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Finding Direction in Life: Where are You Going?

There was once a small community of Buddhist monks.

The oldest and wisest of the monks was the Abbot who came from a long line of abbots. However, in the monastery there was a novice, the youngest of the monks, and the first of his family to enter the monastic life. The novice was causing the Abbot a lot of concern and heart ache with his behavior. He was inattentive with lessons and he disobeyed the rules. But the Abbot saw the seeds of greatness, which only deepened his concern.

As the Abbot went about his daily routine, he was aware of the young monk’s presence within the community. He would hear of the novice laughing during meditation, sleeping late and not attending to early morning duties. He would see the young man distracting others, and yet at others times he was nowhere to be found.

Increasingly, the Abbot felt under pressure from the other monks to deal with the young man: to ask him to leave or to teach him a lesson. The Abbot had tried everything he could think of, reflecting on his apprenticeship within the traditions of the order.

The following day, before first light – before the darkness had begun to pale – he arose and went to the novice:
“Come with me” he said, to the sleeping novice.

“Where are we going, Master?” the novice asked.
The master did not reply.

They passed through the monastery gates and started the climb to their destination, the novice grumbling, cold and stumbling as he went. “Why are we doing this? I don’t see the point”.

The Abbot smiled, observing how the path passed beneath his feet, noticing the roughness of the stones, the dew wet grass sweeping his ankles. He observed the wild flower meadow, bathed in the soft early morning light.

“Why are we journeying?”, the novice asked. The Abbot paused and listened. The novice paused but could hear anything other than the sounds of the forest.

They moved on and came to a clearing where the Abbot raised his eyes to see a magnificent cascading, rainbow-wreathed waterfall. The novice looked up, too, but the Abbot moved on, climbing up the side of the falls.

“Where are we going?” he asked again.

The Abbot sat on a large flat rock on top of the mountain and looked all around, smiling at the novice he said “What do you see?”

“I can see the rock and the moss, but they are not as beautiful as the grass in the fields…. I can see the wild flower, but it is nothing to the flowers in the meadow…. I can see the mouse, and the small trickle on the mountain here, which is nothing compared with the torrent of the falls”

“Is there more?”, asked the Abbot

“The only other thing I see, Master, is our path.”

Frederick Douglass said, “Without struggle there is no progress.” We learn from adversity and grow in ways we never thought we could. When we get knocked down by life some look externally for help and others rely only on themselves to forge ahead.

* the author is unknown and the story is considered public domain

Finding Direction in Life: Where are You Going?

Aaron Karmin

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APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Finding Direction in Life: Where are You Going?. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 21 Dec 2018
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