“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” — Rumi
What is it all about?
by John Earle
In 1966 Michale Caine starred in the movie Alfie, a story about a cockney womanizer; a typical, unconscious, playboy type, living from woman to woman. His life gets complicated by his unconscious choices and, after a string of setbacks, he asks the question, “What’s it all about? You know what I mean?” It took him a while to ask. That it did so is not unusual, however.
|What is it all about? Alfie, frustrated and tired of the game, dissatisfied when his shallow existence becomes suddenly exposed, finally asks the quintessential, existential question, “What is the meaning of life?” The mythologist, Joseph Campbell once said that people think they are seeking “meaning” in life but what they really want is “aliveness.” Ummmm, what’s that all about? I’ll get to it in a minute.
While we are buzzing about, working, perhaps raising a family, paying insurance, going shopping, and doing the thousand things that we seem to need to do, and the many others that we have made more important than perhaps they really are, we may forget this question. But in the quiet of the night, or in some other unanticipated, vacant interstice in our lives, this question can unexpectedly rear its head. When it does, it can be disquieting and strangely disturbing with its rapid appearance, like suddenly finding ones’ self standing on the edge of a freshly dug grave. It can also happen that the question appears when we are feeling very melancholic and depressed, like Alfie. “There has to be some reason for my life,” we think, “for this whole show! What can it be?”
Eckhart Tolle suggests the ego has persuaded us that the meaning of life is to be found in all the things and situations through which the ego is seeking to identity itself. Thus, if we have more we will be more.
So we buy stuff, and we identify ourselves with our job, our car, our family and social position and so forth, and we struggle to be great achievers. We become attached to these things because the ego needs them to define itself. Since we are unaware of any part of us that is not the ego, we allow it to define who we are, or who it is. Everything is impermanent, so we need to constantly refresh the objects through which we identify ourselves. This suggests that this is why we created a consumer society, to satisfy the ego’s need for constant identity through things.
Unfortunately, as the the Buddha made very clear (and it should be obvious to the thinking person), due to the impermanence of everything, attachment is the cause of suffering. We find, that the consumer religion’s promise of a happy life, if you just buy stuff, doesn’t work any better than the ego’s relentless drive for identity in other areas, it’s attachment to beliefs and ideas, to judgment and blame , to opinion and certainties. Our dissatisfaction is eternal since we can never satisfy the ego’s need for new, impermanent things with which to create and refine its identity. The question “what’s it all about?” reflects the frustration we feel as we chase the illusion that temporary things and situations can fulfill us, and we discover, like Alfie, that they are not doing the job but just creating more need and frustration.
Here is a thought. What if we already possess our purpose and meaning before we develop our ego and before it tries to create these things? What if we are not just looking for the wrong thing, as Campbell suggests, but are also looking from the wrong place? Confusing? Not really. Both are true.
Three great Rumi lines beckon us toward the truth. It is the ego that tells us we are not whole, that there must be something more, some purpose out there. The lack of wholeness turns out to be our ego seeking identity. To know this is true we need only ask “who is asking the question?” It can only be the ego because what Rumi called our “clear consciousness core” is not concerned with this question. It knows its own eternity. It doesn’t need identity with “other” to define itself. But how do we find this “clear consciousness core?” Good news. No need to look for it. It is already on board. Rumi described it as “inside your looking.” It is your non-judging awareness, the witness, your conscious self. You can access it at any present moment. And, when you experience it, you will understand why Rumi also said, “There is more to want here than money or fame or bites of roasted meat,” summing up our culture (and those before us) in one neat little sentence.
When we practice awareness, we are able to see the ego’s dance clearly. When we make the choice to stay in awareness, rather than get lost in the ego’s stories, we simultaneously diminish the power of the ego over us. When we let go of the ego in this manner, there is, automatically, more wholeness, more completeness. We act from “the clear consciousness core of our being.” And, living from this place, being a conscious being is why we are here!
Of course, this is the opposite of what the ego and the egotistical and egocentric world would have us believe. There will always be plenty of second force trying to drag us back to the land of ego.
We are required to access our courage. There is a great reward. With our choice of awareness we are able to change our automatic, mindless and heartless, egocentric reactions into considered and loving response. We are able to let go of the tyrant piece by piece by fully understanding how it causes us (and everyone else) so much suffering. Each time we choose love, we let go of the ego’s reliance on the tools of separation: fear, judgment, and blame. The space these unskillful ego tools occupied is replaced by love and compassion, and it feels good. That wonderful aliveness, that Campbell speaks of, becomes our reality. As he wisely understood, what we have actually been seeking all along is this aliveness, but we have been unable to fully experience it with the ego distracting us with its programs.
If there is any meaning to life, it is realizing who you already are, a consciousness that fulfills its purpose by seeking and giving love. Our quest for this realization is cleverly diverted by the ego. The good news is that we need not seek the meaning of life, only unveil it. Then the aliveness we deeply desire as living beings emerges brightly.
This is why I call letting go of the ego “the magnificent gesture.” The great beauty of making this choice it is that you, your family, your friends and every person you meet, benefit greatly.
Copyright 2012 by John Earle
Presented with author’s permission
Article Source: http://wakinguponline.com/whats-it-all-about
About the Author
John Earle is a spiritual teacher and counselor specializing in relationship and interpersonal communication. His clients include individuals, couples and institutions. He has produced and led numerous workshops and retreats. His personal experience of a great variety of teachers has given him a broad and inclusive spiritual perspective. A Hospice volunteer for over 30 years, he and his wife Babbie recently started a hospice in Central America.
