Advaita / non-duality

James Waite: Leaving Storyville — Finding Meaning in the Impulse to Love

me, myselfExcellence Reporter: James, what is the meaning of life?

James Waite: We often go looking for meaning in all the wrong places. Indeed, there are no right places, outside of our self, to find real meaning. Meantime, it seems most of us are launched by our cultures and conditioning to chase, acquire and otherwise extract, some kind of meaning in a proscribed life lived in a little place called “Storyville”.

Meaning is often driven by fear: we think we need to have a conclusion of our mind; to arrive safely, to rest in a felt, often collective, security. “I don’t know” gets upgraded to a more comfortable “I know”. That assumption is the source of suffering with its habitual pleasure and pain that arises from a mentally defined, individualized, customized, profitably managed, produced and attempted ‘life.’ We live in this rendered contradiction, confused and conflicted, and looking for meaning. Usually, when we talk of meaning, we’re referencing from our selective self – our accumulated, often thoughtless opinions and symbolic feelings about something, anything and everything. Indeed, at bottom, we’re afraid we may not know.


It’s natural enough then, for most of us humans, to look for meaning where we think we’ll find it – in knowledge, in thought. In ritual and tradition, ideas and ideals – ours and others, current and expired. In the typical story, which gets built out many stories high into the air of fantasy over many years, we lose sight of the ground, of the roots of reality and self and innate meaning. We live a remote and borrowed life in our minds’ ateliers; in stale high rise apartments with little light and air, arrayed along Stress-on-Main beach in Storyville. Until we don’t.

All stories, like all thoughts, are personal; they’re fragmentary and limited and therefore, lacking. We’re the imagined teller of the story of our life, and at some point, some of us grow really, really tired of weaving that fabricated and ornamented depiction of a ‘me’ that knows. It’s just then, in the middle of Storyville, we may be graced with a little uncommon recognition of our self – that natural peace and compassion that arises and abides in aware living. Indeed, what we are is not what we think we are. We discover, or rather, uncover, what we could call “An impulse to love” It is this that gives direction – meaning – in our life.


All thoughts gain their power from our believing or not believing them. Of course, that power is given without awareness, from the totally conditioned unconsciousness we learned to think is ‘me’ and which operates – like a hand inside a glove – producing at least 85 percent of our daily, repeated reactions ie ‘experiences’.

It’s easy to see our minds’ deceptively meaningful feints and forays. Simply sit and quietly watch it as a spectator. Pay attention to the circus of thought; how certain thoughts ignite feelings and make the heart actually race with their invocation. Now, withdraw belief – cease to believe – just for a few moments, and not only thought/feelings whither and fade away unsupported, but also we may see that a direct, label-less, unfiltered experiencing emerges. This resting in inner stillness yields a certain completeness and sufficiency, an unlimited wonder and richness in simple, direct, being. A direct knowing arises that’s founded on the recognition of a fidelity to reality that limited personal thoughts ie ‘opinions,’ can only think they know. We’re tuned to the facts, here and now. To facts – free of personal desires and personal fears. And we find that truth which concepts can only describe, measure, and re-present – however elegantly or inelegantly – with symbols and words.


In sum, viewed from awareness, no belief means no believer. That recognition dawns and there’s an end to believing. With the demise of believing comes the demise of personal meaning. One no longer needs it, having ceded all will and direction to that unknowing – that unfettered force of spirit called universal love, which one cannot, and need not, control. Thoughts and feelings come and go freely on the mind stage, making their entrances and exits in a welcoming, lovingly curious, awareness. We lose the need to believe in outside authority and find the truth of our inner, natural well-being, above and beyond the mind-made ‘experience’ we formerly believed was our whole ‘reality.’

In gently being aware, we watch how the mind continues – as it must – to live in Storyville. We wake up from that dream and find we have simply lost interest in its constant..daily…drama; that what we are is not a story, not a belief. We move out of Storyville and into what we are: peace, love, beauty. Yes, and joy. We’re intensely, intimately, absorbed not in meaning but in miracle, and we wonder about it all. 🙂


The meaning of life is the full, free and aware living of it. That meaning is only here, now, in this living moment. Indeed, all relationship is restored, healed and renewed in living this moment. This is learning without accumulating; this is meditation without effort; this is loving without borders. It is found as we flow, within that very flowing. We find grace, joy and ease in the space between and behind events, things and thoughts. In that quiet, choicelessly aware space, we directly recognize what we ultimately are, and this is: love. This new meaning in awareness is as close and alive as our breath.


~James Waite is a businessman, writer and designer and occasional mentor. He is the author of a few books and the editor of and (Facebooks’) Exploring Aware Living. He lives with his wife Alla in Berkeley, CA.

Copyright ©2019 Excellence Reporter

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