If we don’t go beyond our comfort zone, we cannot achieve our goals

Jan 14, 2021


All the lamas say that unless we are super clear about the benefits of our goal, we’ll never have any enthusiasm to achieve it. They call this enthusiastic perseverence or joyful effort. It’s taught in the framework of the Six Perfections of the Bodhisattva, the final stages of the path to buddhahood during which they perfect the two wings of a bird: wisdom and compassion. It is the fourth and the most difficult of the four: the perfecting of the compassion wing; with the last two they perfect the wisdom wing. 


Of course, here we’re talking about spiritual goals, but we can see the necessity of perseverence in our daily lives – although, technically, persevering in samsaric activities is not considered the perfection of enthusiasm at all: it’s merely perpetuating attachment!


Anyway, I remember in the 1990s, when I was living in the Bay Area, I read about these young tech guys who were preparing for the IPO of their start-up. It seems that they worked for something nine months, eighteen hours a day, seven days a week. Why? Because they were crystal clear about the benefits of their goal. 


So, once we’re clear about the benefits of our goal, our spiritual goal – which is so much harder – how to cultivate this joyful effort? By going against the opposite, which is called laziness. Such a simple word but we need to really understand it. The Buddhist analysis is very clear. There are three levels.


Can’t be bothered!

The first is really obvious: “I can’t be bothered!” And what is it that we can’t bothered doing? The thing that threatens our attachment, our comfort zone. Attachment is a junkie for feeling comfortable. It’s so clear! 


Now, our tech guys – and remember this is a worldly example, but we get it – I guarantee that when they woke up in the morning, exhausted, they would much rather have turned over and gone back to sleep. But the second they remembered their goal, they leapt out of bed. Enthusiasm! 


I’ll do it later

The second kind of laziness and more sneaky, and usually comes along with the first: “I’m too busy, I’ll do it later.” We lie to ourselves! We know “later” never comes! And what is the thing we’re too busy to do? Same answer: the thing that threatens our attachment, our craving to feel comfortable, mentally or physically. We spend our lives doing this one, and it happens in an instant. 


And what about our tech guys? For sure, they would rather have sat back and relaxed, having lulled themselves with the lie that they’ll do their work later. But the instant they remembered their goal, they didn’t procrastinate, they didn’t put it off: they persevered.


Sleep is a disgusting waste of time

As Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s attendant, Ven. Roger says, “For Rinpoche, sleep is a disgusting waste of time.” Rinpoche is renowned for not sleeping. Clearly Rinpoche knows the benefits of the goal: going beyond delusions and perfecting compassion for suffering sentient beings – actually, they say that the main drive for these holy beings is their compassion.


Sure, we’re not like that yet, but when there is enthusiasm for our practice, when we are clear about the benefits of our goal, we’re glad to go against the inertia of our comfort zone, not to put it off. We’re happy to be tired! We’re happy to work hard at our practice – whether it’s meditating or serving others or working at our local Dharma center – confident in the process of sowing positive karmic seeds in our mind and purifying the negative ones. We know the benefits.


Not possible! I can’t achieve that!

The most pervasive laziness, which doesn’t even sound like laziness, is the conviction, “Oh, I can’t achieve that! That’s just Lama Zopa! I can’t do that!” We almost think of it as a virtue. And it keeps us firmly stuck in our comfort zone. 


We too can achieve it!

After the great yogi Geshe Lama Konchog left Tibet, he disappeared for years into the high mountains. He lived in a little cave near where Milarepa used to meditate, just a hole in the wall, and there’d be six feet of snow in the winter. And there he was, naked, no food and no sleep. He meditated and practiced and prostrated and made offerings day and night.


He had such control over the internal and external energies that he was able to live on the air! The Tibetan doctors make this type of medicine called chu-len, “taking the essence,” made from the essence of flowers and so on, that the yogis live on. They get very skinny but very strong. But Geshe Lama Kondrog lived on wind chu-len — he ate the air!


For sure, at this moment there is no way we can never sleep, meditate all night, live naked in six feet of snow. But when we contemplate the benefits of being just like these yogis – they’re beyond fears, beyond delusions; they’re full of wisdom and compassion and bliss – who wouldn’t want to be like them! We will definitely develop some joyful effort!


They are a perfect example, showing us exactly what we can become. They were just like us once. They followed the path laid out before them by the Buddha, by the later yogis. They realized they had the same mind, the same potential, the same Buddha nature. 


If they can do it, so can we, one step at a time!

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