Where Should I Be Going?

Where Should I Be Going? November 19, 2022

Photo by Chris Briggs on Unsplash

A flock of birds swim across the sky from left to right. There are maybe fifty of them, and I wish my friend Jane was here because she’d be able to tell me their name. They know where they’re heading. What about me? Where should I be going?

This is one of the questions that haunts me. What should I be doing with my life? Where should I be putting my energy? Am I doing what I SHOULD be doing? I seek the answers in books, from spiritual teachers, and in therapy sessions. I agonise a little. I feel inadequate in various ways – not rich enough, successful enough or popular enough at my time of life. And at forty eight years old, shouldn’t I be over having these doubts?

What the birds are saying

In a pause between paragraphs, a few hundred more birds sweep across the blue, and then more. I feel like they’re saying to me, don’t worry. Your job right now is to enjoy watching us, with our flickering wings and the straight line of our bodies. More come, and more. I stop and gaze at them, smiling, as the sun peeks from behind a bank of clouds and kisses everything with light.

The birds have reminded me of what I know to be true. I can relax. I can let go.

The Dhammapada (verse 348) tells us:

Let go of the past, let go of the future.
Let go of the present. Having gone beyond becoming,
with mind completely freed,
you will never again come to birth and aging.

We are used to being told to let go of the past and the future, but here the Buddha is asking us to let go of the present too. What does this mean? I think it is pointing towards the moment when I stopped watching the birds and, for a moment, I became the birds. I slid out of this body – ‘Satya’ – and let myself rest in the sky.

A simple life

What might it look if I could live more of my life without clinging to the past, present or future? I think it would look pretty similar to the one I live now, but it would have a quality of gentleness to it. No anguish, or rather, occasional anguish with a little gentleness mixed in.

I would still finish writing this piece, as a gift to you all. I would still go outside to feed our bunny, and make myself a piece of wholemeal toast with peanut butter for breakfast. I would still welcome people to our Buddhist practice, starting with walking meditation around the garden. Ordinary tasks in an ordinary day.

I am grateful to the birds, who are still on their way somewhere – travelling simply, without complicating things. They have shown me the truth that the Buddha showed us, and so many other wise teachers. We can relax. We can let go of ‘becoming’. We can rest in the glorious moment and then do the next, ordinary thing.

Go gently _/|\_


How might your life look different if you could let go a tiny bit? What is the next thing you are meant to do? Fetch a cup of water for yourself? Feed the dogs? Say sorry? Stretch your body? Reply to another email? Take a breath? Wishing you gentleness, wherever you are.






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