As human beings capable of thought and self-awareness we suffer deeply if we don’t have a unifying purpose to our lives. In Buddhist terms this kind of suffering is called delusion. The word delusion sounds derogatory but I think that is more a function of how limited English is as a language for discussion of the mind. What we mean to say here is that when there is no clarity in the mind about what actions lead to happiness and what actions lead to suffering, a pervasive uncertainty will ensue.

By contrast, when the mind is aimed directly at a single target, the act alone of doing that brings with it a certain calmness because we can ignore any information that doesn’t contribute to that goal.

Our teacher, Kathryn Chindaporn, told me recently about a short lesson the Buddha once gave about the many truths in the universe. He asked his disciple, which is more, all the leaves from all the trees in the world or the leaves that one can grasp in one’s hands? Of course, all the leaves in the world are more. This, the Buddha said, is a good analogy for all the truths in the world and the truths which the Buddha chose to expound. The Buddha did not deny the existence of all these truths. He simply decided that he would only give teachings that lead his students towards happiness. The other lessons he saw as superfluous.

So what is your unifying purpose? What is the one thing that you will aim your mind at? I suggest to you that you should consider making it your liberation from the bonds of mental suffering. Why not aim for enlightenment? This doesn’t mean that you have to expect it to happen tomorrow. It means that you should consider ordering your life around the one path that, as the Buddha said, “is good in the beginning, good in the middle and good in the end.” As you take each step on the path, each moment of present moment awareness, you will move towards happiness and away from suffering. One of the reasons for this is that once you have chosen your path, you can begin to let go of and ignore all of the things in your life that don’t really matter. In short, if you simplify your life, you’ll feel better.

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