“Go Ahead” Zen

“I just want to be happy.” – All of us at some point.

It was in the middle of July, in Kentucky, on one of those nights when the heat permeates your brain and your stream of thought is operating in a crock pot. I was sitting in a large open barn with 37 Zen folks, all of us attempting to pay attention to ourselves and each other after a day of sitting, work practice, and the tiredness that comes from living in a hermitage.

The guide has been through this before, so as she sits down and she’s not sweating at all. And in everyone’s mind it’s because she’s a Zen person, and they ignore silly things like 95 degree heat. (A half-hour later she was drenched in sweat.)

Later, a new meditator was convincing us that she only wanted to find peace in the world and calm her mind, she leaned towards the guide and said the classic phrase, “I just wanna be happy.”

A momentary silence, “The guide looks her straight in the eye, and said, “Well, Go Ahead,” in a very enthusiastic voice, everyone starts laughing at our own absurdity. And then, “What’s stopping you?”


A really long silence. The person was contemplating that encouragement. Her mute response indicated that in that exact moment nothing was preventing her from experience some form of joy.

Go ahead. What a weird idea. You mean I can be happy just by deciding to be? OK. I’m sitting here typing and it’s relatively calm with nothing being labeled as emergency. So, I’m going to be happy, give me a few minutes.


Nope, sorry. Perhaps I didn’t want it bad enough? Or, perhaps we’ve been told stories that aren’t true. I could decide there’s something wrong with me because now I’m screwed up and other people can “go ahead and be happy,” but I’m unable. (Or maybe I’m outrageously happy and haven’t noticed?)

I never met anyone who could just decide to be happy and do so. EVER! And I’ve asked that question directly to a lot of folks who try so sell that. (Is it Ok to crave happiness? That doesn’t seem helpful does it? Being open to it, now that’s a practice! )

And I do meet people who stay open, have an awareness of that opening, and experience temporary happiness and joy. When the Taoist 10, 000 things come together, and happiness manifests, they embrace those moments with all the passion they can feel within the moment. Most of us carry the potential to experience momentary joy, love, and happiness.

So, go ahead and be open, live in the unfolding, in these passing moments. Attend to keeping a space in your bodymind open for happiness and joy. Will they rise today? Of course, but they fly by unnoticed if we aren’t paying attention and leaving a space to be filled. .

Today I will stay receptive to those moments that bring me the gifts of the bittersweet.

Bryan Wagner

(If you find this useful, please consider sharing it with others.❤️)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: