Success can have miserable effects on us. When we fail, we are at least hopefully compelled to look at our efforts with fresh eyes. When our crops are not immediately ready for harvest, at least then we are nudged to spend time looking within. Our flames of faith and passion must be fed with wood we tear away from our own inner facades. But success? That outcome is the most likely of any to lead us away from spirit and into the little birdcage of ego.
The misery of success is confounded expectations. Victory in your chosen court can blind you to anything other than the next success. The joy of training and effort can be trampled underfoot. The splendor of the rising sun and the infinite beauty of the little details – moments and artifacts alike – can seem trivial and mundane. Your happiness and spirit lie just here, just now. This current effort, these little details are your life. Many people don’t see their children grow because they’re off chasing after a desert mirage.
It doesn’t need to be that way. Failure and success are both just interpretations. A failure is an attempt that did not yield its hoped-for result. A success is an attempt that did match expectations. But without expectations, both of these are the same, are they not? What difference is there between failure and success when no thought of the outcome was in the effort?
The very task of mindfulness is to ignore the outcome once we have set about right work. The outcome is merely a thought, like so many others, that arises and subsides. It is not a part of this warm breeze, not a part of this laborious task, not a part of this community in which we are plunged at any given moment. To lay down the outcome and instead attend fully to what you are doing – to be fully present in your activity – actually increases the chances that you’ll succeed. But to dwell on that is a mere intellectual stumble, another train of thought that has no relevancy.
When we meditate, we do not seek after enlightenment. If we seek after enlightenment while we sit, then we are not meditating – we are working on enlightenment, we are failing to meditate because we are buckling down the shutters at all corners of our mind rather than letting the wind in. It is the same with all things.
You can’t pray after worldly success. In prayer, we submit ourselves to the Father and ask for our daily bread. Whether we receive our daily bread in the form we hope for is not of consequence. If your prayer is based only on a desired outcome, you’re involved in some sort of positive affirmation exercise instead of prayer. Just as meditation without seeking after enlightenment is the path to enlightenment, so prayer without seeking for reward is the path to reward.
Just so, walking without a destination is walking in the holy garden. There is love in our relationships when our relationships do not have love as a goal. In all walks of the garden, we must plant the seeds we are given and then release them to grow under the care of the Gardener.
In truth, much of what we call suffering is just the inner pain we experience as we try to force the world into our expectations. Release your expectations and let the world in. Release your expectations and let other people in, let life and love in, and let happiness in. Let the Beloved in.
When you let it all in, you’re opening the cage you built and letting yourself out.