Joshua Keel

What Are You Looking For?

July 29, 2018

Longing for home
Searching for peace
Struggling for meaning
In the disease

They say everyone has a natural koan, a question that bubbles up from somewhere deep inside, desperately seeking an answer. It’s the question that drives you, that motivates many of your behaviors and patterns of thought. It’s what you’re looking for, what you want more than anything. My natural koan is expressed in the lyrics above, which I wrote some years ago: how can I find peace in this life?

This blog is all about practical wisdom. I am trying to answer, from many different angles, the question “How do I live a good life?” We’re thrown into this world, through no choice of our own, and more or less left to sink or swim. Parents, teachers, and society in general may try to inculcate certain values or principles in us, but at a certain point, we’re on our own, left to make of life what we will.

One of my greatest motivations is to unearth wisdom and share it with others. I’m trying to understand this world, this life—to make sense of it, and to share my observations and reflections with you in the hope that you will find them useful. I don’t want others to have to spend as much time searching and seeking and struggling as I have. Maybe it’s an impossible task, but if I can even cut 5 or 10 years off that wasted time, I will. I have been tremendously helped by the wisdom of others, and want to keep building on their foundation.

So what are you searching for? What is your deepest longing? Knowing this can help clarify life. It can make decisions easier. Is this job, relationship, possession, etc. taking me closer or further away from what I most want? And I’m not at all saying what you want is a thing. It could be something very abstract such as love, or happiness. In fact, I daresay for most of us, happiness is the key thing that drives us. Of course, it’s all too easy for that search for happiness to become a hedonic treadmill of seeking pleasure and never finding deep satisfaction.

My own perception is that satisfaction isn’t found in acquiring objects in the world: cars, people, houses, iPhones. I don’t believe circumstances necessarily need to change in order for some sort of happiness, or at least peace of mind, to be available to us. In fact, in my experience, peace and joy are almost always available, an undercurrent running below a churning mind. The more I let go of that mental churning, the more peace I seem to experience. In a way, it’s like we’re driving ourselves crazy, and we just don’t know it. We fall into the same trap of excessive thinking over and over again.

We do it because we think our thoughts really mean something important. We think they’re imminently useful. My question to myself and to you would simply be, what if that’s not true? And while we’re on the subject, what exactly is true, anyway? My impression is that there are a lot of beliefs out there being held by many people, but that there’s a real dearth of truth, of genuine knowledge, and of wisdom.

Maybe clarifying what you most deeply want from life—what lies beneath all your momentary pursuits—will help you gather the energy to go and find it, to know the truth of your life. What you find might not be what you expected. I would expect that. And remember to notice and enjoy the journey of growth and becoming. Life is passing us by so quickly, and we scarcely take time to live it. I hope you find what you’re looking for. When you do, maybe come back here and tell me what you found.