top of page

Where are you heading?

An audio version is available by clicking play on the attachment above.

Increase or decrease the speed of audio by clicking the far-right icon - Desktop (>>) or mobile (...)

“Everyone wants to be happy, and there is a strong energy in us pushing us toward what we think will make us happy. But we may suffer a lot because of this.”

- Thich Nhat Hanh (aka Thay)

As we become more mindfully aware in our daily lives, we organically gain insights into the deeper meaning behind all we engage with. This inevitably leads to questioning the ways we use our time. Where we determine if it is time well spent…or not. To know if it is “well spent” is to know if it benefits our well-being. Mindfulness reveals that if anything is truly to our benefit, it is also to the benefit of others, and vice versa. This is where we may discover noticeable distinctions between our intentions, and whether they align with the destination we want to arrive in. We can call this universally sought destination real, or true happiness.

The volitions, or intentions, guiding my actions to achieve "true happiness," for much of my life were, for the most part, unskillful. I now recognize why most of these efforts missed the mark, due to a lack of knowing where to even aim. So I did what I think many people do in that situation—put my faith in others who “appeared” happy, and aligned my actions with what my culture depicted as “means” to those “ends.” But if I’ve learned anything from that course of action, it’s that looks can be deceptive, especially those depicting “success” or “happiness.”

It took a lot of realizing what happiness wasn’t, and crossing these “attempts” off the “checklist of potentialities,” thereby inching closer, failed attempt by failed attempt, to revealing the ever-elusive happiness I knew must exist. Such experiential understanding, or failure, is often necessary, but it can also help greatly, and save great amounts of time, if we can find a reliable teacher who can guide our efforts more…let’s say, skillfully, in the right direction. If we're really lucky, we may even find two! or three! or hundreds! Because they're out there, we just may not yet know where to look for them because we don't know what to look for...yet.

For most of my own life, my volitions guiding my actions can be summed up in the timeless parable offered by the Buddha, which describes two strong men dragging a third man toward a pit of glowing embers, intending to toss him into the searing flames, thinking that by doing so, they would attain their happiness. But from this scenario, the Buddha then reveals that we are this third, helpless individual being dragged toward a pit of flames, and it is our volition (aka two strong burly men) doing the hauling. We never behave with the intention of being less happy, just as these “two strong men” did not know at the time where their actions were leading them.

I feel very lucky to have found such wisdom and guidance from the likes of the “O.G.” Zen Master, AKA the Buddha, as well as one of his more recently “living” Zen Master disciples by the name of Thich Nhat Hanh. Both masters of the art of Zen revealed to me that true happiness is from volitions aligned toward, and with, the three inseparable and inexhaustible conditions of liberation, peace, and compassion.

If we think we have found something which truly liberates us, but it is not also aligned with non-discriminate peace and wholehearted compassion, then it is not “true” liberation, therefore it is not helping us touch true happiness. The same goes for attainments thought to be made of peace and compassion. All three "inseparables" can be found in each one. And each one cannot be separated from the other two.

If I were to further depict this newly understood “volition formula” through my own humbly attempted parable, it could be like two strong men, again hauling a third man, but this time he is dying of thirst, and they are not dragging, they are gently, and mindfully cradling him in their arms as they place his parched body into a cool, shallow stream, only to then cup handfuls of water to bring to his mouth, so he may drink, and so he, and they, may continue further on the path of true happiness.


bottom of page