A Great Ideal




If anything, I'm an idealist. There is actually a branch of philosophy called idealism, which states that only experience can be said to exist. Which means that matter--molecules, etc--does not exist, only our experience of those "things" does. When you think about it, you've never experienced anything beside your experience, so the idealists have a point. Even in physics, it is observation of quantum events that determines them exactly: until then, they lie in a state of many potentials, no one predictably certain ...

The practical side to this is: it may be what we think, feel, and believe that most determines the nature of the world we experience. Here is where ideals become important. If you have ideals, you direct the flow of your experience toward something better, nobler, hopefully more fulfilling. Without ideals, experience becomes more like flotsam adrift at sea. And while you may eventually get to the same place, it may take eons longer.

Recently I read an article by Eknath Easwaran, a beautiful 80 year-old Hindu man who has taught meditation in the U.S. for the last 30 years. He suggested that just simplifying your life, being environmentally responsible, managing stress, reducing materialism, etc. is not enough. That unless guided by underlying ideals that embrace a deeper purpose for life, these ways of living don't really serve to further/heal our life. When directed by ideals such as discovering our oneness, love, creativity, and deeper nature beyond external physical and mental processes, such actions serve to ennoble us and contribute to a valuable growth.

Have you ever become so caught up in the outer details of life that weeks, months, or years went by and you "didn't have" any time for feeling love, deep appreciations of beauty, inspirations of creativity, or heights of joy? All because of the ongoing distraction of the next external form of busy-ness? It takes stillness, and inwardly directed attention to know these things. And what helps to motivate us to take such time are ideals that define it as important. Like jello assuming the shape of a mold, our psyche naturally suits itself to our ideals; with no mold, the jello simply conforms to whatever it's on. Without ideals we become directed by other ideals, like advertising, material/sensual gratifications, cultural expectations, TV, always pleasing others thus all their agendas--whatever milieu your attention is and has been absorbed in. Welcome to the movies, and please stay in character!

Don't settle for a mediocre life. Define your ideals. Create reminders of them in your environment. Take steps toward them no matter how small, everyday. Be still and remember what is important, and turn your attention inward to FEEL, and KNOW beneath the surface. Explore where this leads you. With people, set ideals for connecting beyond the ongoing "biography" of surface life. Stay attuned to those you are closest to and to your ideals and notice what happens. A great Life awaits--if you will idealize it!
© 1996
 Mark Shafer  


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