The title of this post is not just a collection of words that everybody wants to hear about or a sequence of characteristics we all want to have in our lives.
Although these words are arranged in the order of increasing degree of abstract conceptualization (‘meaning’ appears to us as being more abstract than ‘health’), they have a relationship that is essential. In short, you cannot be healthy if you do not have a meaningful life. This is the outcome of a series of studies carried out on the human genome in which people who live a meaningful life tend to be happier and therefore exhibit significantly stronger health markers than those who just live an ordinary life of pleasure (see study reference at the end of this post).
Working long and difficult hours on a challenging project may not be exactly pleasurable, but, assuming one regards the project as worthwhile and meaningful to oneself and to others, its successful realisation may nevertheless be a major source of happiness. In fact, when it comes to meaning, the process of working on the project is just as important as its outcome if not even more so.
Human life is full of such examples where meaning ranks higher in terms of its intrinsic value than outcomes and even process:
- a child’s carefree playfulness and spontaneity;
- volunteer work or selfless service where there is no reward;
- creative artistic or musical expression of one’s ideas and inspiration for their own sake;
- doing gardening for its own sake;
- running a marathon (however slow) to raise awareness or funding for a particular cause;
- laughing for the sake of laughing, etc.
Meaning and life’s purpose are strongly interrelated. Meaningful activity springs from one’s ability to anchor oneself in his life’s calling. For example, “the meaning of my life is to do this or that for the benefit of my immediate community or the world at large, or to behave in a particular way”.
A purposeful life is always positive and creative and never negative and destructive. A purposeful life is always about doing things in joy and fulfillment no matter the effort and hurdles on the way. A purposeful life is always about placing others above yourself, about a higher and wider goal taking precedence over personal objectives. A purposeful life is always about benefiting humanity at large. A purposeful life is always about making others self-sufficient: why feed others bread when they can be taught to grow the grains from which it is made and bake it themselves?
So how to discover one’s calling? Learn to meditate to go beyond the limits of your mind and emotions. Learn to contemplate the hidden reality within and without.
To read about the study quoted in this post go to www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/a-better-kind-of-happiness
For more articles on integrating meditation into the present-day lifestyle and for more information on starting a meditation practice of your own, visit www.GenevaMeditation.ch.