Excellence Reporter: Linda, what is the meaning of life?
Linda Graham: It might be surprising that “the meaning of life” often deepens for people who have come through a tragedy – losing someone they love to illness or injury, losing their home in a natural disaster. But coping with those catastrophes, and finding the common humanity in experiencing and recovering from these catastrophes, can shift someone’s perspective about what is truly important to them, what is truly valuable and sacred in life.
The Chinese pictograph character for crisis is actually two characters together: danger and opportunity. When people can move through a crisis and find new opportunities, new possibilities, new strengths in common with others, a deeper sense of purpose, a deeper sense of community, and new ways of being previously unimagined, their own sense of the shared meaning of life comes into alignment with the deep, ancient, and universal truths of human existence.
All the world is full of suffering; it is also full of overcoming.
– Helen Keller
No one is immune from the suffering inherent in the human condition. We share in the learning, as individuals and as societies, that we can survive, we can cope, we can learn from mistakes, mishaps, and disasters, we can grow into a deeper embrace of what is important, what gives meaning, and that learning IS an essential aspect of “the meaning of life.”
To be able to embrace all that ever happens in life – the tragedies and traumas as well as the triumphs – all opportunities to learn, grow, evolve, transform. To recognize the common humanity in every other person who has lived the human journey, honoring their efforts to find meaning in the enterprise of being human. To find the meaning of life in living life fully, deepening in the wisdom that comes from learning, making sense, sharing the process of making sense and making meaning with others.
Do not ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come fully alive. Because what the world needs is people who are alive.
– Howard Thurman
~Linda Graham is an experienced psychotherapist in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is the author of The Resilience Toolkit: Powerful Practices for Bouncing Back from Disappointment, Difficulty, and Even Disaster (September 2018, New World Library) and Bouncing Back: Rewiring Your Brain for Maximum Resilience and Well-Being, winner of the 2013 Books for a Better Life award and the 2014 Better Books for a Better World award. She integrates modern neuroscience, mindfulness practices, and relational psychology in her international trainings on resilience and well-being. She publishes a monthly e-newsletter and weekly Resources for Recovering Resilience.
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