Quarter after quarter and year after year. I was good at my job and I’ve always loved achieving. I learned quickly though, that such goals were never really permanent.
Inevitably, when I would reach my seemingly unreachable goals a few weeks or days early, and just begin to enjoy the thought of resting on my laurels, the firm’s leadership would move the target. A new goal would appear, with a shiny new bonus attached to it, or some other really creative concept (like paying for my wedding cake the year I got married) if I hit this new, updated number.
And all of a sudden, I was back to the hunt. The carrot was too good not to chase.
Today, years later, I sit and consider these experiences with a fond smile.
Why? Because they taught me so much about spirituality and the quest that each of us - whether we know it or not are on.
You see, upon the beginning of my own spiritual journey, through yoga, meditation, intensive studies and certifications, I (once again) made the mistake of thinking I could reach some sort of crowning achievement.
I would tell myself – if I could just nail that really tough pose, or get that next certification, or reach that next level of bliss in a particular mediation, or practice that yoga set for 90 days straight…I would be there. I would arrive. I would reach the finish line.
But the finish line is blurred. It’s sneaky. And it moves - a lot. The truth is you and I are part of a never ending story.
Our experience is one of continuous spiritual evolution, mistake-making, polishing, lesson-learning, achieving, and beginning again. And again. And again.
We can look to the words of Swami Rudrananda who shares a similar sentiment in his provocative book Spiritual Cannibalism:
To accept any work as a finished product is wrong. There is only work and more work in a true state of surrender. Results or achievements are just levels of attainment and one should not work to reach any one level. Work is fulfillment, and fulfillment is an endless process. To seek a particular level as your goal is to close the door on the endless potential within and to slow down the chemistry needed to achieve even this limited aim.”
Does that mean we should throw up our hands at the whole thing with a giant “what’s the point?!” No, I think not. There are still many low-hanging carrots worthy of being chased in the spiritual quest. Many beautiful petals that start to open for you in the creation of your magnificent unfoldment.
Like a cultivation of a deeper sense of balance. Or joy.
Like that newfound feeling that you’re flowing with a powerful positive force instead of against it. And even that sense of getting stronger - physically, mentally, and spiritually - is a pillar or level on the path.
Today my carrots look very different from the ones of my past. They deal with new forms of leadership, and self-discovery, and the ever-deepening of my personal connection to the divine.
But even as I work towards those wonderfully elusive “end” goals there are still times to rest. There are still times to celebrate my triumphs and to revel in the joys of personal and professional victories. Knowing when to rest and when to get back to it are also parts of the journey of rhythmic discovery and intelligence in the pattern of my life’s flow.
But whether I write that next NYT best-seller or get amazing guidance from Mother Theresa in my next meditation, there is still tomorrow. And next month. And next year. And we’ve all got to find something to keep us going, while simultaneously appreciating the privilege of the experience of it all.
We are by nature, here to learn and to create. To create to learn. And to keep writing and rewriting chapters of our never ending story as we open and unfold to new levels of truth about ourselves and this cosmic web of life.
As I head to New York tomorrow to embark on more of my own advancement and training, I ask you this:
Where will your never ending story take you today? Next week? Next Year?
What are the carrots you’re following personally? Professionally? Spiritually?
And how will you continue to refine, polish and open yourself to all the adventure of this precious life?
photography by Ra Ma NYC