Life is Not a Journey (#773)

We’re just finishing up our Learning How to Thrive retreat in Ojai, and one of the things that keeps showing up as a theme is how differently people would approach their lives if they really saw that there’s nothing additional needed in order to be happy and well. Well-being is our nature, yet we spend so much of our time chasing after it like a dog chasing it’s own tail that we start to believe that the fact that we’re doing it proves it’s a good idea.

One example of this is the idea that “life is a journey”. This has become so much a part of our cultural mythology that we forget it’s just a metaphor, usually one offered up to counterbalance our overemphasis on goals and targets. The idea is that we become so obsessed with where we’re headed that we don’t notice where we are. So in order to have more fulfilling lives, we’re supposed to stop and smell the roses along the way.

But why is the default setting directional movement? It’s as though being on the move is what’s natural and being where we are is a skill we have to learn. Yet my experience of life is the exact opposite.

Life is not a journey. Life just is.

And when we stop trying to turn it into something meaningful or productive, we have the opportunity to discover something true and wonderful:

There’s nowhere for you to get to. You’re just here.

While at first that might seem disconcerting and even disorienting, as you relax into it, you come to see the incredible freedom that comes with letting go of not just the addiction to destination but even the need to “be on a journey”.

Here’s how I wrote about it in Supercoach:

In any moment, we can decide that what we have is not enough and look around for something to fill in the gaps, or we can decide that what we have is exactly what we want. We can turn our “bone of happiness” into a bone of contention and throw it off into some imaginary future, or we can enjoy gnawing on it right here, right now.

This thought can be disturbing at first to people who feel like ‘the next big thing’ is continually just around the corner. But just because there’s nowhere to get to doesn’t mean you’ll no longer travel – just that you’ll no longer travel in order to get somewhere better than right where you are sitting now. It doesn’t mean that you can’t upgrade your car, your job, your finances, or even your relationship. It just means that if you do, it will be because you want to, not because you think you have to or you should.

And in the quiet that comes with knowing that there’s nowhere else you need to be, you may just hear the hum of life and notice the glorious experience of being alive.

With love,

Related Articles

Three Spiritual Truths from Louis C. K.

One of my favorite things I read over the holiday period was this little gem from the comedian Louis C.K.:
“Also please remember that the turning over of one year to another is a mental construct that bears no more weight than the things that keep us apart and in competitive categories as human beings….

The Peace of Mind (#913)

On a recent trip to the UK, I gave a talk on peace of mind at the Tikun center in North London. During the talk, I outlined four levels of understanding of what peace of mind actually is and how we go about getting it….

The Physics of Happiness and Success (#855)

Imagine a series of boats sitting in a marina by the shores of a beautiful ocean. One boat is called “Lots O’ Money”; another is called “Amazing Marriage”, and another is called “Thin and Beautiful”. Across the quay are boats called “Spectacular Career ” and “Abundant Fame” and “Loving Family”…

The Happiness Priority (#723)

On September 1st, 1990, I taught my very first course to 15 people in a small classroom at the Camden College of English in Chalk Farm, London. Nearly twenty years and tens of thousands of students later, I realize that while much of what I had to say at the time was positive and useful, if I could go back and do it again today, there are only two things I would build my message around: