Friday, February 20, 2015

Man’s Search for Meaning: Being on Purpose

Man’s Search for Meaning: Being on Purpose
The Yoga Bag
Catherine Cook-Cottone


Viktor Frankl was inspired to write Man’s Search for Meaning after internment and substantial, inconceivable loss in Nazi Germany. What he explained remains true today. We, us humans, are driven- by our nature- to find meaning. 

How do we know this? There is evidence everywhere. We were and are driven to create and use language. We are the only species to manifest and appreciate art. We are compelled to write and read poetry, novels, and blogs. We say things like, “That is not what I mean!” and feel very passionate about it. We are in our essence containers of meaning. Our sheer presence is a holder in space of everything that has happened to us, as well as everything that will happen to us. We are meaning makers, truth tellers, and holders of the story. 

I tell this to my yoga classes all of the time: 

“You were born with three things-
 (1) YOUR BODY (the physical thinking and feeling self), 
 (2) YOUR SOUL (the spiritual and essential self), and 
 (3) YOUR DHARMA (the reason the physical and essential come together).”

So, DHARMA is your reason for being- your- ON PURPOSE- in your life. It is as much part of you as your body. You can’t ignore it. You need it like breath. 

Consider this- no matter what- humans seek meaning. 

Consider this- if you do not cultivate positive meaning in your life- there is an empty spot.

Consider this- if you don't fill this spot- it will be filled for you. 

So what happens? What risk is created when you don’t seek out your dharma on purpose? A few things can happen, for example:

You can languish. Positive psychology people describe languishing as the place that you hold when you are not necessarily sick and not necessarily thriving. You just are. It’s not good or bad. You just are. 

You can get sick. This might show up as risk for depression, anxiety, addiction, eating disorder, dysfunctional relationships, school failure, etc.. 

And there is this….. You can find illusionary meaning in hatred. I am going to talk about this one for a bit.

Hate, for me (and informed “people” like Webster), can be shown by this math:  

judgment + deep anger + hostility = hatred

I am not talking about passion for community change that is inspired by the witnessing of something that is not okay. I applaud this type of passion. No, I am talking about HATRED. It is out there and it is important to be able to see it and know it for what it is. You can see hatred on television, on your computer, and in the verbal narratives of people that you encounter. When someone is caught up in hatred, you will notice that they hold this as very meaningful.  

And I ask, is it? Is it meaningful? Or does it give us the illusion that we have found meaning in our lives?” Why would Viktor Frankl come out of the hell of Nazi Germany and write Man’s Search for Meaning? I argue that what he found in himself  (i.e., meaning from a place of love) was the anecdote to what was missing in his context.

When we long for meaning, are afraid, feel lost, and we forget to (a) consult with our soul or (b) cultivate the necessary meaning in our lives from a place of love- we are at risk for getting passionate about fear and judgment. We are at risk for getting passionate about hate. It feels good and solid to land there. And some of us, well, we get stuck there. 

If you have been alive for any amount of time, you know that some aspects of life are hard. There are moments and events that can be down right terrifying.  Sometimes life can be so difficult, in fact, that we cannot breathe. In these times of challenge and stress, the truth is that anger is much more palatable than fear, judgment feels meaningful, and-- AHHHHH there it is- I hate this, that, you, and/or them. I have good reason (please refer back to my judgment). Now, I can talk about it. Post about it. Maybe even be in action about it. 

When humans don’t have an ON PURPOSE SENSE OF MEANING that comes from a place of LOVE- we are at high risk for thinking that hate and judgment are meaningful and actionable. We are at high risk for creating us and them and/or blame dialogues. We are at high risk for fighting for our group and fearing your group. We are at risk for hate. 

I have been working in private practice, researching at the university, and teaching yoga for a long time now. I can say from deep felt experience, lots of reading, and working with many people (including myself) that hatred and judgment have never cured or helped anything. I can also say that love and acceptance have helped many. People that come from a place of love in their dharma are healthier and happier- they thrive. More than that, they make a difference. When you live from love and purpose, you win and we all win. 

So- you need meaning. Why? Because you are human. And- if you don’t cultivate it on your own- ON PURPOSE- from a place of LOVE- you are increasing your risk for languishing, some types of mental illness, and the illusion that judgment and hatred are meaningful. 

So CHOOSE- and I hope you choose love. Better- I hope you choose to live ON PURPOSE from a place of LOVE. Not only will do you do better and feel better, you will inspire others. You will make a difference. That is a journey that will bring you health, happiness, and fruits beyond measure. On your way, please come find me. I am walking that way too. 

Catherine Cook-Cottone
The Yoga Bag

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