For me, there are two levels to answering the question, “What is a meaningful life?”, because there are two levels to reality.
There is, of course, the temporary, conventional side of reality. On this level of reality, there appear to be separate “things” that somehow exist independent from the other “things” around them. Operating from this level of reality is very useful for basic survival and communicating on a daily basis.
However, operating from the level of conventional reality is not very helpful for living a meaningful life. This is because in the more lasting, ultimate side of reality, every “thing” in the physical universe is so deeply interconnected that, upon closer analysis, it is impossible to find any separation between “things” other than the separation we create with our minds.
With the understanding that, ultimately, the person next to me is no more separate from me than my own heart, the path for living the most meaningful life is quite clear.
We should treat others with unconditional kindness and compassion and focus more on serving the greater good than on entertaining ourselves or accumulating money and possessions, because loving and serving others is ultimately loving and serving more of ourselves, instead of only the tiny part that we call “my body.”
We should also learn how to see the ultimate side of reality more clearly. This allows us to still operate successfully in the conventional world — the world of separateness — but allows us to no longer be limited to only that view. When we can also see the ultimate side of reality, and operate from that perspective when dealing with others, we naturally treat others with unconditional kindness and compassion and focus more on serving the greater good than on entertaining ourselves or accumulating money and possessions. We see the needs of others as completely equal to our own needs.
Fortunately, it is possible to train to see and operate from the ultimate side of reality. It is simply a matter of learning to stabilize our awareness by training to spend more time being aware of the present moment, including being aware of our thinking, and less time being distracted by our thinking. We then use that clearer, more stable awareness to cultivate insight into how interconnected things are.
Thus, I believe the most meaningful life is realized by spending as much time as possible being fully present, being that aspect of ourselves that is aware of our thinking, instead of being our thinking mind and the ego that it creates. This allows us to be more contented, to spend more time treating others with kindness and compassion, and to more naturally and sustainably serve the greater good, which in turn allows us to realize the deepest and most enduring sense of fulfillment.
~Matt Tenney is a social entrepreneur and the author. He is also an international keynote speaker, a trainer, and a consultant with the prestigious Perth Leadership Institute, whose clients include numerous Fortune 500 companies. He works with companies, associations, universities, and non-profits to develop highly effective leaders who achieve lasting success by focusing on serving and inspiring greatness in the people around them. Matt envisions a world where the vast majority of people realize that effectively serving others is the key to true greatness.
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