The meaning of life is that is stops.
Human life is relatively short, and then we die! There is no argument about it. The existential uncertainty is practically impossible for many of us to swallow. So, we implement survival mechanisms. Knowledge is one of our survival mechanisms. We have a nervous craving to know. We want certainty, especially when it comes to the meaning of our lives. Faith is the other survival mechanism. If we can’t find certainty in the knowledge, we turn to faith. We can’t accept that life is nothing more than the moments between birth and death. That would be absurd! Our existence, struggles, and triumphs must have greater significance. And if the universe doesn’t tell us what it is? Fine, we will make something up. How about gods? Oh, better, re-incarnation. Wait, what about Dharma? Don’t believe in God? OK. Let’s switch to “ism” – childrenism, veganism, futurism.
Perhaps, gods exist. Perhaps, there is dharma and reincarnation. Perhaps, there are no gods; Perhaps, life might have meaning. So what?
Let’s Stick to the Facts!
Maybe some of our questions will be answered in time. But, in the meantime, let’s stick to the facts:
- We born.
- We die.
- Life is moments between life and death.
So, all we have are moments or present. Now, what’s the best method of spending these moments?
You must go to school, get a job, get married, multiply, be kind, don’t be an asshole…blah, blah, blah.
Firstly, what if none of these traditional things matter to you? How can you figure out what does matter to you? With so much noise from our parents, teachers, friends, social media, and culture. For one thing, our first job is to stop the outbound noise: other people’s voices, cultural prejudices, and social media. Next is to stop the inbound noise and listen to the voice inside the squeaky (in my case) voice.
Secondly, why would you listen to me, you ask. Well, there is no reason you have to. But, if you’ve got that far, you probably think I might have something to offer.
So why? I’ve transformed myself from an alcoholic addict to a yoga student, from a chubby, overweight, sick gal to a fit, happy woman. I constantly face uncertainty and thrive on it. I am not saying I got it all figured out. I continually fuck things up and make mistakes. But, it never stops me. Not to mention, based on my background and earlier predicament, I am in a terrific place in life.
So, here are some questions I would recommend for you to ponder to help you find what matters in your life.
1) Am I My Best Friend?
What is your self-talk?
I’d be honest. I am not always my best friend. I often yell at myself for over-eating, not doing what I am supposed to be doing, etc. However, the older I get, the quicker I stop the nonsense chatter.
Points to ponder:
- Am I kind to myself?
- Do I practice mindfulness to hear my inner voice?
- Do I practice an elimination diet (remove toxic people, foods, news, and social media)?
- What’s my input (TV, books, food, friends, environment)?
2) Do I take Myself Too Seriously?
We climb the ladder only to find it is leaning against the wrong wall. We search for hats that already on our heads. We plan our days only to find that the days have other plans.
Not to mention, I worked real hard for 18-years, and I still got laid off. So what?
Yes, I take myself too seriously at times. But then again, after so many failures and successes, I have to smile and move on. Will my success/failure matter in two days, two years, or a decade? After all, my happiness can’t be determined whether I have a job or not or if something is broken. I can get a job at any time. What I can’t have is this precious moment. Once I miss it, that’s it – it is gone forever!
Points to ponder:
- Do I play enough?
- Do I laugh at myself?
- Do I take my failures/successes too seriously?
- Do I pay attention to my present moment?
3) How is My Health?
Why is it important? Because it is challenging to show up in the world when you are not feeling well. So, 3-pillars of health: 1) sleep 2) food 3) movement. So, make sure you get enough sleep, eat lots of good real foods, and get plenty of movement.
Personally, if I don’t sleep well, don’t exercise, and eat junk, I am the worst person to be around.
Points to ponder:
- Do I get enough sleep?
- How much time do I spend moving?
- Do I eat well?
4) How do I express My Creativity/Play?
Think of what interests you. What are you the most curious about? Remember a time when you were a kid? I see creativity and play as the two sides of the same coin.
For instance, Anatoly Karpov had no skills in anything else but chess. Playing chess was a profession earning him millions of dollars. Anatoly was the best in the world! So, he said that he plays chess three hours a day at max. For the rest of the time, he played tennis, relaxed, and read.
