A poet tells us how to be goal-oriented AND mindful at the same time
Posted December 18, 2009on:
Can we be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time?
Goals and mindfulness are two of the most powerful concepts in contemporary psychology.
No doubt, when we are pursuing a goal, we pay attention to what we are doing. But at a cost. We also neglect what is going on around us.
When we pursue a goal, we are often “in flow”. It’s wonderful! We are fully engaged with what we are doing.
Yet, the surest sign that we are “in flow” is that we run late for the next meeting. We remember our flow experiences as much for the anger they arouse in other people as the joy we experience when we are fully engrossed in what we are doing!
This post is a cerebral account. I am trying to understand the issues.
- How can I be goal-oriented and focused on what is going on around me?
- How can I pursue goals of the future yet be ‘fully present’.
Poets often solve our conundrums!
The poets have often already asked and answered what we want to know. Today I found a poem from Rainer Marie Rilke: A Walk and I hope it will help me understand how to be goal-oriented and mindful at the same time.
So often when an ideas in psychology is unsatisfactory, western ideas about time seem to be the root cause of the problem. Rilke’s poem recasts the ideas from temporal space to physical space and helps us imagine alternative ways of understanding the world.
Rilke suggests that that when we see a goal “on our horizon”, we draw it into our present. The present and future are merged and there is no difference between them.
When we look at the horizon we are energized to get up and walk. And motivated perhaps to ignore the glorious flowers right near us.
The world exists because we pay attention to it and it takes its form because of our attention!
Equally, another person standing right next to us is in another world because they are paying attention to different things. They are even on a different time plane because their future changes their present!
The future and the present are not two different places ~ nor is one better than the other
Rilke talks in the poem about the pleasure of dreams. He is not saying, though, that dreams are better than the present. He is saying the future and the present are one place. And whatever we believe about the future, changes the present. Our dreams change the present moment.
How the future can fix the present
Sometimes, in those moments when we don’t like the present moment, we could look again at our horizon.
When we don’t like the present, before we complain, maybe we could run an exercise of looking at three different horizons? If one of the versions of the present becomes more enjoyable ~ could we live from there?
Here is Rainer Marie Rilke’s poem, The Walk, translated by Robert Bly.
My eyes already touch the sunny hill,
going far ahead of the road I have begun.
So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;
it has inner light, even from a distance-
and charges us, even if we do not reach it,
into something else, which, hardly sensing it,
we already are; a gesture waves us on
answering our own wave…
but what we feel is the wind in our faces.
Translated by Robert Bly
Rainer Maria Rilke
PS What is the copyright on this poem and if someone wanted to by a copy, what would they buy? Is there an Amazon link I could add here?