The meaning of life, and 11 ways to grasp it

“Happiness is that state of consciousness which proceeds from the achievement of one’s values.” Ayn Rand

hafod fach May to June 2001 078

A friend of mine was telling me, as we drove along in the car, how unhappy she was, and how lost. With three children to look after, and a husband with a successful career who brought home plenty of money, she was putting her all into raising her children and trying to stay level with her husband of an evening. He had been involved in an exciting day’s work, and she had spent the day tidying the house and enabling activities for the kids. Finding common ground for an interesting conversation was tricky.

How could she keep her marriage and the family going? she was asking.  At 50, picking up a career was going to be tough, as for the past 18 years, her whole life had been geared towards nurturing her family. Now she felt as if she had lost touch with herself and her own needs, and she was also losing touch with her teenagers and her husband.

Her situation is the same for many of us. Not just wives, but husbands, too. People who have been subsumed by the responsibilities of looking after others, people who have neglected their own needs in order to cater for others. It is because the situation is so common, I am sharing this story with you.

I asked her directly, “What is the purpose of life?” Taken aback, she laughed! Then she thought about it for a while, and gave me some answers, mumbling stuff about raising children, having a job, being the best person that she can be.

I startled her more when I answered my own question, “There is no purpose of life. But if there is no purpose, there has to be meaning.”

My friend, disoriented, asked why that should be. How could I possibly state that? I answered, “Purpose is an externally imposed concept. It tells you what you should be doing, as dictated by other people. It can rarely be achieved because it is not necessarily something that we have agreed to do, or felt moved to fulfil, deeply, from our own truth. And yet we strive to fulfil our purpose. Meaning, on the other hand, derives from our internal response. It comes from inside.”

I suggested that we often overlooked the real meaning of life.

The meaning of life is simply to be happy.

“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” Artistotle said. What he meant was that happiness is derived from our inner being, and is accessed when we are living a life that is true to our own purpose, that we are being true to our own intuitions, our own desires, our own journey. Happiness does not depend on external conditions or things.

“That’s what my husband tells me!” my friend laughed. “When I ask him, what does he want? he says he wants me to be happy!”

We explored that. If my friend were happy, then she would stop leaning on her husband to validate her feelings. It would allow the others in the house to be happy, too. If she pursued her own goals, which were to become a choreographer and to do more photography, then she would no longer rely on her family members to fill the gaps in her life. And she could provide a solid role model of proactiveness for her children. She hadn’t noticed that the more she concentrated on them and moved away from meeting her own needs, the more she was relying on them to supply the substance of her life that she was missing.

If we all seek our own happiness then we free up those around us to be happy, too.

Happiness is love. It is courage in the face of fear. It’s the transmutation of anger into positive action or acceptance. It is freedom from addictions and the cultivation of consciousness. And above all,  it is connection. Happiness is a combination of connection, love, and living within the dictates of our own conscience. And those feelings can only come from the inside.

Many of us know, deep down, that we are living against nature and against our own conscience, and this makes us unhappy. It may be a subconscious unhappiness, but it drives our day-to-day thoughts and actions. It can be this unhappiness that causes symptoms of chronic disease, as our bodies attempt to remove us from the stress we are under. Unhappiness also drives destructive impulses in our bodies. Oh, we do try to get happy, but in trying, we externalise our needs and settle for pleasure, which comes from the outside and is fleeting. Or for selfishness, which makes no-one happy. True happiness stems from our connection to our true selves, to others, and to nature.

Because from childhood we have been taught to disconnect from our inner feelings to fit in with society (how else would we be able to watch the news or eat meat, for example?), by the time we reach adulthood it is possible that we are completely bamboozled, confused, and out of touch with our basic self, whose needs and cries for attention we consistently ignore.

Emotional illness arises from unhappiness. Sometimes, unhappiness is also the cause of physical illness. The unhappiness may have stemmed from trauma, grief, fear or a persistent upsetting situation, for example. During the course of homeopathic treatment, I explore with my patients their illness, and the possible causes of their illness. The causes may be deeply hidden, and we go at the patient’s pace always, so they are able to deal with and resolve their issues more easily.  We address any blocks there may be to getting better, to being happy. The homeopathic remedy stimulates the body to throw off symptoms, whether they be physical, mental or emotional. If you would like to come for treatment, or want more information, please contact me.

In the meantime, here are eleven ideas for creating happiness:

  1. Share your feelings. If you bottle up your feelings they will never be resolved. Talk to your friends, your partner or a family member. They may not understand you or be able to help, but by sharing you are also doing them a service, providing them with an opportunity to understand you better. When you get into the habit of sharing your feelings, the right people will soon come along to assist you. It’s magic.
  2. Do kind things for others. We are hardwired for helping each other. The feeling I get from doing a kind deed blooms up from my belly and spreads all around my body. And as that feeling blossoms, other people notice it and feel happier, too. Happiness is contagious.
  3. Physical exercise. Do some every day, or at least three times a week. Doing exercise improves your confidence, your alertness, your concentration, your health – the list of benefits is long, and the sum total is increased happiness.
  4. Identify your skills, strengths and qualities and use them in your daily tasks. Enjoy the feeling you get when you use them. For example, if you are good at organising, enjoy using this skill to organise a fun event for people. If you are calm, enjoy using your calmness to create a harmonious working or home environment. Identify your strengths and consciously bring them to any situation to improve it – this will bring happiness.
  5. Deepen that feeling, the one you get from using your strengths, and by understanding that when you are working to your strengths in a creative way this improves your life and the lives of those around you (even in the smallest degree). You are now working towards a purpose greater than yourself. This will bring you a very deep sense of fulfilment that a new car or pay rise cannot even touch. By being calm at home, for example, you provide a safe haven for your child to grow, and she in turn will go out in the world with emotional stability.
  6. Learn about yourself.  Why do you react to certain situations the way you do? Do you believe other people make you feel a certain way? If you come to know yourself and understand your emotional triggers, you will become the master of them. The more you know yourself the more you will realise that no-one can make you feel any way at all. You can choose how you feel and respond to external situations. The more you do this, the less able you are to be swayed by them. Inner peace will follow.
  7. Be moderate. For everything we do, there is the reverse, like heads and tails on a coin. The reverse is in direct proportion to the original. For every ecstasy is its agony. For every drinking binge, the hangover; for every rage, the remorse. Balance bolsters happiness.
  8. When you do something, choose to do something you find challenging and absorbing. This could be work, a hobby, anything. You are always doing something, so find joy in every situation. And ultimately choose to spend most of your time doing something that you can happily ensconce yourself in.
  9. Gratitude begets happiness. Develop feelings of gratitude for everything you have, particularly those things which you take for granted. Clean water. Sunlight. A bare foot on the dewy grass. Especially cultivate gratitude for people and events from your past. Regrets are useless. Everything we have done in the past has led us to where we are now. We can learn from our mistakes, and use the clarity we gain to push us out of habitual destructive cycles. Concentrate on what you have and not on what you don’t have. The more we concentrate on what makes us happy, the more we get of it.
  10. Focus on the present moment and gently push away thoughts of the past or future – this is a key force for happiness.
  11. Develop optimism. By reading this blog, you are showing a preparedness to think there might be a great health solution for you. Even if your optimism is very small, internalise it. Nurture that optimism. The happier you are, the more optimistic you will feel, and vice versa. If you are prepared to get happy, this will enable others to follow suit. The connections will strengthen. You are getting healthier already!

With grateful thanks for Elizabeth Courtis RSHom.