Here we are, in high summer – the peak of the light half of the year. The dark and cold winds of winter hardly seem real at this time of year. Bare trees? It’s difficult to conjure that image!
But – it’s winter somewhere, and just like the earth spinning and tilting on its axis creates the seasons, our own psyches contain those potentials for light and dark – warm and cold. Unlike the earth, we create our own spiritual seasons, though we may follow nature’s lead. With so much going on in the world, how can we maintain a spiritual equilibrium? How do we process the disparate light and dark that we deal with every day?
One answer is to look at your motivations.
To stand between the pillars of light and dark is an act of power. When we do this successfully, we do not pretend that life’s challenges don’t exist, and we do not dwell on them as if everything is the world is corrupt and contemptuous. There is a “between” place, where we are fully aware of the dark, and continually bring our own light to it.
Where do our motivations fit into this? When we are in awareness, we don’t pretend that the dark exists only outside of us. Oh, we are this wonderful spiritual being that only does good things and thinks good thoughts. As in, we deserve every good thing because we are spiritual. That’s a dead end, cosmically speaking.
The power lies in the fact that we contain both the light and the dark, and through being honest with ourselves and facing our less wholesome motivations, we can actually begin the work of releasing them.
American culture, despite it’s many benefits, has quite a few shadow qualities banging around out there. We are taught that we prove our worth by the things we own, by the adulation we receive and by the number of zero’s in our bank accounts. Yet within each of us are honest motivations to be good people: to be kind and caring. Yet it’s not “real” unless other people recognize it. We need the exterior stamp of approval in order to believe in our own value.
That’s why digging into our own motivations can be of such benefit. The need to prove ourselves to the world can actually usurp our ability to use our incredible gifts. If you are just looking for Andy Warhol’s proverbial “15 minutes of fame”, then even if you get it, it feels empty and shallow after those minutes have passed. To build real and lasting peace and happiness, we must do so from within.
Now we come to the “why” question. Why do we want to open and run our own business? Why do we want to write a book, or sing on stage? Why, indeed. Of course we want to do what we enjoy in order to sustain ourselves, and in America, that means earn money. Not a bad thing to do, but if that’s your only motivation, once you achieve that goal, you are likely to be unsatisfied and still yearning for the next thing that will fill the void.
So dig deeper. Get past those surface motivations that culture tells you are enough. If you really want deep and lasting happiness, get down into the places within that are real. Stare down your need for approval. Look at it for what it is. The force and power of your attention will dissolve the thing like it’s made of sugar. Then ask again, “why” do I want to (fill in the blank)? It may take some time for each motivation to either solidify into the truth, or dissolve away because it was ego-driven. But if you do this, you will eventually purge the falsehoods that stand in your way.
In my own experience, I have found that the truth always surrounds not just benefiting myself, but more importantly, benefiting all beings. The more my motivations surround my ability to do good for others, the more powerful they are. I have more energy to put my goals into action and more sense of satisfaction as I make progress.
This practice isn’t something you do once and then it’s complete. It’s ongoing, and works best when it becomes an integral part of your life. Each new situation, each new goal will realize itself more beautifully when you get to the heart of “why”.
And really, it’s a question that you can only ever answer for yourself.
The gifts that return to you from this work are filled with freedom, creativity and hope. No task ever feels too big when you know your heart well and truly. The irony is, the gifts turn out to be the icing on your cake. The cake itself is what matters, and its ingredients are of honesty, integrity and compassion.
p.s. I’d love to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org