Stepping back from meditation instruction for a moment, I’d like you to set aside the next few minutes for an exercise. If you’re tired or unable for whatever reason to give this exercise your full attention, then I suggest you put this exercise aside for now or read another part of the site so that you can come back and spend some quality time with yourself.
As you’re reading these words, feeling the weight of your body being supported, and as you notice your breath flowing in and flowing out, feel your body begin to relax and notice your mind becoming calmer. And imagine that it’s now some years in the future; perhaps ten years, perhaps fifteen years – it doesn’t really matter. And you’re walking up to the front door of your house, and as you open the door you notice that it’s very still and quiet and dark inside. Then you hear some surreptitious sounds, and just when you’re wondering if you should be worried, you realize to your surprise and delight that your house is full of people you know.
There are family members – perhaps some that you haven’t seen for years. There are friends. There are colleagues. There are people from the spiritual community or community groups of which you are a member. And all of these people are here to celebrate you and your life.
One by one, these people stand up and rejoice in your merits. They rejoice in your achievements, in your accomplishments, in the personal qualities that you embody. They share what contributions you have made to their lives.
Now, I’d like you to spend a few minutes listening to what these people say, and then to write down some of the points that seem most significant to you.
If you’d really done this exercise, then what you have just achieved is to step beyond your normal sense of yourself and to get in touch with your deeper values and beliefs. You’ve developed a clearer understanding of what is truly most valuable to you. You’ve gotten closer to the aspects of yourself that exist in potential in the depths of your being. You’ve developed a deeper understanding of who you are and who you are to become – or, rather, of who you can become, since the unfolding of that potential will not take place spontaneously, but will be the result of your own conscious efforts.
You have given yourself the beginnings of a map to navigate by, perhaps for the rest of your life. You have developed a stronger sense of your ideals – not what you think you ought to be doing but a true sense of what your deepest values are. For those people who were extolling your virtues were, of course, not other people at all. The voices were the voices of your own depths – of your own Wildmind.
I’ve talked elsewhere about the aspect of mindfulness that is called sampajañña – our inner compass that tells us where we have been and where we are going. Now a compass is most useful when we have a map to help us navigate, and so the reason that we have just done this exercise is to help us have a deeper mindfulness of who we are and of who we are becoming. We’re providing a sense of direction so that we can use our sampajañña in order to navigate towards our ideals.
Every decision we make in life – from how we are going to prioritize tasks at work to how we are going to deal with a difficult child – is an opportunity to make choices in the light of where we ultimately wish to end up. We have an opportunity in every such decision to move towards or away from our ideals. The more that we are in touch with those ideals, the wiser our decisions will be.
I suggest that you write down those ideals in some form and put them somewhere that you can easily and frequently review them. I have a copy of my own “personal mission statement” (as I call my ideals) in my planner, and I consult them at least weekly. Other people put theirs on the bathroom mirror so that they can remind themselves of what is important even more frequently.
Referring to your ideals frequently is an excellent way of clarifying your goals, and is an important step towards committing to bringing those goals into the present. Over time you will learn to see yourself not just as what you currently are, but in terms of what you are becoming. This, I have found, is one of the most empowering experiences we can have. What we currently are may not amount to much, but what we are becoming can be truly wonderful and a source of constant inspiration.