Excellence Reporter: Dr. Habito, what is the meaning of life?
Maria Reis Habito: The meaning of life – that is a very big question, not easy to answer. From my point of view today I would say: the meaning of life is living it.
Fine, but how? Simply by allowing ourselves to see everything with the eyes of the heart. And that may not be so simple as it sounds. And yet, there is nothing more simple than that. As the little Prince said: “On ne voit bien q’avec le coeur. L’essential est invisible pour les yeux. (One can only see truly well with the heart. The essential is invisible to the eye.)”
In the Chinese and Japanese language, there is only one word for heart and mind – hsin (kokoro in Japanese), which means the core of our being, that place where we are completely open to the dimension of the infinite, the sacred. And at the same time, it is here that we are deeply connected to all beings and to everything that exists and happens in this universe.
How do we open the eyes of the heart? By simply letting our heart come to rest in the present. But again, this is not so simple as it sounds. The present tends to be rather stressful for most of us, except perhaps for holy hermits in mountain caves, and even there we don’t know for sure. What to do about it? Feeling and acknowledging the restlessness of our heart and mind, and simply starting with taking a deep breath or two, letting our heart return home. Home to where? St. Augustine famously wrote on this point: “Restless is our heart, until it rests in Thee.” He certainly experienced the highs and lows of a restless heart in his life – and found a way to inner peace. But what has resting in “Thee” to do with resting in the present? I am finding out in my own life that the more I lose touch with “Thee” – with the infinite dimension of my own being which connects me with the infinite dimension of every other being, the more I feel stressed, the less I feel present.
Perhaps you know that feeling of anxious mind too that is preoccupied with so many things that it lets you miss what is right in front of you at this very moment – what is it, who is it? When you look around yourself with the eyes of the heart, what do you see? And if you only had this one day to live, would you see the wonder, the beauty of life differently? Would you then take the time to fully live and experience each person, each thing, each fleeting moment – in the light of infinity, in the light of the sacred? Would your heart be filled with gentleness, with love, with gratitude? Would that love in your heart touch everybody you meet, regardless of who or what they are? If you can say yes, you already know the meaning of life. And you can teach it to me without words. So go and live it every day as best you can. Don’t wait any longer, don’t wait for the last day. The time is now.
~Dr. Maria Reis Habito is the International Program Director of the Museum of World Religions, and Zen Teacher at Maria Kannon Zen Center, Dallas, Texas.
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