But when I emailed a friend who had been involved, letting him know that the project was dead in the water, I could feel that I was very disappointed. Actually that doesn’t accurately express how I felt. It was something stronger than that, this was like a baby of mine, and I could tell that it affected my mood during the following few days.
Part of the reason was that I didn’t embrace my disappointment. I wanted to just show a brave face and say, it’s just the way it is. That’s not very smart or very spiritual. The only way to go forward and not have this be a drag is to open up my heart to embrace the disappointment. (See my post, “The Heart’s Embrace.”)
But I realized while out for my morning walk one day, that the other reason was that I had lost my perspective, or better put, I hadn’t really formed my perspective regarding this project, and others, and my life. I have been reading a book recently about the 16th century writer/philosopher Montaigne and his philosophy on living life well. This was also the central question of several ancient Greek philosophies on which his was based.
The key points are very much in keeping with Buddhist teaching … shun the ego, avoid all extreme emotions, all zealotry, cultivate equanimity, know that things are the way they are because it’s just the way it is, and an awareness of the impermanence of all things. But the central question … how to live life well … is expressed differently and resonated with me very much.
So when I was walking the other morning, I realized that my primary task in life is to live life well … which means to be at peace, happy, in equanimity, offering others joy … regardless of the situation I am in. Every other task I undertake, such as the project I was speaking about, regardless how noble or good, is of secondary importance. And if it comes to interfere with my primary task of living life well, then that secondary task must be stopped or repositioned.
I have previously written a post about the teaching I read about knowing what’s most important to you, what you value most, and using that as a guideline in choosing what guidance to reject and what to follow. (See my post, “Test the Wisdom of What You’re Doing or Thinking of Doing.”) The practical end result for our lives is similar, but having the perspective of how to live life well is I feel more powerful.
I think this new perspective is very helpful in walking the path because there is a difference to saying, “My task it to live life well and if something disturbs that I reject it,” as opposed to saying, “What I value most is my peace and happiness and if something disturbs that I reject it.” It may sound like a distinction without a difference, but there is a psychic difference. In the former case one has a primary task in life. In the latter, it concerns what you value most. The one describes one’s existence; the other a functionally-related goal. I think the former is a stronger force because it is the ultimate authority. The latter is a goal to achieve the former. Just like offering others joy is a way that one lives life well.
So ask yourself, “Is my primary task in life to live life well?” Hopefully, the answer will be, yes.