Non-Goal-Oriented Decisions by Gary Vollbracht

“Fluidity II” by Carla Sa Fernandes

I notice that often I make decisions with an expected future outcome or goal in mind. This approach is pervasive in me. Seems reasonable enough to me. How else would one make decisions? It relates to decisions with my finances (will I have enough money), diet (will I not gain weight), and most activities I am in.

This morning such an approach to decision making seems all wrong. I awoke to the fact that such a rigid goal-oriented decision-making creates worry, fear, compulsion, and rigidity. I have a stake in the outcome. So I make a decision and then fret and worry about whether it will produce the outcome I want, a dualistic right-or-wrong approach to life. I see I am trying to control life, manipulate life to get what I think is best or what I want. I can feel my anxiety in me from this approach to life. My anxiety, like my goal-oriented decision making, is also pervasive.

The problem? I can’t know enough to know what the outcome will be. So what is a better way? To make a decision, and then immediately let go of expectations concerning outcome. Observe what happens next, and then make another decision. Take action, followed by letting go. Take action, followed by letting go. It is a rhythmical approach to life. I am not responsible for the outcome, rather, I am responsible only for the integrity of my decisions and actions in each moment, stroke by stroke. Am I in Truth
in this moment? Truth as I, in my limited human condition, see and understand truth? Am I open to seeing a broader and different truth in the next moment? Am I free to change my mind, make a different decision in light of a deeper understanding? Can I even dare to be curious and thrilled about the explorative nature of life, the groping involved, the discovery of new truths all the time, the inherent adventure of living?

Mistakes are not only allowed, they are inevitable. Accept them. Welcome them. Learn from them. Yes, these errors in judgment have consequences. Pain happens in me and in so many others from my mistakes. The pain I am in now is due to the mistakes I and others made earlier, and I have to accept and live with such consequences of past mistakes, mine and those of others. Slow down and really feel the pain my mistakes have caused so that genuine
forgiveness and remorse arises and motivates change and growth in me. Am I learning and coming to not repeat some of these past mistakes? Can I see and experience that living is learning, forgiving, changing, and growing?

I find that a peace comes over me as I simply do my best in each moment, let go of outcomes, and then assess what might be the right action for me in the next moment. This makes Life more like an exciting journey rather than a hurried and worrisome trip trying to get to some right destination as quickly as possible. I breathe in this new perspective. It feels like Engaging Life, being in the Flow of Life, the only place from which Life can be enjoyed. The peace in me is a felt sense, a relaxed effortless effort that arises out of balancing activity with passivity and pausing in between to reflect, savor, observe, and learn. Always letting go of expectations and outcomes. Peace, yes, welcome Peace.

Non-Goal-Oriented Decisions
by Gary Vollbracht
Written — April 28th, 2009


"Three Reflections on the Issue of Fear" — Jiddu Krishnamurti

“The Scream” by Edvard Munch

TO UNDERSTAND FEAR, one has to go into the question of comparison. Why do we compare at all? In technical matters comparison reveals progress, which is relative. Fifty years ago there was no atomic bomb, there were no supersonic airplanes, but now we have these things; and in another fifty years we shall have something else that we don’t have now. This is called progress, which is always comparative, relative, and our mind is caught in that way of thinking. Not only outside the skin, as it were, but also inside the skin, in the psychological structure of our own being, we think comparatively. We say, ‘I am this, I have been that, and I shall be something more in the future’. This comparative thinking we call progress, evolution, and our whole behavior—morally, ethically, religiously, in our business and social relationships—is based on it. We observe ourselves comparatively in relation to a society that is itself the outcome of this same comparative struggle.

Comparison breeds fear. Do observe this fact in yourself. I want to be a better writer, or a more beautiful and intelligent person. I want to have more knowledge than others; I want to be successful, to become somebody, to have more fame in the world. Success and fame are psychologically the very essence of comparison, through which we constantly breed fear. And comparison also gives rise to conflict, struggle, which is considered highly respectable. You say that you must be competitive in order to survive in this world, so you compare and compete in business, in the family, and in so-called religious matters. You must reach heaven and sit next to Jesus, or whoever your particular saviour may be. The comparative spirit is reflected in the priest becoming an archbishop, a cardinal, and finally the pope. We cultivate this same spirit very assiduously throughout our life, struggling to become better or to achieve a status higher than somebody else. Our social and moral structure is based on it.

So there is in our life this constant state of comparison, competition, and the everlasting struggle to be somebody—or to be nobody, which is the same thing. This, I feel, is the root of all fear, because it breeds envy, jealousy, hatred. Where there is hatred there is obviously no love, and fear is generated more and more.

