It’s that time of year again.
Where the clock will strike midnight and people all over the globe will be setting New Years resolutions.
Hoping that this year will be a little (or maybe a lot) better than the last.
As practitioners of the dharma, goals present a bit of a conundrum.
How can you achieve your goals in a mindful way?
Is there a way to create Mindful Resolutions?
And how do we pursue those goals skillfully in our fast paced world?
Below you’ll discover the Buddhas formula for perfect intentions and how to achieve our goals in a healthy and mindful way.
Three Kinds of Right or Perfect Intention
It’s been said that before the Buddha achieved enlightenment he discovered a particular pattern to his thoughts.
On one side were thoughts that were selfish. These type of thoughts led to ill will and the possible harm of others.
And on the other side were selfless thoughts. Thoughts that lead to skillful actions which promoted good will and harmlessness.
He then taught this discovery as the Three Kinds of Intentions:
* The intention of renunciation, which counters the intention of desire.
* The intention of good will, which counters the intention of ill will.
* The intention of harmlessness, which counters the intention of harmfulness.
The two key ingredients to unlocking the power of perfect and mindful intentions are awareness and compassion.
That if we give up our selfish cravings (renunciation) then our thoughts and actions will flow in a way that nurtures and nourishes not only our lives but the lives of all those around us.
The Buddha promoted an aspirational way of approaching goals. A way of looking at what we want to achieve and then running those goals through a type of litmus test.
It can be broken down as follows:
Is what I want to achieve going to benefit others?
Will this lead to selfish craving or attachment?
Is the motivation behind what I’m doing based in compassion for others?
Will this goal bring me or others true happiness?
Does this goal promote good will to others?
Is this goal harmful or does it promote harmlessness?
There’s a lightness to the Buddhas style of setting intentions and pursuing our goals.
We see the mountain top and we make our way toward it. Steadily and persistently.
Behind it all is the intention of benefiting others in all that we’re doing.
There’s no rushing or pressure. Just a sure footed momentum that keeps us keeping on.
Sona, the Lute Player
The story of a young disciple of the Buddha named Sona illustrates the perfect way to pursue our goals after we’ve put them through the above quality check.
Sona was the son of a rich businessman. He wanted for not and all the luxuries of life were provided for him. He loved to listen to and play the lute. And his skin was exceptionally delicate and soft.
Sona lived near the Vultures’ Peak Rock in Rajagaha, where the Buddha loved to stay during most rainy seasons.
One day, Sona went to the Vultures’ Peak Rock to listen to the Buddha’s discourse, which was about the happiness experienced from non-attachment to worldly desires. Sona, even though surrounded by everything that his heart desired, was still not happy.
And since he longed to experience the true authentic happiness that the Buddha talked about he asked to be ordained as a monk.
After becoming a monk, he was taught to be constantly mindful, even when walking.
Sona was a keen and very enthusiastic disciple. Every day he walked to and fro in meditation in the monastery until one day his feet developed blisters and bled.
But even after all his efforts, after all his focus and determination Sona didn’t experience happiness he sought. All he had found was pain and disappointment.
And to make matters worse thoughts of craving for worldly things still came to his mind. “It is no use,” Sona said to himself. “I have tried so very hard, but have still not achieved what I wished for. It’s better for me to return to lay life and enjoy the happiness I used to experience by performing charity.”
When the Buddha heard about this he went to see Sona.
“Sona,” he said, “I have heard that you are not getting good results from your practice of mindfulness and want to return to the lay life. Suppose I explain why you did not get good results, would you stay on as a monk and try again?”
“Yes I would, Lord,” replied Sona.
“Sona, you were a musician and you used to play the lute. Tell me, Sona, did you produce good music when the lute string was well tuned, neither too tight nor too loose?”
“I was able to produce good music, Lord,” replied Sona.
“What happened when the strings were too tightly wound up?”
“I could not produce any music, Lord,” said Sona.
“What happened when the strings were too slack?”
“I could not produce any music at all, Lord,” replied Sona
“Sona, do you now see why you did not experience the happiness of renouncing worldly craving? You have been straining too hard in your meditation. Do it in a relaxed way, but without being slack. Try it again and you will experience the good result.”
The story goes on to say that after this chat with the Buddha, Sona stayed at the monastery as a monk and after a short time attained sainthood.
The Goldilocks Spot
In the story of Sona, the lute player, the Buddha helps us discover that sweet spot for the perfect amount of effort for pursuing our goals including how we approach meditation.
Not too slack, so we don’t make any real progress forward.
Not too wound up about them and pushing ourselves too hard toward what we’re looking to achieve.
But we have to find a perfect amount of tension between the two. A middle way.
This middle way approach gives rise to an assured confidence about reaching our goals.
We’re not postponing or procrastinating.
We’re not slipping off into dullness, laxity and laziness.
We’re not grasping them too tightly.
We’re not creating an unskillful craving.
We’re not frantic and frenzied about them.
We have an interest and liking toward our pursuit and we move toward them in a relaxed and easy way.