“Our aim is to fully awaken our heart and mind, not just for our own well-being, but also to bring benefit, solace and wisdom to other living beings. What motivation could top that?”Pema Chödrön
I woke up this morning thinking, “Why?” and “What is the point?” It is not new, this interrogation into the purpose of life.
The well known German-Austrian psychiatrist, Viktor Frankl, posits that meaning comes from three sources: 1) loving a person 2) purposeful work/ project 3) surviving adverse conditions with dignity. Each of these things seem to come from both within and outside oneself, similar to Pema Chödrön’s suggestion that we awaken the heart, for ourselves and to benefit others.
In the case of Frankl, the third source of meaning, surviving adverse conditions, appears the most self-serving. However, when we survive adversity with dignity, the implication is we are leaving a trace of light for others to see, the trace of how we survive, meaning how we live, in spite of suffering.
In the ten years since I’ve started my mindfulness meditation practice, I’ve observed how my practice can feel self-serving. It is a very intimate, personal and time consuming awakening journey. This feeling of concentrating on the Self has certainly been intensified in the last five years since the trauma of the sudden death of my husband and, shortly after, my brother’s prognosis of cancer and his painful death two years later. Because these two men were emotional pillars in my life and represented everything that has to do with a sense of family, belonging and security—it is no surprise that my mindfulness meditation practice became about healing. Dr. Sameet M. Kamur, author of Mindfulness for Prolonged Grief, points out that because grief fills up all the empty spaces you have in the day and continues late into the night, healing has to be a full time job.
Now, I review my journey and ask difficult questions of myself as a natural part of my coming back to my center… such as: What is the point? These days, I spend a good deal of time considering my life moving forward. What is the purpose of my being, how has it changed and is there something inspiring me to continue on with this journey? When you see the temporal nature of all things, and experience the random and radical nature of death and dying—it is normal to consider the purpose and impact of one singular life.
Singularity, as in meditation on a pillow, alone in the early hours of the morning.
Is this enough?
Singularity is a false perspective. We are not a singularity even when we meditate alone. That would be a very lonely perspective, and filled with limitation. Nirvana, is knowing the boundless infinite nature of our energy, the I am and That is why I am here. It is not asking why? anymore. It is the knowing that in the practice of living fully and with awareness, we allow the mystery of our experience to be and, we savor the signs of awakening that continue to unravel ongoing.
I am considering this metaphor when I think about “What is the point?”
I am a flower. I am unique and just being healthy in this soil is enough. I feel good and strong, not thinking my life is short and my petals are temporary. Every day, I add value to myself and the world by absorbing light, emitting oxygen into the air, and providing beauty. If I were a tree, I’d provide some shade and occasionally, I’d bear fruit.
What is my true nature and what is the fruit for humanity?
The inspiration of the spiritual teachers and writers, such as Pema Chödrön, is that they remind me that it takes time and dedicated attention to care for myself and in doing so, I show up for others in a way that is uniquely serving. I’m accepting in my practice that I can’t change the world in any other way than what I am doing right now… that I have been given, by design, a gift of this life, and that is enough, and more than enough, if it is anything like the love and beauty that I have been given by others.
It is in a flash and an instant that I am grateful for this fleeting and beautiful flower in my presence. I will take it, in spite of the petals slowly falling out, because otherwise, what is the point of now?