FROM: Saanen, 22 July 1965

Is IT POSSIBLE to end all fear? One may be afraid of the dark, or of coming suddenly upon a snake, or of meeting some wild animal, or of falling over a precipice. It is natural and healthy to want to stay out of the way of an oncoming bus, for example, but there are many other forms of fear. That is why one has to go into this question of whether the idea is more important than the fact, the what is. If one looks at what is, at the fact, and not at the idea, one will see that it is only the idea, the concept of the future, of tomorrow, that is creating fear. It is not the fact that creates fear.

For a mind burdened with fear, with conformity, with the thinker, there can be no understanding of that which may be called the original. And the mind demands to know what the original is. We have said it is God—but that again is a word invented by human beings in their fear, in their misery, in their desire to escape from life. When the human mind is free of all fear, then, in demanding to know what the original is, it is not seeking its own pleasure, or a means of escape, and therefore in that inquiry all authority ceases. Do you understand? The authority of the speaker, the authority of the church, the authority of opinion, of knowledge, of experience, of what people say—all that completely comes to an end, and there is no obedience. It is only such a mind that can find out for itself what the original is—find out, not as an individual mind, but as a total human being. There is no ‘individual’ mind at all—we are all totally related. Please understand this. The mind is not something separate; it is a total mind. We are all conforming, we are all afraid, we are all escaping. And to understand—not as an individual, but as a total human being—what the original is, one must understand the totality of man’s misery, all the concepts, all the formulas that he has invented through the centuries. It is only when there is freedom from all this that you can find out whether there is an original something. Otherwise we are secondhand human beings; and because we are secondhand, counterfeit human beings, there is no ending to sorrow. So the ending of sorrow is in essence the beginning of the original. But the understanding that brings about the ending of sorrow is not just an understanding of your particular sorrow, or my particular sorrow, because your sorrow and my sorrow are related to the whole sorrow of mankind. This is not mere sentiment or emotionalism; it is an actual, brutal fact. When we understand the whole structure of sorrow and thereby bring about the ending of sorrow, there is then a possibility of coming upon that strange something that is the origin of all life—not in a test tube, as the scientist discovers it, but there is the coming into being of that strange energy that is always exploding. That energy has no movement in any direction, and therefore it explodes.

FROM: Ojai, 8 May 1982

One ASKS WHY human beings, who have lived on this earth for million of years, who are technologically intelligent, have not applied their intelligence to be free from this very complex problem of fear, which may be one of the reasons for war, for killing one another. And religions throughout the world have not solved the problem; not the gurus, nor the saviours; nor ideals. So it is very clear that no outside agency—however elevated, however much made popular by propaganda—no outside agency can ever possibly solve this problem of human fear.

You are inquiring, you are investigating, you are delving into the whole problem of fear. And perhaps we have so accepted the pattern of fear that we don’t want even to move away from it. So, what is fear? What are the contributory factors that bring about fear? Like many small streams, rivulets that make the tremendous volume of a river; what are the small streams that bring about fear? That have such tremendous vitality of fear. Is one of the causes of fear comparison? Comparing oneself with somebody else? Obviously it is. So, can you live a life comparing yourself with nobody? You understand what I am saying? When you compare yourself with another, ideologically, psychologically, or even physically, there is the striving to become that; and there is the fear that you may not. It is the desire to fulfill and you may not be able to fulfill. Where there is comparison there must be fear.
On Fear 3

And so one asks whether it is possible to live without a single comparison, never comparing, whether you are beautiful or ugly, fair or not fair, approximating yourself to some ideal, to some pattern of values. There is this constant comparison going on. We are asking, is that one of the causes of fear? Obviously. And where there is comparison there must be conformity, there must be imitation. So we are saying that comparison, conformity, and imitation, are contributory causes of fear. Can one live without comparing, imitating, or conforming psychologically? Of course one can. If those are the contributory factors of fear, and you are concerned with the ending of fear, then inwardly there is no comparison, which means there is no becoming. The very meaning of the comparison is to become that which you think is better, higher, nobler, and so on. So, comparison is becoming. Is that one of the factors of fear? You have to discover it for yourself. Then if those are the factors, if the mind is seeing those factors as bringing about fear, the very perception of those ends the contributory causes. If there is a physical cause that gives you a stomachache, there is an ending of that pain by discovering the cause of it. Similarly, where there is any cause there is an ending.

"Three Reflections on Fear" — Jiddu Krishnamurti

FROM: Saanen, 21 July 1964


Alan Watts' Letter of Resignation to the Episcopal Church


My dear friends,

After long and careful thought I have had to take a step which will perhaps be most disturbing to many of you, though to others it may come as no surprise. I have come to the conclusion that I cannot remain in either the ministry or the communion of the Episcopal Church.

