Recently someone posted on an enlightenment FB group, the question, “Do you have goals?” If this were any place else, the query would have seemed strange and the answer would be “Of course I have goals.”
What happened next were dozens of comments along the lines of “No goals here. No one here to set goals.” That is like asking, do you breathe? And people say, “No breathing here, no one to breathe.”
You see, in the land of liberation from illusion, there’s a patch of quicksand that many aspirants fall into: The quicksand of inertia. It has been called Zen Sickness, a kind of ennui that leads to depersonalization: You know the gig: There is nobody here and therefore for nothing to do.
But this is a spectrum disorder with degrees of, well, temporarily insanity. Are you unenlightened and sane? Enlightened and crazy? Let’s take the test, shall we and discover: Do you have goals or apparent goals? And are you in possession of a somebody or a nobody?
Check only one of the next two types as Yes or No for you (no you, nobody here, or whomever is taking this test).
I find myself best described by:
1) An everyday middle of the bell curve human yet to awaken to the vast self that I truly am and caught up in the thought that I must achieve something to be successful, lovable and happy. My goals are carrots that promise well being. They keep me distracted from the well being I already am. My goals are self-serving. They are karma bound and karma creating.
2) A post awakening person who playfully engages true nature in acts of creation. I have goals, but they are fluid and flowing, changing with truth in the moment. I have goals, but am not attached to outcome. I notice there is incredible flow, ease and synchronicity when my goals are true: they are arrows from my soul ready to hit the mark. My goals are in service of the greater good. They are Dharma directed and free of karma creation.
If you answer no to the above you are one of these two types:
3) I am a depressed or despairing everyday individual going through a rough patch in life. I no longer have goals because I’ve lost sight of my own worth and creativity. My goal-less state is triggered by a emotional loss, life set back, death of a dream, a loved one or a catastrophic failure of some kind. Sometimes Prozac is prescribed so I can get back on the goals achieved=happiness treadmill sooner than later.
4) I am a a post-awakening individual whose liberation landed me in the inertia quicksand. I suddenly find my “me” missing in action. Along with this new no-self, is the loss of directionality and goals. What used to matter to me is irrelevant–the self that was at the center of those old goals is gone.
If you answered yes to this last type, good news This is a phase. It passes. It’s a clearance sale of the emotional and mental junk that defined who you were most of your life.
But you see, these types of individuals get stuck there sometimes. You are watcher, not a participant. You witness own actions as if they are happening without you. And you get comfortable here, in this passive place of watching, of existing without apparent agency.
I went through this stage and it lasted for three months. But if you don’t attach to the idea that this is an arrival point, you will pass through it.
On the the other side is a freshness and delight where goals are lightly held, and easily made manifest. And that which is a struggle is seen simply as a misdirection. Now, a goal is released with as much ease as we would experience in letting go of a negative thought–well, if and when those thoughts arise anymore.
The story of NO YOU and NOTHING TO DO is no more real than the old story of YOU and EVERYTHING to do. The truth is in the middle..and it allows for goals. And sure, times of being without a goal. But ultimately, if you are breathing, you are creating. If you are creating, you are goal-directed. Like it or not. Nothing can happen without goals because goals are the focalizer for intention.
I have a Rumi quote that sits at the bottom of all of my outgoing emails. Take this quote and really read into the truth of it. Rumi does not say you are “nothing with no movement.”
Rather, he writes, “You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Stop acting so small.”
Awareness is here, in ecstatic motion,
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10 thoughts on “The 4 Types of Goal-Setters Pre and Post Awakening: Which One Are You?”
My spouse Lisa Kahale went through the Zen sickness – about 4 mouths worth as well. Once she came past that – saw the ‘razors edge’, she was able to clear out a lot of conditioning and continue on …
Lisa passed away last April 10th …. So much love, joy and understanding she gave out to everyone. She participated in Liberation Unleashed and helped many people through the gate of ‘no self’.
Yay, great to see another blogpost Lori! You know I wouldn’t concern yourself too much with these not(?) people. I might disagree with you that they are close to awakening. I think anyone getting close tends to be quiet and pay close attention. They are not pretending to be something they are not. These folks are just aping Zen stories and no-selfism. Nisargadatta readers who are dazzled by the words, but haven’t made the connection. It reminds me of the people who repeat the Zen story about finding the Buddha on the path and then killing him. Ridiculous. It may have been an effective lesson for one particular monk or a sangha at sometime, but other people parrot it as if they understand. How about if you meet the Buddha on the path, say good morning and keep going.
Now my no-self has to get back to writing that paper that my no-self keeps procrastinating about. But there is no one procrastinating, so I have no excuse.
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“The story of NO YOU and NOTHING TO DO is no more real than the old story of YOU and EVERYTHING to do.”
So so very true Lori! I too often wonder why the focus so much on only the Emptiness quality by most nondual seekers and teachers (though I think it is because it is so rare and thus valued more), when there are at least 4 other flavors/qualities: the Mortal (physical), Eternal (temporal), Emotional (Love), and Intimacy with the Divine.
Oddly enough that focus on Emptiness (you are nothing, you are everything) is oddly (though unintentionally) dualistic.
Thanks, Lori, for helping share what it is like to LIVE it (the “ecstactice MOTION” from your Rumi quote).
Lori Ann Lothian
Thanks Wayne for chiming in. Always enjoy your perspective.
Great post, Lori. A very important point. So often, people get caught by ideas of supposed-to, like how enlightenment is supposed to appear for us. And some of those ideas were for monks, not people in the world.
You describe the examples nice and distinctly, although I’d observe there is ample gray area too. Learning how to be with what is takes time and there can be layers of that to unfold. For example, there can sometimes be constant retuning when life has other plans that are not yet clear. And there are curious kinds of learning. I wrote recently about how the solutions can start showing up before the challenge they’re for is even conscious yet.
But, yeah, I still marvel at the flow and sync when you allow things to unfold as they are. Everything you need just shows up, better than a me could have planned. 😉
Lori Ann Lothian
I love this one! “I wrote recently about how the solutions can start showing up before the challenge they’re for is even conscious yet.”
Yes, I have seen that happen too–reminds me of book i read once about reverse causality, which is when something happens now that is caused by something happening in the future.
Gotta love it !
Awakening makes up more aware that this is always happening, the future influences the present as much as the past–but that is a whole other topic.
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Thank s Lori, For the clarity, the simplicity and for your LOVE in sharing it . Philip
Hi Lori ! Very relevant, as ever. I would like to share some stuff about the matter of goals, as a non-awakened person. Deep-rooted inside of me, there is one goal that has never yet collapsed : fulfilling enlightment. I requested the help of some nature intelligences to achieve this goal and my invisible partners help me regularly to be balanced in the global process. For them, “balanced” means to progress with harmony on different level : psychology, body, energy. They constantly care about “no-goals period” which are not, according to them, sane. On the other side, “obsessed by your goal” is also insane.
The result of such energy healings program is that, even if not yet awakened, I can feel in my body that the goal of enlightment is just “alive”. It is not something explainable with words, but something to feel in everyday life. This goal is here and help beeing strong in painful periods. Porgressively I also can reach the inner point were the moment of enlightement realization doesn’t really matter anymore : even if it will take several lives, it’s OK. The “rush” inside is very clear : it is what have to be done, so do it.
So clearly, I feel at ease with number 2 : I’m not regarding towards the goals that bring my attention “somewhere else”, I m’ not depressed (and if it occurs I know that it is just a temporary moment in the process), and I’m not in inertia (life is working here !).
Thanks for all,