The Path vs. The Prize

There are two things speaking to me from the internet this morning, and I find when the internet sends you a couple of coincidentally thematic things in a row, it is best to listen. Except, of course, when that message is “Buy expensive things you can’t afford.”  Then I try to tune it out, but oh how that is hard!  When the messages are more introspective, however, and less consumer based — I certainly try to pay attention.

There are no coincidences, you know. Only glitches in The Matrix.

Do we need a gratuitous Keanu shot on this Wednesday morning?  Yes, yes I think we do. 

So the first thing I read this morning was this post on Zen and CrossFit over at The Five Tribe.  Honest to god, do you know how many times I have set and arbitrary goal for myself at the gym that has no basis is fact or experience and then have been DISAPPOINTED that I didn’t achieve it?  Many more than I would like to admit actually, and the insanity of that is not lost on me.  Not that this does not makes the disappointment go away, but since I am at least aware of it, I feel like I am not totally hopeless.  

I don’t know where it comes from:   this desire to set goals and push relentlessly until I achieve them.  It is so god damn hardwired into my brain.  I know that sounds a little obnoxious on first glance — oh, woe is me, I love to set goals and achieve them…my life is so hard!  Also my diamond shoes are too tight and my money clip is just waaaaaaaay too small!  Sigh.  The thing is, it’s not the goal setting that is so awful, it is the narrow-focused drive that it sometimes awakens inside of me that pushes for achievement just for achievement’s sake.  The drive to cross something off of a list, to check a box, to identify with a number, to have an experience under my belt.  This is a productive flaw to have, I realize — better than the fierce and narrow-focused drive to stay in my bed — but it is also one that needs to be kept in check not only in the gym, but in life in order to maintain balance and sanity.  Good things, both of those.  Things that elude me on occasion.   

I’m still working hard on trying to just Be.  To show up and try hard.  To realize that when I am out running, even if I am bringing up the rear, I am still lapping everyone who is at home sitting on the couch.  This alone should be a victory for my demented and focused (and sometimes competitive) brain, AND YET.  I find it hard to have purpose when I don’t have a goal, or a drive to achieve.  I fear that if I let that go, there will be nothing left to see or do.  While I will never be a person who doesn’t set goals any more than I will ever be a person who doesn’t breathe daily  I know that I can try my best to control those achievement impulses and redirect that energy to enjoying the journey. The journey itself can be enjoyable!  

Let’s all chant it together!  

Ok, or not.

Then a few clicks later I read this little gem of a story posted by Melissa over at The Clothes Make the Girl

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master:

“If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, “Ten years…”

The student then said, “But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast — How long then?”  Replied the Master, “Well, twenty years.”

“But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?” asked the student.  “Thirty years,” replied the Master.

“But, I do not understand,” said the disappointed student. “At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?”

Replied the Master, “When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path.”

And then all of a sudden, the light bulb went off.

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