Being You

A Meaningful Life is Being You

“The meaning of life is to give life meaning.”

—Viktor Frankl, Holocaust survivor, neurologist, psychiatrist, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning

What gives life meaning? Through the ages that is a question that philosophers and religious scholars have pondered. Today psychologists and other scientists have intensified the study of what makes life meaningful. A wide range of answers has emerged. Some say it is finding a purpose or passion, while others contend it is being useful, living according to one’s values, or simply finding joy in all one does. The answer, of course, differs for each of us, and it can change in different phases of our lives, or even in a moment when confronted with a sudden tragedy. I believe having a meaningful life is being you—your best self! Being you is showing up with right action and right conduct in every circumstance in life.

What is needed?

Viktor Frankl, who was subjected to unspeakable brutality and depravation in four concentration camps, observed that inmates who retained some meaning in their lives were most likely to survive.  He believed it’s not about having what you need to live, but asking yourself, “What am I living for?” Frankl kept the memory of his beloved wife and his hope to be reunited with her alive, which gave his life meaning. A Vietnam POW spent his many years in captivity mentally designing the home he would one day build—which he eventually did!

If one is confronted with unavoidable suffering, Frankl recommended asking what could be learned from the situation. Is there any meaning that can be squeezed out of seemingly meaningless or even disastrous or horrendous happenings? In the aftermath of tragic events such as wildfires and hurricanes, and even mass shootings, countless people find meaningful ways to help others in distress, whether neighbors or strangers; they rebuild communities, and they take action to get laws changed. For Frankl, meaning came from three possible sources: purposeful work, love, or courage in the face of adversity.

Being you

Where do we find guidance on the path to living more meaningfully? According to Richard Miller, PhD, yogic scholar and developer of the iRest® Yoga Nidra training, there are times when we forget our true essence, our Divine nature, and we experience what is known as the kanchukas, or five limitations (limited ability or capacity, limited knowledge, limited time, limited body or space, and scarcity). When this happens, there are messengers who point us toward being as we truly are. Miller affectionately refers to such messengers as “The Pointer Sisters,” after the R&B singers who got their start in the 1970s and are still performing today.

Miller says that we are all seeking happiness in one manner or another, and this is the underlying motive behind every action we take. The Pointer Sisters surface within our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions and relate to beliefs we have about ourselves. We get to know the Sisters’ presence whenever we feel disconnected or constrained in our daily experience. Then they point us to our wholeness with questions to help us realign. Let’s explore the questions.

Feeling separate

SeparateHave you ever experienced a situation in which you felt powerless or limited? However hard you try to rectify the situation, nothing changes, resulting in feelings of frustration, anger, or unhappiness. This is an opportunity to step back and acknowledge that the Pointer Sisters are present and have a message to share. You can discover the message by asking, Who am I? Am I a separate powerless being, or is my true essential nature potent and unlimited? Allow yourself to acknowledge and feel these opposites.

You’re not likely to feel potent and unlimited right away. It’s like trying on new clothes or a new hairstyle that may take time getting used to. It’s not about doing but about coming to accept your true self as whole and connected. As a result, you will be better able to address the situation that brought you to feeling powerless and regain a sense of wholeness.

Feeling confused 

There may be times in your work, managing your finances, and other situations when you may wish you knew more. You may need to obtain more knowledge or training, or consult with an expert. But when it comes to knowing what can truly bring forth a meaningful life or make you happy, what you need to know is already inside you. Accessing this inner knowing helps you with important life choices and decisions.

Do you really need to go to another spiritual workshop or read another book or even this column to bring you more in touch with your true self? Those things may be helpful for a while, but if the teachings are about trusting and knowing yourself, then perhaps you should ask Why am I continuing to pursue these things? It may be because you enjoy connecting with other likeminded people—not because of limited knowledge.

Feeling a lack

As soon as you get that raise or promotion or your kid buckles down with his school work, you’re sure that you’ll be happy. Maybe it’s a new job or the perfect relationship or winning the lottery that you’re counting on to fulfill you. In the meantime, you feel a considerable lack in your life: what you have is inadequate; you desire something better. Or, perhaps you are clinging to what’s present in your life for fear of taking a risk.

You may believe that because life is imperfect you too must be imperfect. But here the Pointer Sisters pose the question What am I? The truth is that you are already complete. I often reflect on how Frankl handled his holocaust experience as a reminder.

Feeling time bound

time boundDo you find there is never enough time to accomplish everything? Anxiety, frustration, or fear about not meeting deadlines may ensue. There’s certainly no time for reflection on what makes your life meaningful. The Pointer Sisters here implore us to believe we are born, then we die; in between time rules our ability to be happy. There is a paradox here. When we are deeply engaged in meaningful activities (in a flow state, also known as being in the zone), it can feel like time stands still.

