MAP OF LIFE

Journal Entry 6: Exploring Meaning 2015

Noting that this is the 5-year anniversary of SunnyRoomStudio, I should have planned something “special” … but this journal entry will have to suffice. The past couple of weeks have been filled with the unexpected, the expected, and everything in-between. Returning to this journal, in many ways, a gift. A place to consider once more the nuances of life meaning and life purpose in the context of unpredictable days and moments gone in a glance. Swiftly disappearing, like remembered sunsets, sunrises, that burn in my memory with an indescribable glory. An air of mystery.

“So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp.”
― Rainer Maria Rilke, Rilke’s Book of Hours IMG-20140330-02109Indeed, our days can seem shortened by events that demand a great deal from us. We can feel drained, exhausted, and deeply uncertain about the “meaning of it all.” But even if we knew, precisely and forever, the “meaning of it all,” would it change our suffering, erase our angst? Somehow I doubt it. So maybe the best we can ever do is surrender to not knowing (for sure), and let our hearts lead the way one faltering step at a time. As Rilke so aptly states: “we are grasped by what we cannot grasp.”

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With this in mind, we can simply look forward to spring and the sense of renewal it brings — finding meaning in the sway of the seasons, how they keep us yearning for some kind of change. A deeper calm. A deeper contentment with all that is going on around us. An acceptance of the unacceptable.

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I like the digressive kind of traveling, where there’s not a particular, set, goal.”
~ William Least Heat-Moon

Meaning and purpose can be found wherever we choose to put our hearts and our attention. We don’t need a destination, nor an outline, do we? A”digressive kind of traveling” works well, because the map of life, we must realize, is not at our disposal — it’s from a different realm, an otherworldly, nearly imaginary place or notion that refuses to divulge its many secrets.   

And, surprisingly, this seems like a good place to close this journal … perhaps returning to it in the fall. Each of us must grapple with these questions in our own way, in our own time. Hopefully, we all learn to live peacefully with the deepest mysteries of life … remembering things may not be as complicated as we think. One moment of great meaning may be all that we are here to experience. Staying open to the possibilities is a trusted course. A wise choice. Otherwise, we may miss the whole point of this earthly sojourn.

Closing thought: May new understanding continually unfold around me, as I consciously avoid being locked into positions or beliefs that would only serve to limit the depth of my perception. Insights arrive like a sudden burst of wind, usually when least expected, so it’s good to allow ample space for the unknown, the unknowable. That’s where life secrets lurk. Nearly always. ~dh

Thank so much for stopping by this sunny space for kindred spirits.
I have greatly appreciated sharing this place with all of you for the past five years,
and look forward to the twists and turns of Year Six.

See you again Friday, February 27, 2015.
I’ll be reviewing Writing Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon.
Published in 2014, it’s the story of how a book happened (Blue Highways),
and how an author became an author.

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SHINE

Shine like the whole universe is yours. ~ Rumi

I love this quote from Rumi. He eloquently reminds us that while we are “one,” we are also ONE. What do I mean by that, and how does it pertain to life meaning and purpose?

Journal Entry 5: Exploring Meaning 2015

Too often we consider life meaning in the context of career choice or goals or projects. But when we peer more closely into these definitions, what do we see?

Perhaps a time frame, an agenda, or a list.

But do we see our life as a whole … in a universal context? Rarely, I suspect.

Since there are layers of reality–layers of truth–it’s important to consider life meaning and purpose in ways we may not have explored yet.

And fortunately, when I read Rumi’s words, I’m reminded to take my place in the overall scheme of things — well beyond the fray of daily life. It’s liberating to remember that I’m part of something much larger, much grander, than I can even imagine. 

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Though I’m only one person, I’m also part of the ONE source of life. Isn’t that meaning, per se? Purpose, per se? How much more do we want or need, I wonder.

Finding ways to tune into that source is incredibly meaningful, isn’t it?

Sure, there are valid reasons to align our daily existence with the kind of meaning that makes sense to us (to me), in particular, but if this fails to also acknowledge the universal story, will we always be frustrated in our pursuits? Somewhat, at least?

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Maybe all we really need to do is “shine like the whole universe” is ours. I like that thought. It’s expansive; it’s peaceful; it’s purposeful. It’s enough. Like living from a perspective of gratitude and wonder, this vantage point removes all the senseless pressure of popularized definitions of life meaning. Likewise, it also frees us from years of endless “searching” … we can still follow our bliss, as Joseph Campbell advises, but we don’t need to continually ask ourselves: so what is the meaning, the purpose, of this?   

Instead of looking for our specific place in the world, maybe we merely need to glance within to realize our universal roots. Sounds like a fruitful idea, doesn’t it? < end: journal entry 5 >

Journal Focus Question:
How might you deeply consider the merits of simplifying the search for meaning and purpose?

Thanks so much for being here; see you again Friday, February 13th, as our journal continues.

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ANOTHER WALK

When not center stage, questions about life purpose and life meaning
still seem to hover in the background, don’t they?
Unbidden, they come into sharper focus during major transitions,
or when decisions press for resolution. Sometimes during
moments of crisis, tragedy, or loss these questions
burn with renewed vigor. We want to figure it out … once and for all.
We want to “know” … for sure, don’t we?

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio as we return to the focus of our 2015 journal: Exploring Meaning. I have a special topic this week …

hickman_Noah

Facing the inevitable loss of this wonderful guy, our Noah, questions of life meaning and purpose inevitably surface. He’s nearly 13 and once inspired a blog post called the Zen of Noah. Only 8 then, endings were not in focus, not like they are now.

