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When you think of leading a meaningful life, you might think about charity work, mindful meditation, and various other things which seem somehow quite detached from our day to day lives.
However, living a meaningful life – however you understand it – should by no means be the kind of thing that you relegate to a few hours, one day per week. Instead, it can be something that factors into how you live each and every day, and a mindset that contributes dramatically to the overall quality of your life.
Keep in mind, too, that you can easily benefit from attempts to lead a more meaningful life, without having any particular metaphysical, or religious beliefs. You could just as easily take the term as a metaphor for your emotional well-being.
So, without further ado, here are several ways to cultivate a more meaningful life –
Find the time and space for real, genuine solitude
Author Cal Newport, writing in his recent book Digital Minimalism, notes that throughout history, many of the most productive, insightful, and successful people , viewed solitude as an essential part of the equation for their success.
“Solitude” here doesn’t refer to just “being alone,” or having no one else around you. In fact, that’s not even an essential part of this definition. “Solitude,” as Newport refers to it, is the ability to be left alone with our own thoughts, without being subject to external distractions.
He explains how holy figures in all major (and minor) religions have emphasized the importance of getting away from it all, and retreating into quiet contemplation every once in a while. (See also: my posts on this book!)
In a time when we are surrounded by the never-ending flow of information provided by the digital landscape, it is perhaps more important than ever to make time for this type of “solitude.”
When we do so, we gift ourselves the opportunity to reflect on our own thoughts and experiences, resolve any issues which might be on our minds, and get in touch with our emotions.
If you are constantly surrounded by external sources of information – like social media feeds, the 24-hr news cycle, billboards, TV ads, and dozens of people making demands on your attention – your personal well-being might be served extremely well by simply getting away from it all for a while.
This doesn’t require any major life shift – generally speaking. Simply going for regular walks, without your phone in your pocket, might do the trick.
Listen to your soul – and pay attention to what it has to tell you
The psychologist Carl Jung believed that to fail to listen to our souls, and heed the messages contained therein, was a fast track to a stagnant and unfulfilling life. Maybe even to an early grave.
Jung’s idea was that we should always be attentive to our inner emotions, impulses, and beliefs – and look for the lessons those parts of ourselves are trying to impart.
Jung did not, however, claim that we should always act on our emotional impulses. But, how many people go through their lives with the perpetual sense that something is wrong, and never take steps to investigate or correct that?
Listen to your soul – pay attention to what it has to say – and make sure that you are not silencing important messages from within.
Declutter your environment
There’s something to be learned from the explosion in popularity of the recent “minimalism” phenomenon. As of this writing, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo is one of the most popular shows streaming on Netflix.
Just a few years before this, the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things, also took much of the world by storm.
For one reason or another, many of us are more or less obsessed by the idea of decluttering our homes, and regaining a sense of simplicity in our personal domains.
It’s not too hard to see why this would take off as a trend, either. When we have “de-cluttered” environments, we are better able to appreciate the belongings we do possess, are less likely to find our attention, and sense of well-being, jarred by the ever-present piles of mess, clutter, and half-forgotten belongings, and may feel significantly better off as a result.
Decluttering your home may seem like the ultimate “physical” act. It’s something that – for all intents and purposes – takes place entirely in the material world. This means that it does not necessarily jive with our preconceived notions about living mindfully and meaningfully.
Don’t be fooled, though. Reducing the clutter in our physical environments, and tidying things up, can have a profound impact on our emotional well-being.
Investigate “energy manipulation” techniques
Since ancient times, people around the world have developed and engaged in practices and exercises designed to help “balance”, or “manipulate” their internal energies.
Think, for example, of yogis balancing their chakras, or practitioners of Reiki, “directing energy” into other people, as a means of healing them.
Now, whether or not you believe that subtle energies are being transmitted from one body to another – there is nonetheless ample evidence that engaging in these “energy manipulation” techniques can go a long way in terms of boosting people’s sense of balance, harmony, and spiritual well-being. (See also: this post about crystals!)
In fact, this may not even just be the case for human beings. Various practices of energy healing for animals exist, and – according to those who practice them – are often remarkably effective.
So, whether or not you take the idea of energy manipulation techniques literally, you might find that signing up for that local Reiki class can have a significant, and powerful impact on your overall well-being. And, it may help you to develop and refine your sense of being in touch with yourself, and cultivating a sense of meaning, too.
Identify your “bliss” – and follow it
The famous professor of myth, Joseph Campbell, once said that people should “follow their bliss.” The exact meaning of this saying may be subject to some interpretation – but it clearly serves as a call to do things that we find fulfilling, life-affirming, and significant.
People who quit dead-end jobs that have been weighing them down for years, in order to embark upon new careers that seem altogether more meaningful, often report feeling reborn.
It’s not at all uncommon, for people to feel they have discovered new depths of energy, enthusiasm, and vitality, when making such a change – often to the extent that they are absolutely amazed that such a thing was even possible.
“Following your bliss” – in the sense of doing things with your life and time that you find meaningful – is not just a great way of improving your overall quality of life. It is, more or less, a high spiritual art. It is the kind of thing that naturally possesses an aura of almost supernatural value and significance.
If you find that your day job is a major source of pain, irritation, and drain on your psychological well-being, you should take it as a challenge to find a way of doing something more meaningful with your time. Where else can you carve out meaning in your life? After all a 9-5 job is just 8 hours. What will you do with the other 16? Use them to “follow your bliss.”
How do you cultivate a meaningful life?