A recovering alcoholic told me, “It’s very comforting and very empowering, and it makes you feel very safe . . . It’s a knowing that you are a part of something far more wonderful, far more mysterious.” One woman who was seriously injured — and almost died — in the 2005 terrorist attack in London said, “From the moment I was given the option of choosing life, I made a vow: that if I survived, I would live a full life, a good and rich life. I vowed that I would never take anything — all that I have — for granted again. I would never forget how precious every single day is.”
Another person who almost died through drowning described how he now had “a great sense of appreciation for the little things — not just the spectacular beauty of a flowering tree, but the beauty of even the most insignificant objects, even inanimate objects.”
One person addressed the topic of meaning specifically, describing how “my goals changed from wanting to have as much money as possible to wishing to be the best person possible, and to have as large of a helpful impact on the world as I can do. Before, I would say, I didn’t really have any sense of a meaning of life. However, after, I feel the meaning of life is to learn, grow, and experience.”
It’s important to point out that none of these people were (or became) religious. This wasn’t the kind of “born-again” experience that some Christians talk about, although many people did feel as if they had a new kind of identity, even to the point of feeling like they were, as one person put it, a different person living in the same body. It’s also important to point out that the change wasn’t just temporary. In most cases, it remained stable over many years.
Overall, I think the transformation can be described in terms of finding new meaning in life.
Experiencing Meaning In Other Situations
Fortunately, we don’t just have to go through intense suffering to experience these effects. There are also certain temporary states of being when we can sense meaning. Usually this is when our minds are fairly quiet, and we feel at ease with ourselves — for example, when we’re walking in the countryside, swimming in the ocean, or after we’ve meditated or done yoga, or after sex.
There is a sense of “rightness” about things. We can look above us at the sky and sense something benevolent in it, a harmonious atmosphere. We can sense a kind of radiance filling the landscape around us, emanating from the trees and fields. We can sense it flowing between us and other people — as a radiant connectedness, a sense of warmth and love. We feel glad to be alive and feel a wide-ranging sense of appreciation and gratitude.
In other words, we find the meaning of life when we “wake up” and experience life and the world more fully. In these terms, the sense that life is meaningless is a kind of distorted, limited view that comes when we are slightly “asleep.” In our highest and clearest states of being, we perceive a meaning that we sense is always there — and that somehow we previously missed. When our awareness intensifies, and our senses open up, there’s a sense of returning home, back to meaning.
In one sentence, the meaning of life is life itself, and everything that constitutes life.
Read more: 4 Ways to Find The Purpose Of Your
The simple meaning of life is to actively appreciate and live every minute of your existence. Don’t spend time trying to figure out what it all means; instead, concentrate on the present!
Written by: Steve Taylor Ph.D.
Originally appeared on: Psychology Today
Republished with permission