It may be tempting to believe that the purpose of life is success.
However, what is the basis of that success? What does it mean to be successful? And how do I know what success is or what defines success?
When I look sincerely, I see that my ideas about success are all based on assumptions and habits. I have no absolute knowledge of what success really is.
In other words, when I blindly obey my notions of what success is and I strive toward that, I have no way of knowing that I am actually doing something good, noble, or even ultimately desirable.
In fact, if I tell the truth, all evidence is that quite the opposite is true. Because despite my compulsive efforts to be successful – even despite my apparently achieving what I thought would produce success – I don’t seem to have gotten whatever it is that I thought success would be.
I thought success would remove doubts, fears, anxieties, insecurities, etc. And it is true that sometimes in a relative way it seems that I can achieve that.
But in a larger sense, the same quantity of insecurity remains. And that insecurity is even magnified.
When I honestly evaluate my success in achieving success, I have to admit that I’ve failed.
And this failure is the first opening to something beyond the mind. Beyond blind compulsion. Beyond the limitations of the dead ideas of salvation.
Most of us are trained to avoid this failure. Or, rather, to avoid admitting to the failure. We are taught to “think positive” or keep on trying.
But what if I embrace this failure instead? Or what if I even give up the notion that I can embrace the failure since it is far too big for me to get my arms around. So let me surrender to it and be embraced by it.
Find out with me right now. Perhaps you can notice that right now you are tired of trying so hard to win, to be right, to succeed. Perhaps you can notice how difficult and exhausting it is to keep trying to believe that you’re going to win despite all the evidence that you don’t even know where you stand.
If so, you can do this experiment with me right now. Just tell the truth about the exhaustion and hopelessness…and how scary it is to tell that truth.
It is scary. So you’re not doing it wrong if you feel that fear. Or anger. Or frustration. Or sadness.
Now, let’s admit the deeper truth, which is that we don’t even know what it would be to actually succeed. All the ideas we have about it are fantasies which, if we imagine them to their conclusion, result in the same empty dissatisfaction that we already have now.
If everyone in the world agrees that I am right all the time…If they all approve of me all the time…If my body behaves exactly as I want it to all the time…Even if I can have good feelings all the time…
…Still, there is something lacking. Still I am not completely satisfied. Still I am seeking something else.
So let’s tell the truth: all the ideas of success are incorrect.
What are we left with now? Only what is.
What is, does not necessarily comply with what I think should be. And that seems threatening. Scary. Terrifying.
I might be emotionally hurt. My pride might take a hit. I might be uncomfortable. I might be humiliated. I might even experience bodily pain. Even death.
So many possibilities. So many possibilities that don’t fit with my ideas of success.
But my ideas of success are unsatisfactory. So I am doing this experiment. And hopefully you are also.
The experiment is to simply allow what is. And that means whatever is. Regardless of how it matches up with my ideas of success or what “should be” or what is acceptable.
I strongly recommend you don’t read further until you have done the experiment for yourself up to this point. That is to say, at least for a moment give up all effort. And just see how miserable and pointless all the compulsive effort is. See that all the compulsive effort is only aimed at trying to keep away what has been deemed unacceptable – the discomfort, fear, anxiety, frustration, hopelessness, etc. And see that in this one moment of no effort – not trying to get anything or get rid of anything – completely defenseless – what remains. What is really here when no effort is made? When there is no effort to succeed in any way, when all failures are allowed, what is here?
Please don’t read further until you have done that much sincerely.
What is here? Does what is here need any success to be? Is what is here diminished by any failures?
Or is it paradoxically the case that the more “failure” is allowed without any effort that what is here becomes clearer and clearer?
I may have thought that what I wanted was freedom or peace. But because I was aiming to succeed in achieving those ideas of freedom of peace, I overlooked the ever-present, unconditional reality of freedom and peace here now.
Yet in this moment now, making no effort, allowing all “failures”, meeting every disappointment, fear, anxiety, worry, sadness, anger, etc. without making any effort at all…what is found?
The surprising reality of true freedom, true peace. True freedom is the freedom which allows everything, including failure. True peace is that which makes no war, instead receiving everything as it is.
This true freedom, true peace, is here now. And it is discovered through the gateway of failure.