Thich Nhat Hanh’s well-known quote is this:
There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.
We tend to believe that the ideal world is somewhere far away from here and now. Our life is a long path to reach this special goal. As far as the Hero’s Journey is concerned, this perspective is somewhat right. We need to go through various challenges to reach our goal. We can never achieve our dreams unless and until overcoming them. “No pain, no gain” is one of the critical tenets for our growth mindset.
If so, is what Thich Nhat Hanh said contradicting? Not necessarily so.
In the path of our Hero’s Journey, why do we encounter various challenges? Why do we feel fear for them? Why do we feel pain about them? Is there something wrong about our life journey? God forbid. There is nothing wrong at all.
It is only because of our resistance. It is only because of our ego.
Consciously or unconsciously, we tend to think that everything and everyone should be in our control. It should be like this and like that. He or she should act like this and like that. If and when we encounter something or someone uncontrollable, we feel stressed. If worse comes worst, we curse the world around us, even against the universe beyond us.
It is neither the world nor the universe. It should be the other way around. We should be the ones who are supposed to align and immerse ourselves with the world and the universe.
How can we do that? Let’s take the example of swimming.
There is one mindful swimming approach called Total Immersion (TI). Usually, we tend to swim by propelling ourselves against water pressure. We rely on our power as the water resistance is continuously pressing us. We need our strength and stamina to swim faster and longer, which is true to some extent, but not totally so.
In the mindful swimming approach like TI, our focus instead should be on the alignment with the flow of water at hand, not the resistance. TI advises us: Feel the very water that is embracing our body. Don’t kick hard. Don’t stroke hard. Our consciousness should be on hydrodynamics, feeling, and acting like a fish or dolphin.
This way, TI swimmers complete their marathon swimming with ease.
Don (TI Master Coach Don Walsh) took a TI workshop one year before his first Manhattan swim, then tirelessly improved his efficiency through practice, peaking at about 25,000 yards per week. On race day, Don enjoyed his entire nine-hour trip. As he described it, “When the race was over, everyone else was in severe pain. But I felt great! If a race official had said, ‘Don, you missed a turn and you have to go around again,’ I could have done it easily.”Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin
Everything and eveyrone around us, even beyond us could be just like such total immersion. The truth is that everything and everyone are after all the state of flow. What we have to do is not to resist, but embrace, align, and go with it.
In our life journey, if ever we could overcome various challenges, that is not the result of defeating them. As long as we resist and try to beat them, we can never find the way. With such resistance and effort of beating, we easily feel pain and quickly exhausted. All our stresses and depressions are from our ego-driven resistance, where we can never enjoy the process of here and now.
Don’t resist challenges. Immerse ourselves into them, not relying on our small, limited power, but believing and trusting the flow of the world and the way of the universe, where we could find happiness, joy, and peace. Indeed, happiness is the way.
The true growth mindset is not the effort of overcoming challenges with power but instead finding the flow and the way that could lead us to the true growth aligned with the world around us and the universe beyond us.