Hoping To Find Happiness But Running Full Speed In The Wrong Direction

~Insights by Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda

We all set goals in our life and put our time and energy into trying to achieve them. But before spending our limited time and energy pursuing those goals, we should first ask ourselves, “Will this goal really give me the happiness I seek?” This is a very important question because if we don’t consider it, we could spend our entire life running at full speed, but in the wrong direction.

A humorous true story is a good example of what can happen when we run in the wrong direction. A famous American football player, in the middle of a game, became confused about the direction he was supposed to go. Roy Reigels was the captain of the University of California football team and was an outstanding player. But after making one terrible mistake in a game in 1929, Reigels was known for the rest of his life as “Wrong-Way Reigels.”

The goal of American football is to get the ball and run with it toward one end of the field or the other. The goal line for one team is at one end of the field and the goal line for the other team is on the other end of the field, just like in soccer. While the person with the ball is trying to run toward the goal, the opposing players try to knock him to the ground and stop him.

Reigels scooped the football off the ground and was immediately hit and spun around by several opposing players trying to keep him from running with the ball. But Reigels was strong and managed to break free and run toward the goal. The crowd was roaring, “Wrong way! Wrong way!” But in his excitement and confusion, Reigels thought they were cheering him on. When he crossed the goal line, he was ecstatic, thinking he had scored some points for his team. He was jumping up and down with excitement, celebrating his achievement.

Unfortunately, however, Reigels had gotten turned around when he first picked up the ball and in his confusion had run the wrong way! He had run full speed ahead to the opponents’ goal-line—thereby scoring points for the opposing team and causing his team to lose the game.

Just like poor Roy Reigels, sometimes in our lives we’re so eager to move forward we’re not careful to make sure we’re actually going in the right direction.

The fact is, simply becoming wealthy, powerful, famous, or finding someone we believe is the perfect mate is not going to provide us with all the happiness we want and need. So if we devote our life exclusively in an attempt to achieve these things—neglecting our need for spiritual food … a higher purpose in life—our life will have been wasted.

Just one example is that of a famous American television star who had been raised in the poor neighborhoods of New York city. Being poor, he thought he would be happy simply if he became rich and famous. So his goal in life became “to get rich and famous.” And he was very successful. He ended up with his own TV series and multi-million-dollar movie contracts. He rode around Hollywood in chauffeured limousines; he literally had the best of everything that money could buy. But although he had full facility for every kind of sense gratification he desired, he was empty inside and miserable. In a mood of despair, the star asked his manager, "Is there anything more to life than this (wealth, possessions, fame, influence, etc.)?" His manager reportedly replied, "This is life. You're a star!" Shortly afterward, the young man committed suicide—and left everything he had strived to achieve behind.

According to yoga we shouldn’t set as our goal of life achievement of things which will not satisfy our hearts, are temporary, and come hand-in-hand with suffering. Instead, we should learn where true happiness can be found—a happiness that will bring us great joy, will truly satisfy our heart, and will not disappear. Once having learned where that highest happiness can be found, we should live a lifestyle and make the primary focus of our time and attention on those yoga processes and practices that will help us achieve that goal.