Instead of feeling constrained by time, what if you were to ask When am I in the flow of life? How can you integrate flow into your life and make it more meaningful? When you do, the past and future become less relevant—and you open yourself to the wholeness of your essential being, which feels timeless.

Feeling limited in space

Time and space are scientific terms used to describe our physical presence in this world. But these are limiting factors when it comes to acknowledging the spirit that inhabits your physical body. You may feel your body is constricted and contracted with all the thoughts, feelings, and emotions that surface throughout your day. But your physicality is not who you truly are. Ask yourself Where am I? You are the all-pervasive awareness at the heart of your true being.

Pointing to your wholeness

Pointing to wholenessTake a moment to experience this right now by closing your eyes, taking a few long, deep breaths, and feeling your connection with the surface beneath you and the space around you. Welcome the Pointer Sisters to be present as you welcome what you believe your true self to be. Feel the limitation of your body. Then allow yourself to expand as the Pointer Sisters point you to the wholeness of your Essential Being.

One of the Pointer Sisters’ hit songs was “Yes We Can Can”: “Oh yes we can, I know we can can/ Yes we can can, why can’t we?” Yes, we can all learn to live beyond our limitations—and thus make this a meaningful life.

Join one of my free iRest courses where you can learn how to live beyond your limitations and Hanna Somatics Movement for pain relief each Tuesday.

Joy and sorrow

What’s Your Natural Disposition?

“Good morning, Eeyore,” said Pooh.
“Good morning, Pooh Bear,” said Eeyore gloomily. “If it is a good morning, which I doubt.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

PoohAs you start a new week, or even a New Year, do you see your life circumstances optimistically or pessimistically? What is your natural disposition? Continue reading

listening in nature

Listening as Presence: Learn How

“The most precious gift we can offer anyone is our attention.” —Thich Nhat Hanh

Listening to pianoI recently viewed a TV special with a segment from the PBS children’s television series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood in which Nick, a young boy, was invited to play the piano. As Nick played a Bach minuet, Mister Rogers listened in a way that suggested he was not just hearing the notes but actually experiencing them in the same way Continue reading

curiosity-driven

Curiosity-Driven Life

“Curiosity killed the cat,” as the proverb goes. We certainly can get into mischief when we get too nosy. However, there is a rejoinder to this proverb that states “but satisfaction brought it back.” Dr. Linus Pauling said, “Satisfaction of one’s curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life.”
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Are You Riding the Sea Change?

Does the news of the day get you down—global violence, economic and social unrest, and environmental disasters? Do you fear what the future will hold for you and your loved ones? Do you long for things to be better, yet feel helpless? There may just be another landscape with hope for a better world.

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Joy of play

The Joy of Play

Have you ever spent time watching children in the joy of play—or animals, puppies, or kittens? What did you see? Spontaneity, curiosity, joyfulness? Did you have feelings of timelessness, purposelessness, or freedom? Did it summon memories from your own childhood? Do you wish you could be that playful child again? The truth is, adults need to play just as children do. Scientists have studied playing and determined that it is part of our biology. Continue reading

texting

Relationships that Really Connect

Social has become quite the buzz word. But what does it mean in today’s digital world? Social media presents a myriad of opportunities to connect with friends, relatives, business associates, and the world at large. Photos and snippets of one’s everyday experience “go viral” every day. Texting is a new abbreviated language that requires neither correct grammar nor punctuation. But social has a vastly different context when it relates to our true happiness and well-being. Continue reading

motivating passions

Embody The Five “A”s of Love

and embodying I was inspired to explore the five “A”s of love after attending a performance of Chicago’s Natya Dance Theatre’s new work, “The Seventh Love.” Based on the ancient Buddhist discourse known as “The Five Aspects of Love,” a narrative was brought to life through expressive East Indian dance and dialogue. The message: learning to embody these five aspects—attention, acceptance, appreciation, affection, and allowancehelps one attain a sixth, to embody perfect love. Continue reading

greek-hero

Your Life: a Hero’s Journey

Though you may not think of yourself as a hero, you do play the starring role in the story of your life journey. It’s a story you’ve been composing since you took your first breath – maybe even before. Many supporters have acted as guides, teachers, and mentors to help and inspire you along the way. Some may also have provided their idea of how you should live your life and the path you should follow. But ultimately, it’s your story, your life, your journey that required you to make difficult choices and carry out heroic actions to bring you to the chapter you inhabit presently. Continue reading

lifespan

Whole and Complete as You Are

Not long ago, I read that our average lifespan is 30,000 days. How many days have you already used up and how many might you have left?

Life is so precious. Each day is a blessing that holds a responsibility to express your special gifts into the world. What would your days be like if you weren’t bogged down by the past, reacting emotionally in the present, or anxious about the future? What if you could feel really at home and at peace in your skin, be in tune with the deepest desire for your life and express your best self in the world?Continue reading