The other day, at the meditation retreat, a lady told me that she had almost everything she could ask for and yet she wasn’t happy. She had been battling with a feeling of emptiness for years and had been unable to come out of it. She said that she had tried meditation and all without any significant results.
“There’s a constant void and I’m unable to enjoy my life,” she said. “Everyone in my family is nice and I have no financial issues, but I just feel like I don’t belong here. I don’t know what to do to get over my sadness. I don’t know how to explain it. I’m happy and I’m not happy. Life is a pointless exercise. On most days, I feel negative and down.”
“We naturally crave a dessert when the tummy is full,” I said. “The Human mind has an inherent tendency to ponder over negative thoughts. And, by giving you everything, life has deprived you of the triumphant feeling of defeating your adversities.”
“You mean I’m sad because I don’t have anything to worry about?”
“Not worry,” I replied. “Care. You’ve got nothing to care about. Find a purpose, a cause bigger than yourself so you may have a reason to care, to live and to grow.”
I told her a little story as follows:
A father would return from work and play with his young son every evening. Once, he had an important project document to submit. He knew that he would have to keep his son engaged in some other activity so he could focus on his work. While thinking about a solution, he chanced upon a large ad by an atlas company featuring a world map in the newspaper.
Carefully cutting out the map into tens of pieces of various sizes, he handed it to his son.
“Here’s a jigsaw puzzle of a world map,” he said. “We’ll play together once you solve this one.”
This would surely keep the young one busy for a good few hours, he thought. The child, however, came back a mere thirty minutes later reporting that the puzzle was fully done.
“How come?” the father said. “It’s incredible!”
“It was very easy, dad,” the son replied. “When I started solving the world map, I found it utterly boring. But, then I noticed there was a picture on the backside. I started assembling the picture and the ‘world’ fell into place in minutes.”
Sometimes, that’s all it’s about — the flip side.
We want to put the map of life together. We want to have it figured out, but it’s not a walk in the park. Particularly because there isn’t much to figure out and make sense of, life is a taxing and tedious task. There’s little fun in assembling a world map unless you are passionate about geography or puzzles. To stay motivated, we have to have something we care about.
The moment you find something that inspires you, life immediately changes from a boring map to an exciting picture. Revealing its adventurous and endearing side, it shifts from being a pointless exercise to a worthwhile quest. Martin Luther King put it most insightfully, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
No matter where you are on the journey of life, there’s always room for exploration, for excitement. Don’t try to solve the world map. Instead, piece together the picture of your beautiful life and the rest will fall into place effortlessly. Find something you care about. And, if you don’t have a purpose that moves you, a picture that attracts you that means you are not looking earnestly. No one is born with a purpose, everyone discovers theirs. A life without meaning is a boring life bereft of anything to look up to.
Complaining of a stomachache, a woman goes to a doctor. After some scans and tests, he tells her that she has a terminal condition and has only three months left to live.
“Is there anything I can do, doctor?” she asks deeply worried. “I certainly want to live more than three months.”
“Are you married?”
“Then find a philosopher and marry him.”
“Really?” she exclaims with hope. “Will that help me live longer?”
“Not quite,” the doctor replies, “but it’ll feel much longer.”
The clock of life is ticking at the same speed for everyone. Yet, it strangely gains a different pace for different people. Some of us are watching thrillers, fully engrossed and engaged, enjoying every moment. While some others seem to be listening to the weather forecast — flat and dreary, it can only get so exciting. What channel you tune into is a choice entirely in your hands. It’s all there, you just have to push the right buttons.
If you have been waiting patiently and life hasn’t given you an opportunity yet then go grab one. Opportunities don’t really knock, they are created. As Buddha once said, “Your purpose in life is to find your purpose and give your whole heart and soul to it.” The pieces of the puzzle arrange themselves then. You are able to watch every moment of life unfold before you in the utmost beauty. Every tick of the clock lifts you then.
As you commit yourself to a life of purpose and happiness, your fears go away because nature catapults you into a much bigger playing-field. What you gain is a million times more than what you may ever lose. Anything that could possibly disappear from your life is not worth any more than pocket change for a billionaire. That’s what purpose does. Puzzles become pictures.
Splash the painting of your life with beautiful colors. Don’t leave the canvas blank. Like I said earlier, it’s all there. See it, savor it.