Excellence Reporter: Sharon, what is the meaning of life?
Sharon Salzberg: I think the meaning of life is connection. If we don’t feel profoundly connected—to something—whether that be someone else, ourselves, or even an experience—we don’t feel alive.
When people look for meaning in contexts like work, I think it can actually be found in connection. Your job doesn’t have to be saving the world—but you might be actively listening to somebody you encounter during the day, taking in their words and responding to them in the moment. That can give an otherwise boring task a sense of profound meaning—and that meaning comes from connection.
Some might say that the meaning of life is happiness—and certainly connection and happiness are related. But what about suffering? I think that suffering plays an interesting role in creating meaning in our lives, and that role is one of potential. More often than not, we tend to feel separated and isolated when we suffer—but the huge potential is there to use that time of suffering to connect one another. All of us have such tremendous vulnerability—life is always going up and down so much, for everyone. We tend to forget that—and think it’s unnatural to suffer.
Yet it’s through connection that we have faith and can find meaning. Connection doesn’t have to be interpersonal; sometimes people say that they are able to re-capture a sense of exhilarating connection when they go out in nature, or look at a certain kind of art or listen to a certain kind of music. I would say that there are people who could have that in the broadest possible sense—toward all of life. But most of us, in our day to day lives, tend to look toward others for connection—even if that’s a pet or a plant!
~Sharon Salzberg – One of America’s leading spiritual teachers and authors.
Sharon is a meditation teacher, NYT best selling author & cofounder of Insight Meditation Society. She has played a crucial role in bringing Asian meditation practices to the West. The ancient Buddhist practices of vipassana (mindfulness) and metta (lovingkindness) are the foundations of her work.
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