In retrospect, I believe that I entered the ministry under the influence of a tendency which has become rather widespread – a tendency to seek refuge from the confusion of our times by giving into a kind of nostalgia. In a world where all the traditions in which men have found security are crumbling, the mind seeks peace and sanity in an attempt to return to a former state of faith. It envies the inner calm and certitude of an earlier age, where men could put absolute and childlike trust in the authority of the Church, and in the ordered beauty of an ancient doctrine.

Undoubtedly the form of Christian doctrine and worship contains the most profound truth, but I am afraid that the attempt to maintain and revive it is an ineffectual resistance to inevitable change. For so many people, the forms no longer convey their meaning, and the language they speak is both archaic and cumbersome. Others want to believe, and try to convince themselves that they do so, but their faith has that hollow self-consciousness so characteristic of the modern convert, since the mind is acting a role untrue to its inmost state. You cannot imitate faith, and when forms of belief, like all other finite things, begin to die, the effort to revive them is imitation. It doesn’t ring true. But the forms perish, not only because they are mortal, but also because the Spirit within them is breaking them as a bird breaks from its shell.

We are living in a time of disintegration and iconoclasm which the Hindus call Kali Yuga. It hurts and frightens us, but is not essentially evil. It is rather a universal Passion in which man cries, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” But it is the prelude to a Resurrection, because spiritual growth depends upon ceasing to cling to any form of life for security. Forms are not contrary to the Spirit, but it is their nature to die; their transiency is their very life, and a permanent form would be a monstrosity – a finite thing aping God.

The Spirit uses forms, and reveals itself through them, for which reason they are both wonderful and necessary. But they are not exempt from the simplest law of life – that, life every other living thing, to grasp them is to strangle and kill them. To preserve them in death is to cling to corruption.

He who is, for Christians, the form of God, the “express image of his Person,” did not forget to warn us: “It is expedient for you that I go away, for if I go not away the Paraclete cannot come to you.” After his Resurrection the same warning was given to Saint Mary Magdalene: “Do not cling to me!” The tragedy of the Church is that in trying to love form, it has denied its image and the words of Christ himself have been corrupted in the very act of giving them permanent and absolute authority. He has been made into an idol which must be destroyed in his own Name.

I do not want anything that I say here to hurt the Church. For the Church is people – people whom I have learned to love. For that very love I cannot be a party to their hurting themselves and others by seeking security from forms which, if understood aright, are crying, “Do not cling to us!” Out of very gratitude for all that the Church has done for me, I must be honest, and say what I see to be true.

Insofar as the Church is committed to a desire for and a clinging to authority, permanence, spiritual safety, and absolute guides of conduct, it is clinging to its own death. By such means, belief in God, the hope of immortality, and the quest for salvation, become only escapes from the inner emptiness and insecurity which most of us feel in the depths of our being when confronted with the loneliness, the transiency, and the uncertainty of human life. But that inner emptiness is not a void to be filled with comforts; it is a window to be looked through. It is not an evil that life – our own life – flows, changes, and passes away. It is a revelation to prevent us from clinging to ourselves, for whoever lets go of himself finds God. The state of eternal life and oneness with God comes to pass – like a miracle – only when we release our grasp on every kind of spiritual security. To cling to security is only to cling to oneself, and perish of strangulation.

It would be a silly kind of pride to pretend that we can surrender this passion for safety just by trying. It is not effort that breaks the vicious circle of self-strangulation; it is an awareness and understanding of its complete futility. To be aware of this futility is to look through the emptiness within – that window into heaven which affords the vision of God.

Much of this has a familiar ring to the Christian. “Whosoever would save his soul shall lose it.” But I have found that you cannot make the point clear within the Church as it exists without running into contradictions at every step. The liturgy is cluttered beyond hope with sentiments, prayers, and hymns conceived in the state of anxious grasping to forms. And that is by no means all.

During the past years I have continued my studies of the spiritual teachings of the Orient, alongside with Catholic theology, and, though I have sometimes doubted it, I am now fully persuaded that the Church’s claim to be the best of all ways to God is not only a mistake, but also a symptom of anxiety. Obviously, one who has found a great truth is eager to share it with others. But to insist – often in ignorance of other revelations – that one’s own is supreme argues a certain inferiority complex characteristic of all imperialisms. “Me thinks thou doth protest too much.” This claim of supremacy is, for me, the chiefest sign of how deeply the Church is committed to this self-strangulation, this anxiety for certainty, and I cannot support the proselytism in which it issues.

