Meaning and life – two rather potent and I believe rather ineffable words in the English language. The feelings, thoughts and sentiments involved in the experience behind and involved in both of these words is dependent upon who you ask, and even then the responses can evolve over time.
When asked to write about the meaning of life, I hesitated – I hesitate still, because in even just a couple of weeks I might feel or think differently depending on what has occurred, what has just been lived, and experienced or even brushed aside since committing thoughts to writing –so, this is my statement of disclaimer! What was interesting though is that the question came as I was experiencing heart trouble, and lingered in my mind for a few months after I had heart surgery. I even thought that maybe the meaning of life has changed because of this illness, this surgery, these experiences – but what I discovered was that I felt the same way only more deeply, more freshly and much more tenderly than before.
Meaning found or uncovered in anything can change from one day to the next, one circumstance at a time. The meaning of life can be one thing until you loose someone you love and it changes in an instant, or meaning can be found in something that seems completely trivial once you’ve had a near death experience or an illness or lost your home. In trying to pin down a meaning to life, I’ve subsequently found many.
If the meaning of life were found in a moment, then it can change in the next. Can meaning be found then change? Quite possibly. Can the meaning of life be found folded within the search for it? Maybe so. Is there one meaning, I think not. Part of the curiosity we have in the meaning of life could well exist from thinking that it is provocatively just out of reach, just on the tip of our tongues and right around the corner. When the true meanings of life are nothing extra special, but rather ordinary, ordinary in the sense of it just being awake and alive to whatever it means right now – for being awake to what’s going on whatever it is can have meaning even if unpleasant. In being consciously awake we can experience that life is poignant, and full of discord. That it’s peaceful, joyful and painful – that it’s all of these things and more, and all of these experiences and feelings and thoughts are to be treasured and have inherent changeable meaning by simply being able to notice them. Season this thinking with the fact that life is very, very short and we have a recipe for at least looking for meaning and finding it even in the seemingly meaningless.
Meaning then, is where we find it right now. The meaning of life is personal, relative, elusive at times and very clear in others. How wonderful it is to reflect on it, ponder it, search for it, write about it – have a dinner party around the theme of it, for in these questions and inquiries we might find meaning just in that. That — the looking the seeking and the seeing.
Awareness can bring meaning to life. Gratitude can keep life meaningful. Kindness towards ourselves and others allows meaning to blossom in new ways and under all sorts of circumstances. Meaning is in anything and everything and just as life can be lived in millions of exquisitely unique expressive ways, so can the meanings of life be a parabolically faceted sparkling web of many.
~Jill Satterfield is a wellness program developer and international mindfulness and meditation teacher and the founder of Vajra Yoga + Meditation, a synthesis of meditation and mindfulness of the body practices. Jill’s integration of mindfulness and embodiment practices include yoga, yoga therapy and contemplative psychology. She has been in the field of integrative healthcare for over 30 years. Jill is also the founder and Director of the School for Compassionate Action: Meditation, Yoga and Educational Support for Communities in Need.
Jill is a faculty member of Spirit Rock Meditation Center’s Mindful Yoga and Meditation Teacher Training, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center trainings, the Somatic Yoga Training in Marin California, and guest teaches in many others. Jill was scholar and teacher in residence at the Kripalu Center in 2004. She has been featured in the New York Times, Tricycle, Crains, MORE, Yoga Journal, and many international publications.
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