Every now and then, I feel it’s important to take stock of my life and ask myself, what I am invested in?
I spend time wondering how best to invest my money (even if it’s for seemingly small decisions like where to buy my vegetables or coffee), so why not do the same with how I’m investing my time? This can be a very difficult and painful process, since it often brings me in contact with discomforting realities that force me to reconsider the way I live.
My path is one that many spiritual figures, from the Buddha to St. Augustine, have walked. It’s such a common pattern that it’s practically cliché: the youth chasing pleasure eventually comes to realize there’s something more to life.
Sometimes the ‘conversion’ moments we read about are blinding flashes of insight, but I’ve seen that more often than not, serious changes in orientation take time to mature and implement.
Pleasure doesn’t last… no amount of money is ever enough… the winds of external approval are capricious and unsatisfying… I could see just how much I was suffering from what I was doing, yet I couldn’t bring myself to stop. To stave off the little voice in my head that shouted I needed to change, I would ask myself whether as an old man I would regret it if I didn’t take the chance to sleep with every available female. The voice grew louder, and I shouted back, do you have any better suggestions than getting stoned on Friday nights? I was like the proverbial worm in the dung heap: comfortable, satisfied, and reluctant to do live any way outside my comfort zone.
I can see why Moses had such trouble with the Israelites who wanted to return to a life of slavery in Egypt. Living a life of freedom, in which you don’t even know what sacrifices it will entail, where there is no guarantee of success, is daunting (let us not forget that the Buddha went through six years of seeking before discovering his enlightenment). Better to stick to something familiar, even if you know it’s limiting your potential.
It takes tremendous resolve and courage to move our investments (time or money) when we see that they’re not working. It takes sincerity and discernment to evaluate the various ways of life that promise safe havens.
Even though there’s a part of me who wishes I hadn’t ‘wasted’ so much time in meaningless endeavors, I’m grateful that I lived through it, if only to give me the conviction that I don’t want to go back to that. I was always on the path of yoga, even while doing (what seemed to be) very un-yogic like things.
Even though no amount of reading about the dangers of pleasure carries the same weight as seeing for yourself, there is a great deal we can learn from people who have walked this path before. What I hope to do with my book is simply to share an honest experience of my own questions and struggles that will perhaps resonate with others.