In these testing times, many feel alone, lost and disconnected from what they believed brought them meaning in their life. We find ourselves realising that what we value most is that which we believe makes our life meaningful. This becomes our meaning of ‘life’. Put simply, meaning = life = happiness.
For a grandparent, they may find meaning in playing with their grandchildren. They are their ‘life’, they make them happy. However right now, their grandchildren are out of reach.
For a young person, they may see meaning in playing soccer with their mates. Being part of a team, working towards a common ‘goal’. It makes them happy. And this morning, they’re kicking a ball solo down the driveway.
Or perhaps it’s someone who values being ‘on trend’, finding meaning, life (and therefore happiness) in labels and shopping. But for now the doors are closed.
It might be the Executive that feels their job brings them meaning, finding ‘life’ and happiness in praise and financial rewards. But today, their calendar is empty and there’s no suit and tie.
We’re all feeling the impact socially. And it’s particularly challenging for those who find their life’s meaning in friendships - meeting friends for coffee, or afterwork drinks. And now, we’re in a ‘take-away’ world.
This all may seem quite frivolous. But in challenging times like these, the things that bring us meaning, no matter how significant, remind us of how we define ourselves. We also measure life’s meaning by what is called ‘higher’ needs, and our happiness hinges on our ability to provide and give to others – a need that is seemingly more important. We see this in the mother that finds meaning in her children - providing them with a warm and safe environment. It’s the father who is now without a job, wanting to provide for his family. It’s the Employer who feels an underlying responsibility to provide for their employees, and even members of a charitable organisation that find meaning and purpose in supporting their cause. Right now, it is in question. Right now, it is volatile. And it’s calling us to reflect on where we find meaning in our lives.
Whether we define life and fulfilment based on our higher need to provide, or our ‘lower’, seemingly more insignificant needs, the effect is the same - a sense that there is less meaning, less life and less happiness at this time. Life today feels quite constrained. Doors are closed, people are disconnected, and our ability to do what we enjoy depends on the ‘rules’. We are fearful that our meaning of life cannot be fulfilled and, we feel it is out of our control. If we obsess with this loss of control, we will feel caged and powerless which can lead to depression.
In these testing times, where the threat to our ‘life’, its meaning and our happiness is pervasive, and where fear of loss of life is equally pervasive, there is only ONE certainty: the fountain of LIFE is within You. Therefore, fulfilment lies within us, always. Remember happiness is a feeling and that feeling comes from within.
For many of us, this will be an absurd notion. However, if we choose to seek fulfilment based on our external experiences we will suffer. In Buddhism, the Second Noble Truth states that if we seek fulfilment based on external desires, we will always suffer. While it is imperative that we fulfill our earthly roles, we should not be defined by them. In these difficult times, if we choose to be defined by our earthly roles, we will feel inadequate, we will feel loss and we will feel constrained.
In the spiritual path, through meditation and more conscious awareness, we discover our Higher Self (Christ within / Buddha within /Krishna within) which is whole, perfect and complete - free of loss and fear. Being conscious of our Higher Self gives us inner peace and strength, confidence and composure to be fully present in our earthly roles. Today, I encourage you to feel happiness through the pleasure of simple things. Maybe you’ll feel it looking at the bursting colour of a flower in your garden. Maybe it’s in the fragrant aroma of that freshly brewed tea. Maybe it’s on an essential drive, where you turn the air-conditioner off for a moment and wind down your window to feel the fresh breeze on your face. Reminding you that meaning, ‘life’ and happiness is everywhere because the fountain of LIFE is within YOU. It is in each and everyone of us. And now, with more space and time to fully appreciate life’s ‘smaller’ moments, whether we feel it or not comes down to whether we are conscious and aware to the fact. Today there is life. There is meaning, and there is happiness, for us all.
Peace be with you,
Chiu Chi Wen