Excellence Reporter: Jalaja, what is the meaning of life?
Jalaja Bonheim: People often say that the meaning of life is to love or to be of service. While this is true, it’s a rather sloppy and somewhat misleading way of speaking.
Life has no intrinsic meaning. An experience that feels profoundly meaningful to one person may leave another cold—it all depends on our own state of consciousness. Just as beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, so our perception of life as meaningful emanates from within our own hearts and souls. When we speak of love and service as the meaning of life, what we really mean is that these are keys that unlock our capacity to experience life as meaningful.
When I lived in India, I learned to chant the 1008 names of various deities. Some of these names describe the attributes of a specific deity, as when the goddess Laxmi is called Padmalayayai, she who stands on a lotus. Yet other names, such as compassion, wisdom, gratitude, beauty and grace, indicate qualities that are universally recognized as keys to the experience of meaning. Around the world, they are held sacred and revered as direct emanations of the Divine.
What is meaning? Ultimately, it derives from our experience of the sacredness of all things. Like the fragrance of paradise, it emanates from our perception of life as imbued with divine presence.
When life feels meaningless, it always signals that we are suffering from some form of spiritual malnourishment. To restore a sense of meaning, we cannot resort to cookie-cutter solutions: Love more. Serve more. Instead, we need to ask ourselves: Where do my personal portals to spirit lie at this time in my life? In one moment, immersion in nature might be your portal, in another, dance or music. Self-knowledge begins with knowledge of where your personal gateways lie, wisdom with your willingness to honor and use them.
Some might say you are wasting your time if you spend days walking through the woods or dancing your way into ecstasy. But your soul knows the truth: A life that feels meaningful is a life well lived.
~Jalaja Bonheim Ph.D., is internationally known for her groundbreaking books, inspiring keynotes and her work in empowering women. Her workshops, retreats and trainings are life-changing cauldrons where women from all walks of life, faiths and cultures connect in a spirit of rare authenticity, openheartedness, freedom and joy.
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