Meaning of Life
Big topic huh? One of the my favorite books about life meaning is “How Then Shall We Live” by Wayne Muller. In it he poses 4 questions. I share them here with you to get you thinking about the bigger picture of your life. My ultimate goal in sharing this with you is that you will be gentler with yourself and that you will live YOUR life doing what you love. Onto the first question!
1. Who am I? Are you saying, well, I am a business owner, writer, teacher, mother, etc? Muller encourages you to go deeper, to find the places beneath those names. Consider that what you call the “self” is always changing. If you get too focused on just one facet of yourself, you may feel smothered by the smallness of who you have become. Consider this, your true nature can take the shape in a million forms, all unique and useful in their own way. You are not a prisoner of your history! Try this: for five minutes complete this phrase: “I am.” Without judging keep speaking for five minutes. Notice what you say and how you feel when you say it. Are there repeating themes? What stands out for you? Which sentences seem the most troubling? Which feel most true? When you’re finished, try to name the single phrase that feels most potent. What does this want to reveal about your current sense of self?
Jack Kornfield, a leading Buddhist teacher, said, “the path is not so much about changing ourselves as it is about listening to the fundamentals of our being.”
2. What do I love? Whatever you give your time and attention to becomes the focus of your life. What is at the center of your life? What activities? Which people? Are these the people and activities you hope will receive your love and devotion? Whatever you are giving your time and attention to every day is the kind of person you will eventually become. Is this what you want? Try this. Grab a stack of magazines and make a collage of what you love. As you look through images hold in your mind the thought “what do I love?” When you’re done take a break then come back to it. Are you pleased with what you love? Is anything missing? Pick the single image that seems most powerful to you right now. What does it reveal about what you love? Choose one image and make a commitment to include it in your daily life more of what that image holds. You can choose another image next week!
3. How shall I live, knowing I will die? If you walk through life thinking that you will live forever, you’re not alone. It’s an illusion most people hold. The danger in it is that you think you can waste all the time in the world before you are ready to live. Pema Chodron, a Buddhist nun states, “if you live your life as if you actually only had a day left, then the sense of impermanence heightens that feeling of preciousness and gratitude.” Muller says that many of us are exhausted by a desperate search for answers, as if our life were a big problem to be solved and we haven’t yet found the perfect solution to the puzzle. We figure we’re not working hard enough and continue to push harder. What if the “don’t know” is an indication that it is time to be quiet, listen and wait? There is a time to act and a time to remain still. A time to engage and a time to retreat. There is a natural expansion and contraction in all things, and when you feel the truth of this, you will be easy and at peace. And you will find, that much will be accomplished!
4. What is my gift to the family of the earth? Most of us have had some hurt in our lives. And when you feel broken, you can feel useless and undervalue your gifts. Jesus declared we are the light of the world and must let our light shine. The gifts you give can be simple yet powerful. A kind word, a laugh, a meal. It is impossible that you have not gift. You may be unsure of it, afraid it’s not good enough, or waiting for the perfect opportunity. Don’t wait. It’s alive in you this very moment. You are given countless opportunities to offer your gifts to others every day. Take a day and examine how you give. Does it feel like an obligation? Which gifts are given most freely? We all need what you have. Be not afraid. Muller says, “a kind life is a life of courage, the courage simply to bring what you have, to bring what you are.”