A few years ago I began a steady crawl into a depressive episode. Because of my previous work with mindfulness, I was ready for it. I knew what the downward pull on every aspect of my life actually was. Despite the many internal whispers and suggestions to completely ruin my life through inauthentic choices, I sought out medication and regular counselling sessions to help me navigate the murky waters of that particular depressive episode.
I came through it with a heavy realization that I had worked very hard to achieve my goals and that living them was no longer giving me the same kind of satisfaction they had when I first experienced them. Basically, I wasn’t getting the high of accomplishment anymore. My life was perfectly safe and comfortable, and yet I felt completely lost. I wanted to be happy but it seemed like this idea of happy was something at the end of a treasure map. It was something to be perpetually pursued. The satisfaction of its attainment would be, at best, fleeting.
The pursuit of goals is not a bad thing but when that impetus isn’t there, it can feel like a void or even a loss. And often when we do achieve our goals, the expected happiness or elation is short lived or even absent. It can be artificially augmented through the admiration of others but even this will grow stale as we began to seek new and even better highs.
So should we avoid setting goals so we never feel the downswing or do we set a million goals to keep riding high? The answer is really hard and really simple. We remain present. I know, I know, what kind of a secret to life answer is that? But it’s all I got.
When we remain present we don’t need to run away from ourselves through food, drink, drugs, shopping, or even an unrelenting need for achievement. We can set goals that truly inspire us instead of what we think other people may want or expect of us. We let go of ideas like perfection, imperfection, right and wrong, and we begin to learn who we truly are and what we have to offer the world.
How do we cultivate this elusive concept of being present? Again, the answer is really hard and really simple: regular meditation practice.