Years ago, I came across the most beautiful postcard of a gorgeous wild-garden scene, with the words: The meaning of life is… The answer (if there was one) would have been written where the crumbled part of the stone wall was in the picture. It infuriated me. My curiosity really, really, really wanted the answer.
I’ve often been asked the question “What is the meaning of life?” I don’t have the answer, but I do have a pretty good sense of something else.
The meaning of life is found in the meaning we give it. Some people can stand under trillions of stars which twinkle in the night sky and feel insignificant, and others, like myself, go “wow, I’m part of all that!”
If you’re a deep thinker, it is easy to become overwhelmed, frustrated, angry, despondent and a host of other feelings when seeking the meaning of life. Some belief systems suggest that we’re here to learn. That life on earth is like ‘school’ for the soul, and every painful experience is a lesson in our evolution. I believed that for a long time. It certainly helps to put brackets around shitty life events. “Oh, it’s a learning experience!” As if, somehow, that makes the death of a child or friend or spouse easier. As if calling an event a ‘learning experience’ helps someone whose house has burnt down or marriage has ended or they’ve discovered they have a life-limiting illness. It’s about as helpful as using the Law of Attraction against someone when they’re going through a tough time by saying “why did you create that?”
Now, I do happen to believe in (and practise) the Law of Attraction but not as a tool to beat someone up with. For me, it’s a way to look into the heart of things.
Reframing life, and how we live, experience and react to life, and what makes us feel most ALIVE, does become a truly creative act, thereby you do create your reality.
To create a beautiful life or a hand-crafted life means slowing right down. It’s living life at the pace of a toddler whereby you deliberately take time to smell the flowers, touch the flowers, admire the flowers, and become one with their beauty.
The meaning of life is found in the detail. As humans we tend to look at the big picture of our days, rather than zoom right in on the details and moments which bring magic.
What was the last meal you ate? Do you remember the taste sensation? Were you conscious of how alive each mouthful made you feel? Maybe you can’t remember because you were scrolling through your Facebook feed or watching the news or chatting with someone so intently that you paid no attention to each mouthful.
What smells are in the room you’re in right now? Is there an aroma, scent, or pong? If your answer is that there is no smell sensation, then stop, close your eyes, and breathe deeply. As far as possible, close down your other senses and focus on what your nose is absorbing about your environment.
How do the clothes you’re wearing (unless you’re naked in bed between cool, clean sheets) feel upon your skin?
What sounds are filling your space? The ticking of a clock? Your favourite record? A baby hiccupping? Wind against the window pane? Onions sizzling in a pan? Your breath? Your heartbeat?
When you look up from your screen, what do you see around you? Really see for a few moments. Let your eyes rest on something, and take time to see what this item means to you.
Life can become routine and humdrum when we don’t pay attention. We get up, eat, go to work, come home, read a book or watch tv, get bombarded by negative news stories, eat dinner, go to bed. Day in day out. If you’re existing on the hamster wheel of life, the question ‘what is the meaning of life?’ can drive you over the edge. Sometimes it’s better not to ask, but to have another glass of wine instead. Work harder, drink more, and for goodness’ sake, don’t ask the question.
But, what if? What if, by considering each day (and moment) of your life as a Sacred Ceremony, whereby you infuse it with love, intention, ritual and heightened awareness, you created the answer to the very question: what is the meaning of life?
Here. Here it is! Here’s the meaning of life: it rests upon deep-level genuine gratitude for inhabiting a physical body so that you can enjoy the rich beauty that being upon this earth has to offer.
Maybe it begins when you catch the light of the Moon slipping into your bedroom at midnight, and steal out of bed so that you can head to the window and drop onto your knees in reverence for her light.
Perhaps it is in those early morning moments when the birds begin to call out to each other, and their happiness offers a balm to your heart. Your eyes open to the glorious sunshine bathing the earth and spilling across your bedsheets.
Maybe it’s when your kids cuddle up beside you for a morning hug, or when your partner brings a cuppa to you so you can enjoy it in bed.
What about when you stand beneath the hot, steamy shower washing your hair, and letting any cares disappear down the drain? You don’t think that’s meaningful? Like any other thing we do, or experience, in our daily life, it has the potential to be deeply meaningful. The meaning is discovered in our observance of such ‘rituals’.
If you live life on rote, and don’t bring conscious awareness to every action, thought and feeling, then it is highly likely that life won’t feel meaningful.
But slow down…slow right down…and you’ll notice every little flower, and bumble bee, and clock tick, and your own heart beat. The meaning of life is everywhere. It’s simply everywhere!
