Wednesday, April 6, 2011

It's a Shame

Yesterday, I met an 84 year old man. A real gentleman with an impeccable sense of style, and a twinkle in his eyes. He and I talked about his life now, and his life before when he could live an independent life. Billy used to be an artist, and a real good one. Now he spends most of his days sitting in the front lobby of the institution where he lives, or lying down on his bed, trying to sleep away his boredom. Towards the end of our conversation, Billy goes deep into the truth of his current existence:

"It's a shame that I don't get to do much anymore. I want to feel useful.  I'd like to contribute something and not just exist. That seems like such a waste of life."

Yes, we all want to feel useful.  Doing what I do, serving others, writing on this blog, engaging in mindfulness practice, are all meaningful activities that give me a sense of purpose. Without those, I would be reduced to non existence. For those like Billy who are living with crippling forgetfulness, the ability to lead a purposeful life depends on the assistance from others. It requires digging into the person's past and a careful observation of his response to current situations to find out with that person the specific activities that will enhance his life. For Billy, we determined that playing around with clay and making sculptures is still of interest to him. He wants to give it a try.

What gives meaning to your life?

13 comments:

  1. I think death is what gives meaning to life.

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  2. Helping, or at least trying to, and not to get hung up on whether it's a big help or a little help.

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  3. 'Sense of purpose' is delusion, one has to learn to make sense of nothing. To learn not to go mad when there is nothing to do, not to lose our way when we have no thing, when we close are eyes.

    To be on our own, without gender, work, or religion. To be silent, and profound, without matter...

    lv

    selfing has to stop completely

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  4. There was a time when I would have said purpose, or progress, or evolution. And I suppose that is still true for my intellect. But for me, the pursuit of something more is empty on its own.

    A great yogi once said that joy is not being in the bath... joy is wiggling around enough so that we are mindful of the warm water.

    On a soulful level, I guess that is what gives my life meaning. Wiggling around enough that I can experience fully.

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  5. The doing has to stop, just be present and watch the unfolding of nature. Dean has nice post about the arriving mind which is where he thinks he is going when doing things. http://www.themindfulmoment.com/2010/11/there-is-no-arriving.html

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  6. Was Once, not sure the doing has to stop, but it for sure has to be mindful doing. One still needs to feed oneself, and drink, and for most of us, go to work. So there is doing involved just in surviving. The main thing is to not fall into the suffering of clinging to any one thing. You know that of course! :)

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  7. Jodi, I am with you in that for me the practice is the bedrock of this life as unfolding moment to moment before me. The single most important thing . . . Now, for those with extreme forgetfulness the capacity to be aware comes under siege as the mind starts functioning differently. Olivia Ames Hoblitzelle talks beautifully about her husband, Hob's descent into forgetfulness and the joys and the sorrows that came along that ride.

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  8. Pooja, I think we are talking about two different realities here: absolute and relative. From a relative standpoint, one needs a sense of purpose. Even meditating is imbued with that. I meditate because I want to rid myself of suffering, and the habitual inclination to cling. The Buddha was very purposeful in his quest for enlightenment! Energy and determination are two of the paramis that go with purposefulness. In absolute, yes, nothing to be clung to, including the idea of needing a purpose. Simply being with what is, whatever that is, even if just sitting all day in an institution's lobby should be enough. Very few are far along in their practice to get to that point . . . I am certainly not there!

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  9. David, I rather like the word 'serve' as opposed to 'help'. And yes, I agree with you, not having any expectations regarding the outcomes of our service. That is key!

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  10. David, for me, serving the dying has certainly been a source of greater knowing regarding how to life this life.

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  11. Such a difficult thing to observe. Isn't it the way to feel more alive? Maybe it's not one thing, but a balance, a synchronicity between our action of the moment and a deep urge within - when we can hear it.

    "I rather like the word 'serve' as opposed to 'help'"... thanks, beautiful, this was helpful! :-)

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  12. non-doing is not literal. One is very agile, when there is less hindrance of selfing. Just not judging, doing!

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  13. Yes, and one can find meaning as well in that process. The search for meaning is not synonymous with selfing. Meaning can be created constantly moment to moment.

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