“Some people are obsessed with constantly reaching new heights, and they will not rest until they do, and then only briefly, because their discontent won’t let them.” We were talking about dissatisfaction and how it makes us run around looking for a way to end it. “In this anxiety to reach the summit, they fail to notice the scenery on the way up. They are so possessed by their quest that every moment is consumed by the desire to reach that future goal. And then, when the summit is reached, time stops for a moment. A brief moment of bliss. But right away, the bliss is replaced by a gnawing feeling of And now what?” I nodded in approval.
He continued: “Reaching the goal has not provided the peace and happiness that the climber was unconsciously hoping for. And so he comes back down and sets his sights on another mountain, perhaps an even taller one this time. What else is he to do?,” he asked earnestly. I liked Ajahn’s way of describing the human predicament. What he was talking about was probably universal across time and space.
“To one degree or another, this is how many of us live our lives,” he continued. “We think we are flawed or defective in some way, and we spend our lives chasing after things that we imagine will make us complete and happy. We become lifelong mountain-climbers, perpetually dissatisfied with ourselves, constantly striving to prove ourselves. We fail to realize that what we are looking for through the climb is peace, and that this peace is already here. But to notice this, we have to stop climbing. Because the climb is what prevents us from finding what we think we are looking for. We fail to notice that we were already at our destination before starting out. We are always complete and perfect just the way we are, only our minds tell us we aren’t, so we climb, looking for completion.”
“So what is the antidote, Ajahn?,” I asked. “Don’t be a mountain-climber,” he replied. “Instead, learn to appreciate your own uniqueness. You could call it perfection or imperfection, it doesn’t matter, because life can never be captured by words. Dispel the illusion of incompleteness and unworthiness, and see that you were always whole to begin with, and that your only problem was the spell of inadequacy that had been cast on you. And then, if you still feel like climbing a mountain, every step of the way will be just right.”