Looking to the future for happiness or living on past glories is a sure set-up for disappointment. Ultimately, we have no assurance of anything beyond this present moment. There really is no future or past, just a continuous progression of “now” moments.
The question then becomes: What am I to do in the “now” in order to experience meaning? The secret of happiness shared by great mystics throughout the ages is to do just what you are doing, but do it with awareness. Be just who you are, but be it intensely. Look long and lovingly at what is real right now.
The meaning of here and now is beautifully illustrated by a Zen story of a monk who was being chased by two tigers. He came to the edge of a cliff. He looked back and the tigers were almost upon him. Noticing a vine leading over the cliff, he quickly crawled over the edge and began to let himself down by the vine. Then as he checked below, he saw two tigers waiting for him at the bottom of the cliff.
He looked up and observed that two mice were gnawing away at the vine. Just then, he saw a beautiful strawberry within arm’s reach. He picked it and enjoyed the best tasting strawberry in his whole life. Although only minutes from death, the monk chose to enjoy the here and now.
Our life continually sends us “tigers” and it continually sends us “strawberries,” but do we let ourselves enjoy the strawberries? Or do we use our valuable consciousness worrying about the tigers?
Reprinted with permission from The Wellness Inventory, Commentary on the 11th Dimension of Wellness: Finding Meaning.