Musings on Meaning

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The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference in that you have lived and lived well.—Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we all know, it’s been a year like no other and, for many, it’s led to contemplation. Although meaning is an often overlooked concept in our day-to-day hustle, it serves as a roadmap to help us better understand ourselves and our world.

In yesterday’s podcast, we explored this in our discussion of Transpersonal psychology. According to the British Psychological Association, “Transpersonal psychology might loosely be called the psychology of spirituality and of those areas of the human mind which search for higher meanings in life, and which move beyond the limited boundaries of the ego to access an enhanced capacity for wisdom, creativity, unconditional love and compassion.”

One 2015 study by researchers Frank Martela and Michael Steger claimed that meaning isn’t asking the philosophical question “What’s the meaning of life?,” but rather “looking at the subjective experiences of human beings and asks what makes them experience meaningfulness in their lives.”

For example, “Where’s the meaning in my life?” The meaning IN life is more personal versus the meaning OF life which is more philosophical.

Over the years, I’ve sought meaning in creating community and offerings that help myself and others live an examined, tranquil life. For example, seeing a yoga student grow confidently on the mat, a therapy client begin to set boundaries, or a retreat participant have an “aha” moment has been a motivating factor.

Also, I’ve found that two of my biggest losses—losing Gramma, Louis the pug, the studio—forced me to pause and led to big lifestyle changes.

Without these two big existential knockdowns, I wouldn’t have made changes. At least not at that time. I didn’t feel like I could until these two losses forced me into questioning.

In this recent CNN article, the author wrote, “The death of anyone reminds us: What have we not done, what could we be doing? Should we re-prioritize our lives? For many, taking a step back from typically busy lives has afforded them the opportunity to question whether those lives are the ones they really want to live and, if not, what changes they may be inclined to make.”

One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not what we do that creates meaning, but rather it’s the meaning we assign to what we do as illustrated in this story about two bricklayers. When asked what they’re doing, one replies with, “stacking bricks on top of each other” and the other replies with, “creating a cathedral.”

Our ability to see the bigger picture—you know, to take that bird’s eye view—offers us the chance to recognize how we’re contributing to making the world a better place. And you do that every single day in various ways.

On Saturday I’m offering a Mid-Year Virtual Retreat where we’ll ask these questions, review meaning-making practices, healthy habits, and coping skills while designing what remains of 2020. I hope you’ll join us in exploring how meaning is found within and lived without by making each day count. Bisous. x