It has been my privilege to know priests of the Church who are men of wonderful humility. But, whether they intend it or not, their assumption of that office usually becomes, in the eyes of laymen and the general public, a claim to spiritual authority and moral superiority. Beyond doubt there are priests who speak with true authority and who are morally superior. But to claim such gifts vitiates them, even when the claim is tacit or derivative, and is the stumbling-block to those who mistakenly cling to authority in their quest for security. For true authority says, “Let go. You will only find God if you do not try to possess him.” I must, then, do what lies in my power to renounce even tacit claim to superiority, whether spiritual or moral. For one reason, such a claim would be untrue. For another, the expectation that every clergyman be a moral exemplar is an aspect of that unfortunate moral self-consciousness which has so long afflicted the Western world.

The best Christian thought has always seen that only Pharisaism comes through trying to be good. For sanctity is less in wanting to be moral than in loving God and other men. But the moralism which condemns a man for not loving is simply adding strength to that sense of fear and insecurity which prevents him from loving. You may help him to live neither by condemning nor consoling, but by encouraging him to understand and accept the fear and insecurity which he feels. Yet one who tries to suggest this healing acceptance of fear within the framework of the church is again beset by contradictions, since in all its official formularies and utterances the Church is either threatening with penalties or consoling with promises. The result is to exploit and aggravate man’s fear, to foster a simulated love which is fear in disguise – fear running away from itself – for love will no more grow from such blind fear than the grape from the thorn...

...Am I, in all that has been said here, demanding of the Church a spiritual perfection which cannot be forced – falling into the old heresy of antinomianism, which expects all Christians to be so completely in the Spirit that they need no law? I ask no such thing. Nothing is further from my mind and my meaning than to condemn the Church for falling short of an ideal. My departure from the Church is not a moral protest; it is simply that seeing what I see, I cannot do otherwise. I take no credit for it. My viewpoint is not one of moral judgment and condemnation, but of simple inability to conform to a rule of life based on what I see to be illusions.

What I see is what life has shown me: that in fear I cling to myself, and that such clinging is quite futile. I have found that trying to stop this self-strangulation through discipline, belief in God, prayer, resort to authority, and all the rest, is likewise futile. Trying not to be selfish, trying to realize an ideal, is simply the original selfishness in another form. Worship as an expression of joy or thanksgiving I can understand. But spiritual exercises or moral disciplines undertaken to raise oneself by one’s own spiritual bootstraps are absurd, for they are based on the illusion that the “I” who would improve is different from the “me” who must be improved. And to ask for the grace to be so improved is merely an indirect form of the same thing.

The more clearly I see this, the less choice I have in the matter: I cannot go on doing. The more I am aware of the futility of myself trying not to be selfish, of the contradiction of myself even desiring or asking not to be selfish, or to love where I do not love, I have no choice but to stop it. At a yet deeper level, the more I see the futility of myself for clinging to myself, I have no choice but to stop clinging. In this choiceless bondage one is miraculously free. For where the actual possibility of “I” loving “me” is seen to be an illusion, the vicious circle is broken, and there remains only that outflowing love which is called God.

Much more remains to be said, but in this brief space I can do no more than sketch the point of view on which I must act. But I do want to warn any of you who might want to follow my example and leave the Church likewise. You cannot act rightly by imitating the actions of another. This is to act without understanding, and where there is no understanding the vicious circle goes on. I have no wish to lead a “movement” away from Church. If any leave, let them do so on their own account, not from choice, not because they feel they “should,” but only if understanding makes it clear that, for them, there is no other alternative.

I expect, now, to devote most of my time to writing and lecturing, not because I wish to make converts, but because I love this work more than any other, because it enables me to live and take care of my family, and because I believe I have something to say which is worth saying.

Faithfully yours,
Alan W. Watts
August 1950



Much debate is 
directed at the life and times of Alan Watts.  From "troubadour of liberty", "bridge to the East", "joyous sage", and one who “failed miserably to walk the talk,”  Watts, maybe a tortured soul, in fact blessed his listeners to see beyond the cultural biases of their day   As an old Zen proverb suggests, "the finger that points to the moon is never the moon".  A paramount point! We demand that our way-showers be of such a character what we can certainly trust in their lives and personal integrities — only to find they, like us, are immensely  fragile and woefully flawed Beings.  Remember the Old Testament story of Balaam's talking donkey (Numbers 22:28) “And the Lord opened the mouth of the ass, and she said unto Balaam...”  

God Moves in Mysterious Ways
—William Cowper (1731–1800)

God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up his bright designs,
And works his sovereign will...

As for Alan Watts, Thomas M. Cushing (Amazon review) insightfully states, “wisdom often is born of failure and struggle, and his loss was our gift. I consider him one of my finest teachers while growing up...  He "played" his part to teach us that the falseness and contradictions of the world can be reconciled in one true spirit.”

—Bei Kuan-tu