I don’t think dogs worry much about life purpose. They are fortunate in that regard. They are pretty content with sunshine, long walks, a treat now and then, and someone who loves them.

We probably can learn a lot from out pets … if we stand still long enough to see what great role models they are. Rarely do they get rattled. Rarely do they fail to greet us at the door like they haven’t seen us in years. It’s amazing really how much contentment they exhibit. Noah loves to go outside; tilting his head skyward, he sniffs the air. It’s the first thing he does when he goes out in the morning. Sort of like testing the waters … he wants to know, hmm, what is the day like … it’s a greeting it seems.

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But now Noah spends his days resting mostly. His back legs are giving out; he can’t jump up or down, so we lift him, carry him … gladly. I wonder how many times he has carried us through a day with his eager, joyful gait (Noah sort of prances when he goes for a walk; I’ve never seen a dog do this), with his gladness over our return from running errands or whatever. So thank you, Noah, for your consistently inspired presence. It has meant a great deal over the years. During times of loss, he sensed our deep sadness, and would sit and stare at me with concerned eyes. Or snuggle up close. He gave us a reason to keep going — to get up and care for him.

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Noah even made friends with our 14-year-old cat, Lola. At first, when they were both very young, he played a bit too rough with her, but she set him straight. They love to find a sunny spot to doze in … and then we added Orion, our now 3-year-old schnauzer. He’s a handful, but while he has annoyed Noah at times, he also kept him moving. If one barks, the other must immediately explore the cause so they can join forces … barking in unison. I’m sure our neighbors think … “oh, there they go again.”

training2012

Here’s a summer training session … I believe we had mixed results! Our dogs, though similar, have distinctly different personalities. Orion has a high-pitched bark; Noah’s bark is deep and purposeful. Orion is a bit shy; Noah leads the way. Orion doesn’t care for snow or rain or cold weather; Noah leads the way. Noah wants to sit in the shade and contemplate his life; Orion nudges him … “let’s play.” With 10 years difference between them, they do pretty well. Always touching noses when greeting each other, always sharing food or treats when they must. Rarely have we heard a growl from either.

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I don’t know what spring will bring, nor tomorrow for that matter. But for now I’m trying to focus on lessons learned along the way when it comes to loss.

  • Don’t back away from the endings, fall into them … become them … they are us; we are them. It helps a little. I remember writing in the Matt memoir how I had to become the loss to survive it. And we do. He’s such a bright little light and seeing it dim has brought suffering, but this time, with a greater  awareness of the deeper reality of nature. Noah’s had so many nicknames over the years … I’ll be smiling about those for many years to come. In some translations Noah means “comfort,” and indeed, he has brought me comfort.

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Life will be different with one dog.

Orion will wonder where Noah went — he will look at us with dark, questioning eyes. And we won’t be able to explain to him, in human terms, why suddenly his buddy is gone. So we’ll just grab a leash and go for another walk. ~ dh

< end: journal entry 4 >

  • What have you learned along the way about life meaning and purpose that is connected to lessons gleaned from family pets?
  • This is something Eckhart advises, but it’s quite challenging, isn’t it?

Whatever the present moment contains,
accept it
as if you had chosen it. – Eckhart Tolle

Guardians of Being is a book we’ve loved. Written by Eckhart Tolle with illustrations by Patrick McDonnell (creator of the MUTTS comic strip), Eckhart focuses on spiritual teachings from our cats and dogs.

Journal Focus Question:
When life presents us with twists and turns, does meaning and purpose change, or only intensify?

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Ever-Evolving

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio where we are immersed in questions of life purpose and life meaning per our 2015 journal, Exploring Meaning. My Studio Guest, Susun Cooper, shares what is making her life meaningful.

Journal Focus Question:
With personal growth, how has your life path evolved — have steps along
the way helped you to authentically express what has come to pass within you?

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True Strength

Welcome back to SunnyRoomStudio.

Today we return to the focus of our 2015 journal: Exploring Meaning. (If you are also keeping a journal as we go, focus questions can be found at the close of this post.)

When not center stage, questions about life purpose and life meaning still seem to hover in the background, don’t they? Unbidden, they come into sharper focus during major transitions, or when decisions press for resolution. Sometimes during moments of crisis, tragedy, or loss these questions burn with renewed vigor. We want to figure it out … once and for all. We want to “know” … for sure.

The power is in you. The answer is in you.
And you are the answer to all your searches: you are the goal.
You are the answer. It’s never outside.
— Eckhart Tolle

Stilling basin moon

But perhaps we focus our search externally, when it is more of an internal quest. Like the body of water above, we can’t expect to find meaning and purpose by skating along the surface in the winter. We have to dive in … explore our inner world: its true depth.

For some reason though, we often choose to externalize our search — making it about “everything else” that is part of our life (or only in the distant horizon). Then, of course, meaning and purpose shift and sway without pause.

If we really want a single, compelling answer to our question, maybe turning within is a good place to start.

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No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy,
even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending

solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.
Jack Kerouac

Unfortunately, because of all the hype that seems to surround these questions, we worry endlessly about doing something that has deep meaning. Or a grand purpose. 

But how do we focus the lens in the right direction in the first place?

Why does indecision (or frustration) about such matters take on such importance?

Why do we think purpose must be something we can frame and point to in a special kind of way? < end: journal entry 3 >

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Journal Focus Question:
Review your life history, when did it feel like you had a strong purpose …
when did you feel like you were lost or floundering? Or apathetic?
Can you map this out in some detail? Any surprises, revelations … ?

Thanks so much for being here; see you again Friday, January 23rd, as our journal continues.

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