The most urgent question is, how do I want to spend my time?
Successful people know themselves and how to focus their attention on their area of expertise. That way they not only work hard but they work smart too. But not everyone has that kind of clarity and survival dictates that one has to work at something, so many people end up unhappy in their jobs and unsatisfied with life. Part of the challenge is that, in the worldly life, resources are always limited so there is not enough for everyone to have everything they want. Not everyone can have the exciting well-paying job. When we practice meditation, however, we are aiming for something completely different, something spiritual. We are aiming for an existence where everyone can be a champion. Let me explain.
What is your most valuable resource? Successful people say that they value time over anything else. Time is what we give up to make money that we then exchange for goods and services which eventually boil down to someone else’s time. Time is also what we crave when we wish for more attention from our loved ones. The quintessential question of a western middle class family is how to achieve work-life balance? In other words, what is the best way to allocate our time? If time is our most valued resource, then the most urgent question a person needs to answer is, how do I want to spend my time? If I didn’t have to work to make a living, what would I be doing? Be careful here not to fall in to the trap of choosing something frivolous. Beaches and games will get tiring after a while which is why so many people become depressed in retirement. Satisfaction in life comes from doing something meaningful.
And this is where things get Buddhist. In Buddhist terms when we talk about meaning in life what we are saying is that we want to move towards enlightenment which is the complete and final cessation of suffering. The Buddha taught us that suffering arises when the mind is in the future or in the past and happiness arises when the mind is in the present moment. Present moment awareness is what moves us along the path towards enlightenment and therefore, it is an immediate source of meaning in life. If the question is “how do you want to spend your time,” the answer must be “with the mind in the present moment.” When the mind is in the present moment, we finally have access to our own intuitive wisdom of who we truly are, what we truly want out of life and most importantly, how that has value to others. This wisdom is like a shining light that destroys hindrances of the mind like worry, doubt, laziness, craving, anger and restlessness. And with the hindrances destroyed, we work harder at whatever we choose to do and that is the embodiment of the ultimate success of doing what we love.