There is a thirst in each of us for enduring happiness, serenity, and fulfillment. There is a thirst for wholeness, for freedom, for authentic and sustained love. It’s summed up in that underlying feeling that there must be more to life. Have you felt that thirst? I have.
Where does it come from? It comes from your heart and soul. It comes from the very center of your being. It can go underground for many years. It can be covered over by transient external pleasures. But, it cannot be eradicated. It will only come to an end when it’s finally fulfilled.
Aristotle, the ancient Greek philosopher, spoke to this thirst when he presented a series of lectures in Athens that became known as the Nicomachean Ethics. He used the word Eudaimonia. In modern times this Greek word is translated as Human Flourishing. That’s the term we use to describe the fulfillment of the call from within.
Of course Aristotle was not alone in this understanding. Wise women and men, through time and across diverse cultures, have also known this thirst. They knew the only way to quench it was to go within and cultivate, at the center of our being, the ever-present qualities of happiness, serenity, and optimal well-being. These inner qualities are permanent, trustworthy, incorruptible, and the pinnacle of human development. It is only this that will permanently bring an end to the thirst for a larger life and well-being.
So if this natural treasure is already within each of us, as it is, why can’t we see or experience it? Where is this more to life? Why does it seem so scarce and inaccessible? Why do we exert so much energy and effort looking for it in the outer world, and in the end come up empty handed?
The answer is quite simple. Out of habit we have learned to search for this gem of life in the wrong place. That is why, regardless of our efforts and persistence, we cannot find what we are searching for. Mistakenly, we continue to look outside of our self to discover the experience of human flourishing. That’s what culture has taught us. It’s this tenacious mental habit that denies us access to the richest experience of human life—human flourishing.
There are certain things that can only be found inside our self. That is how it is. Enduring happiness, peace, and wholeness are three examples. For these gems we need to turn our attention inwards. Fortunately, the wise ones who have come before us have left a road map to human flourishing. They have shown us the way to move beyond “normal” life to a life that fulfills our human possibility. Their instructions are the universal teachings of all wise philosophies and religions. And those teachings are grounded in the inner exploration offered by specific meditation practices accompanied by the wise guidance of mentors.
You may ask how happiness and peace, as inner qualities, persist when we get off of the meditation cushion and participate in daily life with its usual annoyances, challenges, and adversities. The answer is threefold. First, through ongoing sitting practice we calm the overactive mind and develop a reservoir of mental stability that carries us through the day. We are increasingly able to remain calm inside and simultaneously function efficiently in a complex world. Second, we learn how to use all of our outer life—work, relationships, and daily experiences—as part of our meditation practice. In this way, on an ongoing basis, we integrate inner and outer worlds. And finally, with practice there develops a progressive set of insights that allow us to see outer reality in a fresh way—without judgment or reactivity. Human flourishing becomes more than an ideal. It is seamlessly woven into the entire fabric of our life.
The investment in a time-tested inner path and a reliable and wise spiritual guide is a critical choice that can potentially save years, if not a lifetime. So take your time. When you decide upon the right path and teacher you will be off on the adventure of a lifetime. That adventure is a journey to the last frontier. It is there, at the center of our being, that we discover what has always been waiting for us: the complete fulfillment of our humanity.