Many of us tend to put the things we truly adore and are passionate about on hold, with the intent to fulfill our wishes later on in life. The problem with this is that more often than not, later never comes, and our flame of life becomes extinguished. Many people feel that they will get to do all the things they dreamed of doing their entire lives once they retire. Once they reach retirement age, if they actually do retire, they find themselves either physically or financially unable to do those very things that they wished their entire lives they dreamed of doing. They fall into a deep depressive state in which they feel as if they had wasted all the wonderful opportunities they had early on in life when they were full of vitality, passion, and excitement. They now find themselves burnt out thanks to unhealthy the socio-economic system that they had agreed to conform to their entire lives. There is no need to wait until old age to align what you do with your personality and passions. Don’t let society put you in shackles of quasi-slavery. Live the life you always wanted. This is your life, not your parents’, not your government’s, not your guru’s…not anyone’s but your own. Take control of your life’s destiny and fly high on the wings of ecstasy towards the mountain summit of your actualized wishes.
By living in the present, we are able to have no expectations or post-pone happiness for some later date. As around-the-world travelers will tell you, the excitement when traveling to faraway lands comes with the excitement of not knowing what to expect. When someone is staying in Australia for a month compared with staying in India for the same amount of time, that person will let you know that unlike Australia, for the most part, the unexpected aspects of life in India such as seeing elephants walk down main streets, being forced to play the game “scam or no scam” when trying to get a train ticket to another city, and others are what keep life exciting in its unpredictability and major lack of expectations.
This is not to say that we should not have any goals or plans. The focus here is on the present-based state of mind. Plans and goals, be they short-term or long-term, are fine as long as we practice the Buddhist idea of non-attachment. If the things we planned do not manifest as we had the expectation of them doing, they by being non-attached, we will not fall prey to severe depression that can occur with failed expectations. Our ability to be aware of our perpetual existence within the present moment requires an shift in attitude concerning acceptance. If we accept that the only experience we can ever be sure of is the one that is occurring now, then can will not suffer as a result of seeing a plan or goal that does not manifest as we expected it to.
Reality is as we find it in the here and now. The present moment contains all possible potentialities. In order to cultivate the present moment, we have to exhibit genuine acceptance…free from memory, desire or understanding. Given how Reality seems like a big cosmic joke sometimes, this sense of continuous in-the-moment presence is an ideal, not an actuality and as an ideal, presence paradoxically becomes a goal. This can be difficult to accept without taking into consideration the interpenetration of doubt and wonder. It becomes a “goal-less goal” in this way, meaning that we should not think about it or try to cultivate it, just simply maintain a mindfulness of our sense of presence and of any resistance to it, as psychoanalyst Paul Cooper suggests.
The trouble with goals is that one becomes obsessed with the goal. When you say you are seeking it means there is something to find…but the real freedom is the realization that there are no goals, there is only the Now. What happened is gone; what will happen is unknown, so we must live in the Now. Goals are functions of desire, which is a state of consciousness that is a possible motivator for creating a life of achievement. However, the failure of achieving the goals we create under the influence of the energy of desire gives back more harm than it is worth, as experiential evidence can show us all in our own lives.
We should not wait for the tomorrow that never comes. With expectations and desire to fulfill goals we set past the horizon of the immediate moment as it is occurring right now, we will suffer when these goals fail to come to fruition. We can have plans for the future, but we cannot become attached to them, or else we will allow the possibility for sadness and depression when they do not become actualized. Practicing mindfulness can help us attain the goal-less goal of a present-based life. It is easier said than done for most, but if you have a commitment to breaking the cycle of disappointment, suffering, and sadness when something does not happen as you planned it to, then your level of happiness will skyrocket to heights you have perhaps never reached previously. It is an extremely liberating feeling to become mindful, both consciously and unconsciously, or the presence of the present in its perpetual elegance.