As we enter a new year, we can make good use of this landmark in time to reflect on the way we make decisions and choices in our lives. Is there an overarching purpose behind the way we use our time and energy, or are we “going with the flow?” Are we acting on the persuasive words of friends or the mob mentality at work? Are we succumbing to the marketing messages of our culture that constantly assail us or are we standing firm in our own commitment to live by our spiritual values?
Visualize a ship setting off on a long voyage and how it must point itself in the right direction to reach the intended destination. Then, imagine that the course it sets is slightly off target. By the time it travels a great distance, it will be far from its goal.
The same thing can happen to us if we are not clear about the direction we really want to go. There are so many influences that can throw us off course, so many diversions that vie for our attention, like diamonds made out of glass—shiny but of little value.
This life is a precious gift and most of us are blessed with the luxury of many choices. Do we really want to look back and wonder if we made good use of it? I like to ask myself the question, “Is the way I am using my time and energy in harmony with what I really value in this life?” It’s a poignant question, but how do we really decide what is most important to us?
If we want our lives to be centered on spiritual values, we must consciously make time for the teachings and practices that attune our hearts and minds to Spirit. Since we are so strongly influenced by the culture around us, most of us need to touch that spiritual Light within again and again to override the old messages imprinted in our subconscious minds, and stay connected to the spiritual truths we deeply value.
For this reason, I believe it is essential to build into our lives some regular meditative practice that enables us to experience that spiritual presence that lies beneath all the busyness of thought. There is also tremendous benefit in studying sources of sacred wisdom that guide us back to that unchanging presence as we navigate the challenges of life and bring our vision clearly into focus.
It may take some effort to put into words our aspirations or overall purpose for this lifetime. But once our vision is clear, it becomes a beacon, a burning yes, that guides our way forward and enables us to say no to the distractions that can drain our energy.
We may have many goals during our lives, like earning a degree, raising children, or buying property. But naming an overall intention influences both the formation of our goals and how we pursue them. We can reflect on all our major decisions—the ones we really want to feel sure about before going forward—by making sure they align with our primary purpose.
This intention also becomes a useful tool for evaluating the many daily choices we must make. There are now a zillion online learning opportunities for us to choose from. Which shall I pursue? What sources of information, entertainment, and recreation are in harmony with the life I want to create for myself? What social and spiritual groups share my values? Our dietary choices, living arrangements, and relationships can also reflect our intention.
Ultimately, defining an overall purpose for this lifetime will assist in creating a lifestyle that supports our vision. Our spiritual growth will thrive when we create a holistic environment and support system based on values that dwell in the heart of our being. Then our daily lives are guided by a clear, steady focus that sidesteps the pitfalls of self-doubt and confusion, making our lives much more meaningful and enjoyable.
About the Author:
Swami Ramananda is the president of the Integral Yoga Institute of San Francisco and a greatly respected master teacher in the Integral Yoga tradition, who has been practicing Yoga for more than 35 years. He offers practical methods for integrating the timeless teachings and practices of Yoga into daily life. He leads beginner, intermediate, and advanced-level Yoga Teacher Training programs in San Francisco and a variety of programs in many locations in the United States, Europe, and South America. Swami Ramananda trains Yoga teachers to carry Yoga into corporate, hospital, and medical settings and has taught mind/body wellness programs in many places. He is a founding board member of the Yoga Alliance, a national registry that supports and promotes Yoga teachers as professionals.