We each enter life with desires, goals, and challenges to overcome, and we choose birth conditions that will best help us meet these objectives. Arriving with dreams from the past that are seeking fulfillment, we find meaning as we are able to satisfy these karmic imperatives from the past, through relationship, work, artistic endeavor, etc. But these transient experiences will not satisfy us because even the most beautiful human experience ultimately disappoints. As quickly as it arrives, it disappears into the karmic mist.
We are more than our human bodies and to find the true meaning of life is to know ourselves as eternal beings, formed out of love, formed for love, and formed to spread love. That is our nature and source of lasting joy.
As we fulfill many of the objectives we have set for ourselves — finding the perfect mate, the perfect job, the perfect home, the perfect friend, having the perfect children, etc., and we still don’t find complete satisfaction, we begin to look deeper for meaning that is not attached to any cause, for a joy that comes from being, not having or doing. We yearn for a state of joy, peace and complete contentment, and a love that just is, a pure state of unconditioned love where you know yourself to be one with, not separate from, all that is. To enter this state of being is the true meaning and purpose of life. Then we know who and why we are.
When we align with our true nature, the essence of who we are — beyond personality, qualities, skills, likes and dislikes – then every act, every thought, every interaction provides meaning. This is a work of many, many lifetimes. The more we learn to dance with life, to be in it but also above it, to disregard the distractions that tug at us, to live in a state of love, the closer we will come to our true purpose.
Although we may not achieve that state in this life, the search for it and the striving will bring us ever closer.
~Dena Merriam is the author of My Journey Through Time: A Spiritual Memoir of Life, Death and Rebirth.
Ms. Merriam began working in the interfaith movement in the late 1990s when she served as Vice Chair of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders held at the United Nation in New York. She subsequently convened a meeting of women religious and spiritual leaders at the Palais des Nations in Geneva and from that gathering founded the Global Peace Initiative of Women (GPIW) in 2002, an organization chaired by a multi-faith group of women spiritual leaders. The mission of this organization is to enable women to facilitate healing and reconciliation in areas of conflict and post-conflict, and to bring spiritual resources to help address critical global problems. Since its founding, GPIW has organized dialogues in Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Cambodia and Kashmir, India. For several years after its founding, GPIW also developed, in partnership with the United Nations, a global leadership program for young community leaders. GPIW’s work in the area of peacebuilding has expanded to include fostering new models of development, inclusive and sustainable, mobilizing faith communities to address the climate crisis, and to changing attitudes toward the environment, regaining the sense of awe, respect and reverence for earth and her life systems.
In the early years of her work in the interfaith world, Ms. Merriam found that women and the Eastern religious traditions were very much under-represented at international inter-religious gatherings. She came to believe that the voices of these constituents are essential for greater world balance and for creating a new dynamic that will enable us to successfully address many of the global challenges we now face. Her work at GPIW has been devoted to creating a global platform for women religious and spiritual leaders, and to engaging the Hindu and Buddhist leadership more actively on the world stage. GPIW has sought to rectify the imbalances it has found in the interfaith world by seeking to ensure gender balance at its gatherings, giving equal voice to men and women spiritual leaders, and ensuring East-West balance, enabling participation from the Eastern religious traditions equal to that of the Abrahamic traditions.
In 2008, Ms. Merriam became one of the founding members of the Contemplative Alliance, an initiative to bring together contemplative practitioners from across traditions to demonstrate how the mainstreaming of contemplative practice is changing the American religious landscape and can ultimately contribute to the positive transformation of American society.
For over 35 years, Dena Merriam has been a student of the Hindu Master Paramahansa Yogananda and a practitioner of Kriya Yoga meditation. She is also a long time student of the great texts of the Vedic tradition. Ms. Merriam received her Master’s Degree from Columbia University and has served on the boards of the Harvard University Center for the Study of World Religions, the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, The Interfaith Center of New York and Seven Pillars. She continues to serve on the boards of The All India Movement (AIM) for Seva, the Manitou Foundation, is an advisor to the board of Dharma Drum Mountain Buddhist Association, and is on the advisory council of The Gross National Happiness Center in Bhutan. In 2014 Dena was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize by the Niwano Peace Foundation in Japan for her many years of commitment to interfaith dialogue.
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