Although I am 100% a product of the West, In my search to figure this life out, I’ve explored the East some—both physically and spiritually.

The biggest difference I see is our Western obsession with goals…The United States was built on goals and ideals and dreams—we’re all striving for something, heading somewhere, building something.   It seems engrained in our DNA.

It’s partly true what the guru’s say:  The bulk of our struggle comes from the desire to have things be a certain way and when they turn out differently we really suffer, regardless of how beautiful the new reality may or may not be.

But that’s not the whole truth… goals, focus, direction and having a big reason to thrive contribute to how significantly we’ve advanced. (regardless of pros and cons of advancement)

Perhaps our youth as nations in comparison has something to do with it. The oldest things in the United States would be considered almost new in other parts of the world… this is where our goals and dreams come from…  It takes a focus and a commitment to build things, to create.

Even if what we had in mind doesn’t work out, a lot of fruitage comes from the pursuit… maybe all the fruitage if we’re being honest and observant.

Some people in the East are simply surviving and the goal is the next meal and the focus is on getting from this moment to the next.  The idea of creation and building and expanding is a luxury our rich nations can afford… something we get to do because we have time and comfort and the space to hope and dream in this way.

But that’s a small part of the reality.

The deeper real I observe is the people’s deeply held beliefs and commitment to a spiritual life.  It’s as encompassing as anything I’ve seen.  It’s evident when I look at all they’ve built and the functioning environment they thrive in that at some point goals and plans and ambition ruled the day.. Obviously for a functioning society some of that still exists.. but as they’ve evolved they seem to have integrated spiritual life into the fabric of everything they are—

I think countries and societies as a collective age, just like we do… and with age comes the loss of ambition and the desire for more depth and meaning.

The people I know who’ve goaled themselves for a while eventually let go.  They still create and build and plan but let go of the outcome and trust the journey more and care about the destination less.

It seems to me, ambition is a trait of the young.

No matter what a dreamer you are, no matter how big you wanted to build things, no matter how hard you perused material possessions, mostly we find those outcomes feeling less than total… the stuff seems to not sustain us after a while.

Ambition is awesome, but an external ambition seems to be what creates new—I don’t see ambition sustaining things.

What sustains things is the commitment to a practice, determining what works and sticking with it literally no matter what.

The people I witness maintaining sustainable happiness and peace have a rigorous spiritual practice and any ambition is directed purely towards cultivating the sacred. The countries where I see the most radiantly joyful and kind people have the exact same thing.

This is no coincidence.

A practice is whatever someone commits to regardless of the circumstance that will always get in the way.  It’s a hell-bent commitment to what matters most.

The East seems deeply committed to practice.  Some say it’s too much.  The constant ritual.  The long-standing traditions.  Some say it’s almost mechanical now—that when you entrench a society in a religion or spiritual practice to such an extent it becomes worn out, a repetitive function void of meaning.

Maybe.  Or, maybe that’s what practice looks like.  Doing what works over and over and over again.

When the ambition fades and the goals balance themselves out with a rigorous and authentic desire for peace and joy, what matters becomes clear and what it takes, for me, is evident.

Everyone I’ve ever known benefits from a spiritual practice of any kind.  Doesn’t matter even what the practice is— could be mainstream, could be radical, could be quit and internal, could be evangelistic… The “what” is far less relevant than just defining it and then doing it over and over again.

Everyone I’ve ever known who’s not yet integrated a spiritual practice is subject to the wounds of our minds, the turbulence of desire, the highs and lows of our inevitably erratic emotions.

When we all get on our knees..  Surrendered to whatever mystery we believe in and fiercely commit to practice, things just get better.

Really, it’s about walking the path when there is no destination. It’s not the path that matter, it’s the practice. Destinations are empty and hollow and unfulfilling.

It’s on the path that life becomes deep and meaningful and it’s where the joy resides…. and It takes practice to notice.