Excellence Reporter: Dr. Neff, what is the meaning of life?
Kristin Neff: I’m not sure that there is an ultimate “meaning” to life, but it is certainly the case that we can live our lives with meaning.
For me, compassion is one of the most important aspects of living a meaningful life. Suffering happens. We get sick and old, people disappoint us, we make mistakes and do things we regret. This is the very nature of being human. But when we live our lives with compassion, we can embrace our own suffering and that of others with a sense of kind, connected presence. We can hold our pain with love, and eventually learn to live in the love holding the pain, rather than being swept away by the pain itself.
A Buddhist teacher of mine once said “the goal of practice is to become a compassionate mess.” He could well have said “the goal of life is to become a compassionate mess.” We don’t need to strive to give up our human imperfection, or try to avoid pain in our lives. All we need to do is embrace what is with compassion, and we’ll have discovered the secret to living a truly meaningful life.
~Kristin Neff, Ph.D., is a self-compassion researcher, author, and Associate Professor at the University of Texas at Austin. She created the Self-compassion Scales.
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