You might look out the door and see the green lawn, but zoom in. What do you see now? Thousands upon thousands of individual blades of grass are reaching towards the light. How miraculous and normal is that?
Trees are all around this earth, but have you ever stopped and touched one? Just placed your hand or heart against it and felt the miracle of its strength and majesty? If ever there was a way to fast-track your sense of awe for life, it is by communing with a tree.
I had an apple for breakfast. An organic Royal Gala (my favourite). Every mouthful of sweetness, as I crunched it between my teeth, tasted beautiful and nourishing. Eating an apple or two a day is normal for me, but no less meaningful because of its familiarity. Eating a plant-based diet makes me particularly conscious of food (though it may just be my personality), and I’m always aware of how long it takes anything to grow. Just because food is so readily available in shops doesn’t take away my gratitude or respect that an apple, mango, green leaf, etc., hasn’t just instantly appeared. It may have begun as a flower which then faded away and grew into a fruit, vegetable and so on, but the miracle of it appearing in my life for me to dine on, is something that is at the heart of all that I’m grateful for in this life. The life-force these foods carry (distilled sunshine) becomes at one with my body. It is deeply meaningful to me. This is such a joyous time as the first leaves in my veg patch become part of my meals. I’ve tended to them each day, offering them water as they grow towards the sunshine while stretching the roots down below. I’ve been their cheerleader!
Music nourishes my soul and is always deeply therapeutic. With the switch of a button the radio or record player can go on, and a mood can be enhanced and energised. Again, is this a miracle or is it so normal that we don’t think about it?
The woodland nature reserve, which skirts the edge of the land I live on, is a bird-lover’s paradise. Go deep enough into the woods and you become so enchanted by the variety of birdsong. Their passion for life is intoxicating! You can’t help but feel alive. And for me, this IS the meaning of life. We are here to experience joy. To live in the magic! The further we distance ourselves from the energetic field of mother earth, the less meaningful we find our lives.
When we become dismal about life it is almost certainly because we’ve short-circuited our attention to witnessing the beauty around us, and our soul becomes deadened.
Observing various friends recently, I am in awe of their life paths and the meaning they are giving their lives, whether it’s through working in a Vietnamese orphanage for a couple of weeks, wild swimming in the river every morning before work, heading to Morocco with their young daughter, writing a novel, creating a new business venture, photographing the world around them, growing a wildflower garden, sewing clothes for their children, handwriting letters to friends, taking their dog for a walk to the woods each day, and more.
When we feel beaten over the head by life, through health issues, divorce, job loss, financial stress, the eroding of friendships, etc., we can become stuck in a bog of inertia. How can we possibly step out of this and ‘find meaning’ when we are flat on the floor? The bottom line is (to quote something I heard once), “the brain is a prison built out of bullshit”. Most of us have had such ridiculous conditioning in one form or another. We can’t possibly hope to change the course of our life if we keep thinking the same old thoughts. No matter how crap life feels, by hook or by crook we need to change our thinking and the most effective way to do that is by looking for things to be grateful for, and stating “I am so grateful for…” Really stepping into full gratitude (regardless of where you’re at in life) changes your energetic vibration. From this we find the courage and strength and desire to start thinking in another way. Someone near to me broke their neck and it brought an end to work and pretty much everything else. He could have fallen into victim mode and sat twiddling his thumbs all day, but instead he found ways to make the best of a crap situation. As a result, he learnt to paint. He’s now an incredible artist.
Adversity can lead to break down or break through. It all starts with a thought. From the thought comes a desire. From desire a creative feeling emerges that has the Universe rushing in to support us.
So, acknowledging where you are is the place to start. Give thanks that you are able to identify this place. Look at how far you’ve come in life. Be grateful for every success you’ve had in life. This is your stepping stone. Step on it and bounce, jump or hop, but whatever you do, let it support you.
How we fill ourselves ~ that is, how we NOURISH ourselves ~ is the well upon which we then draw up the vibrancy for a charmed life. It doesn’t come from other people, but is something we give to ourselves. Ask yourself, “How can I slow down today?” “Where can I put my attention?”
Instead of shovelling down your next meal, really attune to every aspect of it: taste, touch, smell, the sound when you’re eating it, and connect with the journey of where it began life and how it is serving you right now. This level of mindfulness can be used for any aspect of your life, not just food.
And then…look, breathe in, touch, feel it in your heart, and fully engage your senses.
To live a sensory life is to live a rich life. And guess what? A life lived in this way is deeply meaningful.