Each of us, in our search for happiness or fulfillment, seems to be, either consciously or unconsciously, involved in an ever-evolving odyssey of meaning. Life itself and the human experience are “of a piece,” like water and wetness, or fire and heat. It appears as well that, also either consciously or unconsciously, it is meaning that we derive from desire and experience – whether through fulfillment or disappointment.
Meaning defines us to ourselves. It seems to continually reveal to us who we are, from one life episode to the next. We might say that meaning is the protean, living, ever-evolving essence – the alchemical fruit – of our dreams, hopes, desires, achievements, and failures. It is the response we receive from our deepest selves in our striving to answer the age-old siren call from our hearts: Why? Why life or existence at all? What does it all mean?
Through another lens, we might say that meaning seems to emerge from our experience of what matters to us – what is important — what type of life experiences we are drawn to. It does not matter how we define ourselves – whether it is a search for material satisfaction, relationship, wealth of other kinds, or emotional or intellectual fulfillment. Whatever it is that attracts us and toward which we gravitate, in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of our desires, is the creative impetus of meaning in our lives.
The great mystics and philosophers of all time have all addressed this universal human dilemma. They often, in their own metaphors, define human existence as having two primary components: Being and Becoming. Becoming is the dimension of our existence as an individual self in the process of evolution, our experience as a human being in relationship to the universe at large. According to many, Being is the great mystery — the unspeakable, the unknown essence – of who we ultimately are as human beings. It is the indefinable culmination of human individual evolutionary existence – of our Becoming. Through this lens, meaning would be the ever-evolving experience of what it means to be human in our evolutionary journey – our Becoming – toward the realization of our fulfillment in what we may call Being itself.
The most beautiful simplification of this perspective I myself and thousands of others have experienced can be found in the underpinnings of the psycho-spiritual practice developed by psychiatrist and consciousness researcher Stanislav Grof and his wife, Christina, known as Holotropic Breathwork, the practice I and my colleagues have been teaching in many parts of the world for almost thirty-five years. The word, holotropic, is derived from two Greek words: trepeain ,meaning “to move toward”, and holos, meaning “wholeness.” Thus, the word holotropic beautifully describes the essential nature of human experience, as an individual unit of consciousness, in its evolutionary journey toward wholeness. To put it another way, the Holotropic perspective seems to accurately reflect what another great pioneer of human consciousness evolution, Victor Frankl, called “man’s search for meaning”.
From the Holotropic perspective – and to sum up and simplify once more – meaning can be said to be the ever-evolving essence a human being derives from her evolutionary journey toward wholeness in this life. The good news is, there is no “wrong meaning” in life experience. However, meaning most often appears to be ever-evolving. Each experience we have brings us some fresh way of understanding our place in this cosmic evolutionary process we are engaged in as we all “move toward wholeness,” at our own pace and in our own time.
As we engage is this “evolution toward wholeness,” an amazing realization seems to emerge for most of us. This is, that the only true arbiter of meaning is in fact a power that always already resides within us, and toward which we can always turn for validation. Most importantly, we can experience – and learn to rely on – our source of authentic personal empowerment to understand and define the nature of true meaning for ourselves. Ultimately, life itself and our own experiences will show us the only true source of meaning – all under the guidance of an infallible inner source of true power – what we call in our work the Inner Healer. The good news is, we cannot do it wrong. Our truths, our answers, our meaning, are within each of us. May we all learn to trust our deepest selves, as life becomes the amazing adventure of ever moving toward more and deeper levels of meaning and fulfillment.
~Tav Sparks is the director of Grof Transpersonal Training, offering certification in Holotropic Breathwork. For nearly 30 years, he has worked therapeutically with people in non-ordinary states of consciousness. He is the author of Movie Yoga: How Every Film Can Change Your Life and The Wide Open Door: The 12 Steps, Spiritual Tradition and the New Psychology, as well as a four-CD set on Holotropic Breathwork. His newest book, The Power Within: Becoming, Being and the Holotropic Paradigm will be published by Muswell Hill Press in 2016.
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