Recently my full-time employment came to an end. At first, I felt quite guilty for not jumping into another job. But, I’ve decided that I really need a break. The expression of my creativity and play is probably one of my strongest points. However, from time to time, I panic, worrying about money, and not being productive. But then I play with my dog, listen to music or write. The worry disappears.
Points to ponder:
- What makes my heart smile (dancing, reading, gardening)?
- How can I express my creativity (write, cook, explore)?
- Do I spend enough time rejuvenating (active relaxation, music)?
- What am I curious about?
5) Am I happy with My Relationships?
Life is too short to be stuck with a bad partner or draining friendships. Continuously evaluate your circle. You don’t have to be nice to anyone if the relationship constricts you. Keep people who elevate and inspire you.
Personally, I’d rather be alone than in bad company. However, I have a hard time letting go of people, even if they are toxic. Not to mention, I spent an extra year with my ex-husband because I was afraid of what my dad will think. I don’t see myself as a good or bad person – just another human-animal trying to figure out what works. When in fact, my crazy high energy could be quite overwhelming and blowing some people away. So, sometimes I stick in the relationships thinking I can’t believe they can stand me. But in the end, I summon the courage to get rid of angry, jealousy, boring, or not inspiration.
Points to ponder when looking at your close circle:
- Who are the closest people in my life (do they inspire me to be my best possible self)?
- How do I feel after spending two hours with the person in the room?
- If I were stuck on an uninhabited planet with only this one person for the rest of my life, would I still stay with them?
6) What is My Relationship with Money?
No one ever talks about money. So, how are you supposed to know how much you need to live well? How to invest? How to make money? The “Money” subject is just like sex or religion. We don’t talk about it. However, I strongly believe that money matters.
It took me a very long time to figure out what money is for me. How much I need to sustain my lifestyle, different investment strategies, retirement plan, etc.
Since I lost my job and decided to take some time off, I cut my spending by 95%! I used to splurge on food and clothing. Not to mention living in one of the most expensive cities in the world. I concluded that I don’t need that much. I regret not saving more while I had a job. But, I needed all these experiences to realize that free time is more important than a new pair of shoes. It might not be the case with you. So, you have to figure out what’s your relationships with money.
Points to Ponder:
- How much money do I really need?
- How can I earn money?
- What can I get rid of?
- Can I be more frugal, and will it make me happier?
6) Why Do I Fear Death?
Death is another subject we never discuss in our society. We are overly obsessed with life. Prolonging it at any cost. Say no to abortion, don’t allow the sick to die. I don’t know what happens after life ends. I like how physics explains the law of conservation of energy states. The total energy of an isolated system cannot change. But, rather has to be conserved over time. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed. But energy can only change form. For instance, chemical energy can be converted to kinetic energy.
So I think of life as energy. I often ponder the question, where is an entity I called my dad? Where did he go? I don’t know. And I am OK with it. The loss of my dad taught me to spend time with the living. So, instead of pondering what happens after death, I choose to focus on what I can do while living.
Indeed, when I was about 12, I was pretty sure that I would die by the age of 30. Well, probably the life I chose might have something to do with it. And I died. Or some part of me died at the age of 30. I mean, now I don’t want to die. But, since I thought about it so much, paralyzing fear of the unknown or death is not ruling my life.
Points to Ponder:
- Why are you scared of dying?
- Imagine your funeral and play your life backward to see if your fears are reasonable.
- How my fear of death materialized in my life, preventing me from living?
So, after you go through these exercises, you should feel happy all the time and find your purpose.
I can honestly say that I figured just a few things that really matter in my life, pondering some of the questions above.
What really matters?
- My health.
- Love (for my husband, my dog, friends, and my family).
- Love for Colorado (the snow-covered mountains outside my window).
- Expressing my creativity.
- Chasing my dreams.
- Love for my house.
- Being kind to myself.
What doesn’t matter?
- Results of my labor.
- Having a life’s purpose.
- Saving the world.
- What people think of me.
- The weather.