Nicolae Tanase: Susanna, what is the meaning of life?
Susanna Barkataki: When I was young, about six, I remember looking around me at all the things we humans in the 1st world have and wondering what it was all about.
Ten different kinds of bread and shampoo, snow globes, knick knacks, utensils, 20 different soaps. I looked around at all these distractions and schemes people made and I remember thinking “what is this all for?”
I didn’t understand the game we humans were playing. I was very confused. Even more so that nobody was talking about it.
I went on to study philosophy where at least they were talking about meaning and purpose. I happened to study western Philosophy at UC Berkeley where there was a lot of analytical and enlightenment emphasis. Eventually, I learned to prove that nothing was real. That there was no greater purpose, no personal identity, not even a table that I was sitting on. I learned that there was no inherent meaning to life.
Finally I studied a few renegade philosophers. Martin Heidegger and Hegel. Hegel taught me about rhythms, patterns, growth and change on individual and societal levels. He taught me that we are always in a process of evolving and growing.
Heidegger taught me that all philosophy before had studied breakdown. He wanted us, instead, to examine flow. Heidegger rocked my world.
He posited the table already existed. And we better just start from that point. And then study, inquire ask, what is the meaning in this as we work, walk, create, in flow.
I got fascinated with flow. I began to meditate. I went on silent retreat where I had many insights and felt my heart expand. I started to hear, feel and expand awareness of the world. I felt the interconnection of each of us. I’d gone from the extreme of seeing no meaning to life to feeling, all of sudden, that everything had meaning. And the meaning was there, yes, but beyond that, there was connection. Relationship. Kinship.
I understood that meaning was connection. And that meaning could be deepened through uplift. Uplift of oneself, of all beings. Of allowing and making space for harmony within self and between other beings. Of being all about ones own and others personal, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual growth.
So simply, the purpose of life is mutual uplift of oneself and other beings.
And this was a great insight!
Following in my teacher’s shoes, I had to ask, so, how do we do this?
After studying and practicing with the greats here are some basic guidelines to practice, to head in the direction of creating more meaning, more growth, more happiness. I practice these as guides. They are not to beat myself up when I fall short, or to tell others what to do, but simply as a guide showing me the way to greater happiness and peace. With practice and effort I find I experience more and more connection, meaning, purpose and happiness through practicing them.
- Live life with an ethical foundation.
Many traditions have these. No harming. Be kind.
- Doing the work to heal or at least tend our own and others wounds.
Very few of us make it through to adulthood unscathed. So being tender. Being kind. Healing.
- Committing tobasic kindness. Giving others and ourselves compassion.
- Being students all ourlives. Leaning all we can and supporting others to do the same. Never stopping learning.
- Freeing our creativity. Expressing what we are here to express as our unique vessel and voice.
- Practicing mindfulness with daily activities.
- Cultivate happy feelings and sharing them.
- Practicing meditation, prayer, faith or some other kindof reflective practice. Reading the wise masters. Discuss and listen. Everyone can be our teacher.
- Paying attention to the present moment with love. And appreciating this life, the little and big things. Mutual uplift is possible whenever we connect with love.
May you be happy, safe, healthy, creative, uplifted and free. May you be full of everlasting meaning and infinite joy.
~Susanna Barkataki, M.Ed., E-RYT 500, is writer, speaker and teacher creating change at the intersection of self-care, yoga, Ayurveda, social entrepreneurship and healing justice. She loves sharing yoga with everyone and is a board member of Yoga Service Council, member of the Yoga and Body Image CoalitionTeam, and co-founder of Be Yoga Pro. She is so grateful for these teachings, practice and path. Learn more and take your yoga deeper on and off the mat with her weekly take on yoga, healing and social justice at
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