The Goal is Internal and Within Reach

Piggybacking on the last two day’s posts, which discussed being sad about death because we love life and being present in the moment to an internal goal that is within reach, I want to emphasize the importance of living in the moment. Robert Pirsig’s quote (read yesterdays post or see the bottom of this post for the quote) is an important reminder to me that it is possible to have an internal goal that I am capable of reaching, and that is really all I need to live in the moment. Understanding that my thoughts and feelings are not controlled by outside circumstances has helped me live in the moment much more often the past year and a half.

Living in the moment is a major theme of what I call making the play by being aware, awake, and alive. I understand that nothing outside me has the power to create a certain thought or feeling. Sure, sometime it seems that way, but I always remember that I am free from both external and internal control. This understanding creates tremendous freedom which I can often use to direct my attention toward the potential greatness of this moment. If I am making the play, I seize that greatness, even if it is a very small gesture.

While the play may be external, I have begun to truly understand that my ultimate goal is internal and within reach: Attempt to make plays as often as possible, and when I fail, understand that every moment is pregnant with new possibilities for making more plays.

I realize a beautiful experience of the world and happiness are available every second of every day. I know that I do not need a certain net worth, number of followers, or trophies on the shelf. I may not always have happiness, and that is fine and normal, but I certainly try to remember that happiness only resides inside me.

With that happiness, I can project it into the world no matter what is here in front of me at the moment. Obviously, some things – like the death I wrote about yesterday – occur, and my thoughts about those things preclude me from being happy for a time. That’s the way it is. It doesn’t mean that I am beholden to outside circumstances, and it doesn’t mean I am broken because I can’t power-of-positive-thinking my way out of a bad feeling at the moment. It just means I care for people, understand the fleeting nature of life, and am profoundly affected about it for the time being. I know it won’t last even if it might reoccur to me.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I have, and if you are so moved, I hope it points in an important direction. I would love to hear your thoughts. As always, thanks for reading and sharing.


To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

By Robert M. Pirsig from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

The Ego Climber

I found this quote almost 21 years ago when I was 23 years old. It was written well before that , but it so accurately described my sense of urgency at the expense of living in the moment that I almost thought Robert Pirsig wrote it for me. I think it is a beautiful description of a tension we all experience at times, and for me it is a reminder that my goal is internal and within reach.

I’ve had different favorite parts at different stages in my life. Currently, I think my favorite part is that I realize what I want is all around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

By Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


Sad About Death

I am departing from my usual post themes because in my household we are sad about death tonight. A classmate of my daughter lost his life in an accident. As a school psychologist, I’ve been around the death of school children dozens of times, too many times. I am, and have been, sad about them all.

Please note that my phrasing sad about death, is quite intentional and one of the main points of this piece. Most of us might say death makes us sad, but in truth, the feelings don’t work this way. Nothing makes us feel or think any certain way. Even death and its finality doesn’t have that power.

What’s my point? It’s certainly not to cheapen life or downplay death.

I have no real words of encouragement. I only want to point in a direction of understanding. Our reactions to death vary because our thoughts about death and life vary as time goes on. Our thoughts and feelings vary even from moment to moment. One moment we are crying thinking about loss, the next we are laughing at a glorious moment we shared with our deceased loved one. You see, death doesn’t make us sad. We are sad about it, and that changes over time even if the sadness keeps coming back when the loss is in our thoughts.

I hope we can be understanding of others. In those deaths I’ve experienced in the schools, I often see finger pointing and blame. Children accuse others of crying too much or crying too little because of perceived relationships and closeness. So and so wasn’t as close as I was, so they shouldn’t be crying as much. We all deal with death differently based on our thoughts about it, and it’s alright that we don’t all feel the same at the same time.

It seems like death makes us sad because we almost all view the loss of life as a sad event, and this is especially true when a child dies. But when we remember that death doesn’t make us sad, we are sad about it, I think this nearly universal reaction is especially informative.

We are sad about death because of the way we think about death. We are sad about death because of our thoughts about loss: What we lost, what family and friends lost, what the deceased lost, what the world lost. We are sad about death because we know some people never get over a loved ones death. We are sad about death because we believe a light that burned so brightly isn’t visible anymore. We are sad about death because we remember loved ones we’ve lost.

Mostly, we are sad about death because we love life, and the loss of it can seem unbearable at times. So if you have the chance today, I hope you celebrate life, even the life of someone who has passed away. After all, we feel our thoughts, and in our thoughts, the life of everyone we remember lasts as long as we live.