In the November 2018 issue of Lion’s Roar magazine, 14 Buddhist teachers answer the most frequently asked questions about challenges on the spiritual path. Here, Miguel Chen explains why setting lofty goals for our spiritual practice only creates more obstacles.
Question: I thought the goal of spiritual practice was to attain some sort of enlightenment or wisdom, but I don’t seem to be anywhere near that. What am I doing wrong?
Miguel Chen: Perhaps you are overthinking it. Let’s consider “enlightenment” or “wisdom” to simply mean seeing things as they really are. If you’re setting a goal for things to be different than they are, you have already missed the point.
The truth is right in front of us at all times. We’re not trying to change it; we’re simply trying to connect to it. This is much less about attaining something, and much more about removing obstacles.
When in doubt, simplify.
In fact, setting lofty goals can create extra obstacles. Having a goal like “enlightenment” brings with it expectations about what that might look like. Expectations carry a lot of weight. Let that weight go. With this simple step, you will have removed some obstacles, and this will surely help you connect to the truth.
When in doubt, simplify. Perhaps the goal can be better understood as a moment of silence. It doesn’t sound as fancy as “enlightenment,” but even one moment of true silence can have a profound impact. When you are truly silent, there are no obstacles between you and the truth. In the space of that moment, what you seek can reveal itself. Just be careful not to attach to that idea either, for the moment you realize you have reached that moment is the moment that you have fallen out of it.