Don't Answer this Question: What is the Meaning of Life?
I remember being seven or eight, when this and other questions starting arising in my mind. Who am I? Why am I here? What is it that I am supposed to figure out so I can become a grown up? What IS the meaning of life?
As I grew up, these questions turned into an ongoing inquiry and the journey they have led me on became more important than trying to figure out the answer. The inquiry itself has been a living guide helping to shape my values; my choices; my relationships; and led me to develop the skills to how to work effectively with my own emotions, beliefs, energy and conditioning. This, in turn, has helped me cultivate the capacity to respond in ways that feel both kind and effective in the many life circumstances that lie beyond my control.
The underpinning of my work with others, is an invitation into this inquiry and the support and loving challenge to stay the course. I take inspiration from Rainer Maria Rilke, who famously wrote to a young poet who was seeking his advice:
Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.
And so my friends, I will not attempt to answer, “What is the meaning of Life?” The path that is yours to walk and the other questions that guide you is yours to discover. Yes, there are inspiration, guidance, teachers and practices that are available to you. But I do believe that the most powerful teachings point the way towards helping us develop our own wisdom—our own inner guidance system—to chart the course of our own e learning as well as our own unique offerings to back to life.
Along the way, I have learned a few things about how to engage a vital inquiry about the meaning of life, and about how to embody and apply what we discover in living a life that is satisfying and meaningful to each person who is willing to take this journey. I would wish for each of us to be able to look back on our lives and be able to say, “Mine was a well-lived life. I am content.”
Tips for the Journey
#1. Take yourself seriously as someone who wants to discover and live a conscious and meaningful life. Keep this desire and commitment alive in your mind and heart. This is yours to do, yet find others who will support this sacred intention. Learn to recognize and accept that “help” comes in the form of challenges and difficulties as well. You don’t have to like all of them—but be willing to learn with and from them.
#2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You are actually not the center of the universe. In the great scheme of life on the planet including the relatively short duration of the existence of homo- sapiens, you are not even a discernible micro blip on the radar of time. Consider keeping a few 5 billion year old fossils around just to keep things in perspective.
#3. Don’t believe your mind. Our minds are meaning-making machines and a good deal of the time the stories we tell ourselves create suffering for ourselves and for others. Find the support and skills you need to help you heal through fear and separation, personal and psychological history and to move towards the experience of who and what you truly are. Meditation and committed self-inquiry on your own and/or with the support of a skilled guide can be a great support. Cultivate deep compassion for your very human experience and that of others.
Here are a couple of simple exercises you can do to help steer the ship of your life towards peace, joy and meaning. Write your answers, and please do your best not to over-think. Often the most spontaneous responses are the most authentic.
Ask yourself: What do I truly care about? What are the values that I want to dedicate my life to living every more fully?
Ask yourself: What do I love. What brings me joy?
Ask yourself: What are my gifts—don’t limit yourself to concrete skills and expertise. The qualities of our being are just as important as what we do or achieve.
Inquire: How do I stop or limit myself? What am I afraid of?
Ask yourself: What would need to be different in me (not in others or outer circumstances) for me to feel more free, happier, more satisfied and at peace.
Enjoy the journey, my friends.
What Is The Meaning Of Life?: A Journey into the Wisdom of Life; Paperback; June 16, 2017 by Nicolae Tanase