Planning for the Future (part one)

For most people, life seems to go on in a haphazard way, just taking care of everyday problems and trying to find time for hobbies or taking a break from daily stress. Every once in a while a friend will be enthusiastic about meditation or going on a weekend retreat that will stimulate the heart to do something about meaningful change. Somehow, that never gets going. In a momentary rush, some will buy a meditation cushion or a Buddha statue, but now it is dusty or exactly where did it get stored away?

If we stop to think about it, however, much of our daily life is simply walking through the results of earlier planning for the future. Upon reflection, we can review the steps that others and later we ourselves took to ensure our comfortable future, even though (like everyone else), not everything turned out as planned. In any case, let us examine the stages of planning that we used in our ordinary lives that prepared us for success. We might find that the strategies we used to accomplish ordinary needs and desires for success are going to be very similar to those we can put to better use by “getting it together” for spiritual life and inner development.

We do not need so many suggestions of where we should go to visit the best spiritual vibes, how many hours we should be meditating every day or how many holy books we should read every week. These “shoulds” can be set aside for right now. A good beginning is an honest look at the track record of how you have approached success so far in life. How you get things done in everyday life reveals your present strategies, but they are influenced by past success and failures. It will then become clearer whether old patterns tended toward success or what needs to change. Naturally, no one would accomplish anything unless they planned, however, within proactive choices, there are important decisions that you are making, to the best of your ability, to find happiness and keep from experiencing problems. In the spirit of that inquiry, as you make plans, it is no use at all to try to change life from yesterday, because the past is gone and it is good to want a fresh start.

Planning for the future is not a new issue, because that began at a very early age. Do you remember that terrible day when you were torn from your favorite truck? There you were, happy in the sandbox, building hills with your truck, when you were told, “Tomorrow you start school because mom and dad are thinking about your future, even though you are too young to understand. In fact, it does not matter whether you have fun in school or not, although that would certainly be nice, but you are going because it is what you and all the other kids have to do.” So, you went to school with few options in early schooldays, and if you were like most kids, you rejoiced on snow days or summer vacation.

As you became a little older, you were permitted to become more involved with planning for your future. Nearing the end of required schooling, most young adults begin to see the possibilities, and that there actually is something beyond high school and what you want to get out of life. Still, there were not really so many choices, because nearly any job today requires advanced degrees, so which school is going to give the best education? It is pretty exciting for a teenager to be involved in college decisions. Like going through a pack of playing cards with names of different schools on them, some say, "They do not have enough beer at that school. Forget that one! This one is too close to home and Mom and Dad will be able to visit too much. Ah, this one has just enough beer." Like Goldilocks and the Three Bears. "That one is too close. That one is too far. This one is just right."

In what might seem like moment later, plans are accomplished, college is finished, but now, what interests and stimulates you? What do you want to learn and how will you use your time? What are you hungry to experience or wish to inspire in your life? Perhaps you might buy and read books about political or historical periods, swords, or tropical fish. Some will join a group with similar interests to discuss or experiment with, for example, amateur rocketry, or philosophy. Special interest groups help us feel that we belong as well as gaining something of value either socially or by learning that might be beneficial in the future. From a Tibetan point of view, I have a hard time understanding, but I am going to push on here.

Hobbies give a sense of personal identify also. Someone immersed in clog dancing culture might spend every weekend clog dancing. Most conversations in free time are about costumes and tap shoes, travel with other clog dancers, and that person generally has a clog dancing way of looking at life. In choosing whom to vote for president, he or she might try to find out a candidates position on clog dancing, and if they have no position, why not? I use clog dancing as an example, but we could easily substitute hunting, civil war recreation, or hobby drinking every weekend with our buddies!

For the more serious minded, you might feel satisfied to be with others who are similarly involved in social activism, environmental issues, rescuing endangered animals, or freeing people living in trauma conditions. No one is paying you to do this, your altruistic heart felt need drives you and others like you. However, there is something you gain from the experiences that create the very alive states of mind that you are hungry to experience. You prepare for your personal future through involvement in a variety of special interest groups. This arouses new states of mind that changes the way you think about your world and benefits others as well. To be continued…


  1. To look for the highschool regarding the beer is very funny, but if i look back, i rarely decided really for myself, i`m feeling as if the things and the buddhas coming to me, but not gently all the time.....thank you for your activity rinpoche, steff


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