The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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In Pursuit of Goallessness

To tell you the truth, goals scare me.

Picture me in one of the volunteer team meetings. “How many people do we need to bring in?” “200, no 300!” “500!” And so on it goes.

And I’d shrink inwardly, willing myself to go along with the energy and adrenaline. Don’t put a negative vibe into that soup of joyful enthusiasm, okay? Be a team player. Dream big, reach high, shoot for the stars.

And all that crap (sorry).

Okay, let me break this down in a more practical way.

I think goals serve two purposes. First, they help you make a plan, and that, I can completely get on board with. I have a goal to get to work between 9:15am and 9:30am each morning, so I plan to leave home around 8:30am, or a little earlier. Kriya+meditation takes me 45 minutes, so I have to factor that time into the morning schedule. Breakfast, dressing, lunch prep… you get the drift. A rough plan/goal helps me get started. Now, I miss my goal almost every morning, but I am happy that it exists. It serves as a baseline of sorts, and it keeps me tethered to the original idea. Of course, I can tweak it each morning, if needed, and that’s part of the goal setting.

Now here is the second purpose of having a goal. I think Purpose#2 is to stay motivated. And that hardly ever works for me.

I find it virtually impossible to be motivated by a goal. That ticking number only makes me nervous. Or it used to make me nervous when I was younger. These days, I stuff the goal into an imaginary trash can, and get on with my day, life, whatever. Seriously, I am unable to make myself care.

Two weeks ago, I bought a beautiful Apple Watch. It is a piece of beauty! But it became clear to me within a couple of days that this gorgeous device was wasted on me. I didn’t care about the # of calories I hit (or didn’t) each day, or the number of minutes I spent in active exercise. These targets felt meaningless to me, so the tracker was wasted.

I think back to my childhood, youth, early days of career. And it all feels the same. I had no goals to achieve, no real targets to meet. Perhaps I never wanted anything bad enough?

(When I met P, I knew that I wanted him in my life. But that process had an energy of its own, and I was happy to follow along. Well, perhaps it was a subconscious goal that led me towards him?)

Recently I had a conversation about yoga practice and doing a headstand. Somehow, I have never been motivated to expand my yoga practice by way of learning new poses. I feel very content to take a class or two periodically, improve my personal practice, develop a keener awareness into my own experience of the postures, body alignment, aches and pains in weird places, etc. I don’t feel a particular fascination to do a handstand or headstand, whatever. Perhaps one day, I will arrive at the point of doing one of these poses. And I am perfectly okay waiting for that day, whenever it comes.

To me, the practice of Hatha Yoga is the goal. Today, I have a lot of love for Hatha Yoga practice; I feel naturally pulled towards it. So, I have reached my so-called goal, because I have discovered the love and devotion that keeps me glued to the practice. I have hit my goal, many times over.

Some days I think, what a loser you are. Look at your peers, how successful they are! But then my wise partner tells me, dude, you don’t want it, and that’s the prime reason you don’t have all that “success.”

I think that probably explains it.

Knowingly or unknowingly, I have been led forward in life by my heart. I am led by the things I love, not the ones that make sense, necessarily. I fought this flow of energy a long time, thought of myself as a drifter, a non-achiever.

However, the truth is that I have always lived for the drift. I have enjoyed the views, the fellow passengers, the people waving on the shores. I have breathed in the sunset colors, sipped warm chai at passing homes, shared gifts and stories.

I have never made a plan, and that’s probably why I have drifted in strange ways, landed up at unknown shores.

To put it plainly, the drift has always been the goal for me.

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Periodically, I get the urge to retreat.

I lose all inclination to talk to people and/or meet with them. Browsing Facebook or Twitter or Instagram has no charm. I feel like I want to stay indoors by myself (or with my husband who enjoys solitude as much as, if not more than, I do) puttering around the house. Or perhaps go out for a walk or hike, maybe a swim.

There is a strong urge to disengage from everything. I don’t want to read about politics or institutional racism or climate change or economic inequality or mistreatment of women or lack of sanitation, or whatever. I also am not interested in reading about Apple’s latest release or the cool styles on High Heel Confidential, or Heidi’s beautiful recipes on 101 Cookbooks.

I simply want to vegetate. Or ruminate. Or hibernate.

Of course, this stream of thought is immediately followed by another, filled with guilt and self-recrimination.

Aren’t you privileged? You can actually afford to disengage. You have nothing at stake. Not your health or employment or marriage or life. You have nothing to lose by detaching yourself from the everyday occurrences and goings-on of others. Aren’t you selfish? Instead of reaching out to people who are in need of help and support, you prefer to hunker down, like you are a self-styled hermit or a recluse.

You are neither.

You are a pampered, self-absorbed woman who has never wanted for a thing all her life. Most things came easy to you. You like to believe that you are a minimalist but that’s a relative perspective. You have everything you want, so you can actually afford to consider yourself a minimalist. You see yourself as a minimalist only because you look around and see how people spend money, acquire things, move into large homes, buy big cars. None of that is related to you, really.

Okay. But none of this, in any way, diminishes my strong desire to retreat inward, literally and metaphorically.

I used to consider myself a regular extrovert but now it seems like that was a thin veneer that shed itself as I ventured into my mid-late thirties.

So, all of this – acknowledging my need for quiet, space, solitude – is new to me.

But I am gulping it down like a much-needed glass of water. So perhaps, all of this is timely and essential.

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Mind. Watch. Aware.

Mindful. Watch. Awareness.

Sometimes it feels so darned simple. Like there is nothing to do except watch.

Watch what, you ask. Well, watch every thing. Watch the glorious, shining moments and the shameful ones. Watch the missteps and the graceful slide. Watch the faults and the formations. Really, just watch. Suspend all judgments, drop the need to step in and correct. Relax the idea of perfection and improvement.

Just watch.

How does this make me a better person? How does this help me improve my faults?

I don’t really know. I do think that it makes you less sensitive to the good/bad paradigm. It makes you less judgmental, perhaps? Maybe it takes the edge off our collective and constant desire for so-called perfection. It makes us kinder people, probably.

Becoming aware of becoming aware of becoming aware of… I am watching me watching me watching me.

But if all I do is watch, who is responsible for action? Or is that set into motion already? Is it beyond my control? Or maybe it is my watching that subtly alters my action, without directly seeking to influence it?

It feels somewhat like receding into the skin of a container, the outermost layer, the thinnest segment. And watching the contents of the container shift, transform, get replaced. And becoming aware that this container can hold absolutely everything? And sometimes nothing at all.


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