“This is my philosophy and has always been my perspective on life since I was a child…that life is a painful, nightmarish, meaningless experience and the only way to be happy is to tell yourself lies.” Woody Allen
Woody Allen can always make me laugh; his irreverence and apparent neurosis touches a cord every time yet I realize the perspective suggested in the above quote represents an absolute polarity to my own philosophy. I am a meaning junkie. I look for meaning in the day to day unfolding of my life; every synchronicity and serendipity represents a trail of breadcrumbs that when followed leads to a potentially valuable insight. I know I am not alone; many spiritual teachers aspire to similar ideas yet they are hardly common in the conventional paradigm in which we live.
What interests me is our role in co-creating meaning in our lives. Does my life have meaning because I believe it does? Is Woody Allen’s life devoid of meaning because he thinks it is absent? Finding significance in what others may see as random incidents, contributes enormously to my life’s journey and slowly but surely creates a foundation of faith. It also helps to reduce what may otherwise be painful or miserable into something that provokes curiosity. For example breaking down in Sault Saint Marie due to a boiling battery extends into an investigation of “suppose the vehicle is a metaphysical extension of my life, what is it trying to tell me?” Suddenly instead of fretting about the situation I begin to see a mystery to be explored. Following this trail led me irrevocably to a major shift that forever changed my life and started the chain of events that led to my becoming a spiritual coach.
In a recent support group that I facilitate, there was a suggestion by one attendee that when he needed help then something would cross his path like the relevant book or appropriate quote. There is a Buddhist proverb “when the student is ready, the teacher appears” that has been the story of my life. The teacher may be a person, an event, a synchronicity or other serendipity that could be missed if I was not paying attention. It seems that setting intention in one’s life to find meaning accompanied by paying attention to unfolding events invariably results in both a sense of meaning and guidance emerging.
Most recently a teacher that emerged for me was James Hollis, Jungian analyst, psychologist and eminent author. I encountered him through a book that called to me from the bargain display at my local spiritual bookstore. It was titled Why do Good People Do Bad Things and drew me in like a powerful magnet. We obviously share a similar worldview and his focus in finding meaning in one’s life parallels mine. He has an honesty that shines through his writing, never promising quick fixes but suggesting that our lives will become more interesting. I just read his reflection on therapy that has the crystal ring of integrity, “Therapy will not heal you, make your problems go away or make your life work out. It will quite simply make your life more interesting…. consciousness is the gift and that is the best it gets”. Finding your personal authenticity or telling yourself lies, I guess we each have to make the choice.