Joe is your typical westerner urbanite. He has a well paying job. He makes enough to live a cushy life and save a little for sometime down the road. He lives in a mid size city with everything you could want. There are brewpubs, cafes, and a park all within walking distance of his apartment. He’s not married and has no kids. His dating life isn’t great, but he does have the occasional fling with decent looking women. His social circle isn’t huge, but he has a few quality people in his life that he considers true friends. He works out at least 3 times a week, and has even taken up boxing. He’s in great shape and compliments that with good style.
On paper, Joe’s life would be the envy of the majority of the World’s population. Joe knows this, yet he still feels there is something missing. He wouldn’t consider himself depressed, but he knows he could be happier. There just seems to be this gnawing feeling that he could be doing more, seeing more, being more, and it won’t go away.
Joe starts devouring self improvement books and blogs. He reads Tolle, the teachings of Stoicism, and even gets into eastern philosophy. He begins meditating and practicing yoga regularly. But the gnawing feeling still persists. In his pursuit of a happier life, Joe decides to go zen monastery to talk with a guru.
Joe feels awkward upon arriving to the monastery, and even more awkward when he meets the guru, but he wants answers.
The guru stares at Joe with a big smile and deep relaxed eyes. There is a long silence and Joe eventually blurts out “Hi my name is Joe. I came here today seeking happiness.”
The guru’s smile grows wider and his eyes light up a bit, but he doesn’t speak. Joe takes this as a sign to keep on talking. “I have so many great things in my life, yet I’m still suffering. How do I fix it?”
The guru takes a long deep breath and finally speaks. “In order to end suffering you must remove all desires.”
The guru gets up and walks away. Although the guru only said a few words they have impacted Joe significantly. Joe has an “aha” moment and knows what he must do.
When Joe gets back to his apartment he begins getting rid of all the possessions he rarely uses, until he is down to the bare essentials. He gives up drinking. He removes sugars and processed foods from his diet, only eating vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats. He gives up watching the news, and vicariously living through his favorite sports teams. He gives up meaningless sex. He doubles down on the meditation and yoga.
After a few weeks, Joe feels better, but the gnawing feeling still persists. He decides to go back to the monastery to meet the guru.
The guru greets him once again with a big smile and deep relaxed eye contact. “I have given up all desires, yet I still feel suffering.” Joe says a bit defeated.
The guru takes a long deep breath. “But you haven’t given up all desires.”
Joe looks at him confused and a little frustrated. “What do you mean?”
“You still desire to get rid of all your desires.” The guru says before getting up and walking away.
Joe is more than frustrated. He tries to get the attention of the guru as he walks away but the guru keeps walking. He begins to feel slighted. He came here for answers yet the guru just seems to ignore him.
Joe gets so angry that he vows never to come back to the monastery again. He decides all this eastern philosophy is “bullshit.” He’s gives up looking for answers, and that’s when it hits him like a ton of bricks. A quiet peace washes over him. He begins to see the folly of his pursuit.