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The Importance of Why

[September 2023 – Dharma Center Mindfulness Tip]

In an attempt to make sense of ourselves, the world, and our place within it, we often seek to know “why.” This retrospective analysis results in only a temporary egoic satisfaction. If we look at any situation long enough, the reasoning we came up with for why things went the way they did unravels. In the unraveling, we usually become tangled in regret and anger. Then we come up with another explanation of why it had to be that way, which again provides temporary relief. This leads us on a long, complicated journey of rehashing painful past events that often lands us in more confusion than we started.

Our study of Reality will eventually lead us to the understanding that life simply Is. Or as Ramesh Balsekar stated: “Everything happens altogether by itself. The shadow of causation can never be caught because all things and events are merely interconnected differentiations in form of a single, unified field.”

Yet the exploration of “why” is not without merit. It is actually an important part of our practice when approached from the correct direction. It doesn’t help to look backwards because we cannot change the past, nor can we ever fully understand it. However, acknowledging our why at the present moment is vital to our success in any endeavor.

In this sense, examining why we are doing something now puts the spotlight our motivation. Through our mindfulness practice, we can see our motivation – our why – and decide if it is in alignment with our highest self. Of course this requires a heavy dose of self-honesty.

We already know doing harmful actions cause pain to ourselves and others. What many on the Path miss is doing the right thing with the wrong motivation also creates suffering. If we force actions through motivations based on egoic desires, we lose most of our energy to an internal war. When we have to talk ourselves into moving, that is a big clue something is off. We often hide from this inner dissonance by chasing endless unfulfilling desires. The ego tells us once we succeed, then we will feel better. Or we use these endless desires to distract ourselves from feeling overwhelmed by too much to do. Ultimately, our impure motivation leads to more suffering and confusion and burns up precious resources.

By stopping to honestly ask ourselves why we are engaging in an activity or behavior, we call a truce to the inner war. This creates the space to inquire “Why am I doing this? What am I really trying to create?”

If we dig into these questions, we first see the surface why. For example, I keep Dharma Center open because I want a space to teach people meditation. But if I go deeper and ask why again, I see there is more to it than that.

When I work with students, especially the ones who volunteer to help run Dharma Center, there’s a certain magic that happens.

I get to watch them grow beyond their self-imposed limits. By providing a place for students to implement the teachings, I have the honor of helping them become leaders. These leaders, whether they impact one or millions, hold the doorway to Enlightenment open for others each in their own unique way. This is my real why. My motivation for giving countless hours to our spiritual community is the inspiration I receive when I see my students practicing the Dharma in this world. In other words, I get a kick out of seeing or hearing about how meditation helped someone live better today. Knowing I can be part of that keeps me going.

Sometimes when we excavate our motivation, we discover hidden fears disguised as selfish desires. By exposing them to the light of our awareness, we can work with these fears and allow them to dissolve. This makes room for our innate love of Light to prevail, where our authentic why becomes clear.

When we lead our life from our highest why, we have the full force of our power animating our actions. Every time we get overwhelmed or tired or confused, we can check back in with our why. Bringing our true motivation to our consciousness brings us into alignment with the Divine. This refreshes us and provides clarity as to what our next step is, right now.

Take a moment to consider the activities you are doing today. What is your Why?

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Published inBuddha Lessons / Mindfulness