Fulfillment: “… Now …is always and ever the most important thing … there is only one place that fulfillment can happen: here and now.” ~ Henry Shukman

fulfillment most important shukman

Past is a grave … future is a fantasy … present is all there is … and it is the most profound gift! … so can we draw out the secret to a happy fulfilling life from this statement (which is a paraphrasing of a quote re past, future, and present)? … a Zen story comes to mind 🙂 …

“There’s an old Zen story about a middle-aged man who had fought his way up the corporate ladder, his marriage fell apart; he was estranged from his children, bored with his money and physically sick.

Then someone told him there was a wise man who knew three secrets to a happy life. The man quit his job, sold his home, and began the quest to find the wise man with the secrets of happiness.

He traveled throughout the world, and enduring many hardships, but at last he was rewarded. He found the wise man, sequestered high on a mountain, and knelt before him. “I have traveled a long way and endured many hardships, Master,” he said. “Please tell me the three secrets of a happy life.”

“Most certainly, replied the Master. “The first secret of life is to pay attention.”

The man was delirious. He could most certainly do that! “And what else, Master?” he begged.

“The second secret of life,” said the wise Zen Master, “is to pay attention.”

The man could scarcely believe his ears. But the wise old Master made it even clearer. He closed his eyes and said, “And the third secret of life is to pay attention.”

With this story as the contextual backdrop, let’s explore what Henry Shukman – a contemporary Zen master – has to say about the most important thing … and fulfillment

The Most Important Thing

Now …is always and ever the most important thing …

now most important thing shukman

The great teacher would teach us what is the most important thing of all, and to pay it our full attention as much as we can.

So what is the most important thing of all? Love, maybe? But why is love important? Just because it makes us feel good? What is the key thing that feeling love allows us to pay our full attention to, if it’s not love itself?

There is one clear and simple answer. Now. This very experience – going on here and now. This is always and ever the most important thing.

Why? For one simple, clear reason. It’s the only actual thing.

So, then … does the most important thing have anything to do with fulfillment? … let’s see what Henry says …


We chase our fulfillment elsewhere. This is our fundamental human problem. We think that we will find true fulfillment in other experiences than this one, right here and now. It will come from achieving something, or having something, or being with someone. While all kinds of experiences, events and relationships in our lives can be conducive to our fulfillment as human beings, there is only one place that fulfillment can happen: here and now.

fulfillment here now shukman

What is fulfillment? It’s not satisfaction or satiation, though it is totally satisfying. It’s not pleasure but it is blissful. It’s not accomplishment though we may feel fully accomplished as human beings when we experience it. Our true fulfillment is, in a nutshell, being fully ourselves; allowing ourselves to be fully what we are.
We tend to think it’s about doing. But it’s really about being. It is not actually dependent on setting up the right circumstances. We can be in the middle of confusion, distress and conflict, and yet find our complete fulfillment. One Dharma teacher was caught in a clash between police and demonstrators in the late 1960s. As she stared at the angry face of a policeman behind his riot shield just in front of her, suddenly she discovered who she really was, and realised that she and the policeman were not two separate beings. She experienced complete fulfillment in the midst of danger. She realised oneness. Or perhaps we could say: oneness realised itself.

There is apparently no fulfillment that does not involve our seeing beyond our own self-limited view. Our real fulfillment lies in the realisation of the boundless fact of our true being.

Nothing can come close to that. No experience we will ever have can come near the totality inherent in our experience of true fulfillment. To experience it is to have fulfilled ourselves as human beings. That’s why such an experience always comes with the recognition firstly that all is well and always has been and always will be; and secondly, that it is just fine if we die now. We have seen that life and death are not what we thought. Therefore, just because we’ve seen that, it’s fine to die now.

Which of course we generally don’t do. Our lives carry on. But now we know what we didn’t know before. We have seen it, tasted it; we have experienced complete fulfillment. Therefore we train in the great task of fully embodying what we have realised, so that we can live ever more fully aligned with it, in accord with it, and more deeply in awareness of it; which now naturally means giving ourselves away in order to help and serve others. 

~ Henry Shukman

Coronavirus continues to take a toll on humanity and tremendous, heroic efforts continue to be underway by many to ensure our health and safety … helping those who are involved in such efforts is the “order of the day” … and in this spirit, Go Fund Me needs to be commended for organizing various campaigns targeted towards COVID-19 relief efforts. All of these campaigns are worthy of our attention … but for now we wanted to highlight TWO critical ones that we have donated personally and also as Stillness Speaks:

Despite the financial challenges that are amongst us all, if your situation allows you to donate and help then …

… please visit  Frontline Responders Fund’s Go Fund Me page … and help deliver crucial supplies to these frontline responders

… and/or visit  America’s Food Fund Go Fund Me page and help feed the neighbors in need.

And, we again, express our deepest gratitude to a) the COVID-19 Frontline Responders (all the healthcare professionals – doctors, nurses, hospital/medical-services staff – firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers, and any/all the people involved in keeping the “system-at-large” functioning for ALL of us) … and b) Go Fund Me for organizing America’s Food Fund to feed the needy.


All text for The Most Important Thing and Fulfillment is from Henry Shukman (from his messages in Mountain Cloud Zen Center’s weekly newsletters) and is published here with his permission. .


May you discover, and embody, the most important thing in your everyday life … and …

May you remain safe and healthy as you navigate these troubling times.


All italicized text above (except for the Zen Story excerpt) is from Henry Shukman and is published here with his permission. These are two of his weekly messages: The Most Important Thing, November 17, 2020, and Fulfillment, January 11, 2021… Both these messages appeared in Mountain Cloud Zen Center’s weekly Newsletters.
Images (edited and logos added): Featured and 1) Hummingbirds flying near red orange bloom, La Paz, Costa Rica by OndrejProsicky, 2) Scenic sunset at Chiloe Island, Chile by dronevina, 3) Beautiful hard shadows on green slope of alpine hill by sorokopud, 4) . All purchased from depositphotos, for use only on our website/social channels (these images are not permitted to be shared separate from this post).


We also want to send our latest articles, videos, and podcasts via email once per week. As a thank you for signing up, you'll receive a video we produced that is unavailable anywhere else on the Internet.

Thank you! Please check your email for a welcome message and a link to the video.