“Waking Up” – a book by John Earle
Your Life Is Your Perfect Teacher
Our personal stories contain the exact lessons we need to grow personally and spiritually, but we need to know how to interpret these stories and use them for dynamic personal and spiritual growth. This book is a wonderful guide to understanding the challenging places in our life and letting them teach us what it is that we truly need to become whole. Using the four strategies outlined, we learn to create more harmony and joy in our life and the lives of those around us. We free ourselves from self imposed blocks to love for our self and others. We liberate ourselves from the tyranny of blame and judgment so that we can we experience the deep beauty of true compassion.
This is a book about applied spirituality. It is not about theories. It outlines a practical spiritual path each of us can take whether we are religious or not, for our own benefit and the benefit of every person we encounter. Rather than seeking attention or approval, Waking Up encourages us to engage in “love as a subversive activity. ” As the testimonials say, “this book can change your life.”
You will discover:
- How to develop a powerful awareness that can open up a new world of understanding and opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.
- Why taking personal responsibility is an essential ingredient for creating lasting and deep psycho-spiritual changes and how to make this act an operating principal in your life.
- How to use fear as an ally in order to make important realizations about yourself.
- How to identify and dissolve what is blocking your emotional, psychological and spiritual progress.How to develop the dynamic and responsive inner world that is essential for creating the changes you desire in your outer world.
- How to discern if a teacher or teaching is right for you.
- The relationship between personal responsibility and personal power.
- How to speak the truth without fear.
- How to follow the heart and develop the trust that makes this possible.
- Practical spiritual actions you can take everyday without supervision or approbation. Creating your own unique spiritual work in the world.
PS Popular views on the “meaning of life” question
“What is the meaning of life?” is a question many people ask themselves at some point during their lives, most in the context “What is the purpose of life?”. Some popular answers include:
To realize one’s potential and ideals
- To chase dreams.
- To live one’s dreams.
- To spend it for something that will outlast it.
- To matter: to count, to stand for something, to have made some difference that you lived at all.
- To expand one’s potential in life.
- To become the person you’ve always wanted to be.
- To become the best version of yourself.
- To seek happiness and flourish.
- To be a true authentic human being.
- To be able to put the whole of oneself into one’s feelings, one’s work, one’s beliefs.
- To follow or submit to our destiny.
- To achieve eudaimonia, a flourishing of human spirit.
To achieve biological perfection
- To survive, that is, to live as long as possible, including pursuit of immortality (through scientific means).
- To live forever or die trying.
- To evolve.
- To replicate, to reproduce. “The ‘dream’ of every cell is to become two cells.”
To seek wisdom and knowledge
- To expand one’s perception of the world.
- To follow the clues and walk out the exit.
- To learn as many things as possible in life.
- To know as much as possible about as many things as possible.
- To seek wisdom and knowledge and to tame the mind, as to avoid suffering caused by ignorance and find happiness.
- To face our fears and accept the lessons life offers us.
- To find the meaning or purpose of life.
- To find a reason to live.
- To resolve the imbalance of the mind by understanding the nature of reality.
To do good, to do the right thing
- To leave the world as a better place than you found it.
- To do your best to leave every situation better than you found it.
- To benefit others.
- To give more than you take.
- To end suffering.
- To create equality.
- To challenge oppression.
- To distribute wealth.
- To be generous.
- To contribute to the well-being and spirit of others.
- To help others, to help one another.
- To take every chance to help another while on your journey here.
- To be creative and innovative.
- To forgive.
- To accept and forgive human flaws.
- To be emotionally sincere.
- To be responsible.
- To be honorable.
- To seek peace.
Meanings relating to religion
- To reach the highest heaven and be at the heart of the Divine.
- To have a pure soul and experience God.
- To understand the mystery of God.
- To know or attain union with God.
- To know oneself, know others, and know the will of heaven.
- To love something bigger, greater, and beyond ourselves, something we did not create or have the power to create, something intangible and made holy by our very belief in it.
- To love God and all of his creations.
- To glorify God by enjoying him forever.
- To go and make new disciples of Jesus Christ.
- To act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.
- To be fruitful and multiply. (Genesis 1:28)
- To obtain freedom (Romans 8:20-21)
- To fill the Earth and subdue it. (Genesis 1:28)
To love, to feel, to enjoy the act of living
- To love more.
- To love those who mean the most. Every life you touch will touch you back.
- To treasure every enjoyable sensation one has.
- To seek beauty in all its forms.
- To have fun or enjoy life.
- To seek pleasure and avoid pain.
- To be compassionate.
- To be moved by the tears and pain of others, and try to help them out of love and compassion.
- To love others as best we possibly can.
To seek pleasure
- To eat, drink, and be merry.
To have power, to be better
- To strive for power and superiority.
- To rule the world.
- To know and master the world.
- To know and master nature.
Life has no meaning
- Life or human existence has no real meaning or purpose because human existence occurred out of a random chance in nature, and anything that exists by chance has no intended purpose.
- Life has no meaning, but as humans we try to associate a meaning or purpose so we can justify our existence.
- There is no point in life, and that is exactly what makes it so special.
- 42 (a reference to The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy)
One should not seek to know and understand the meaning of life
- The answer to the meaning of life is too profound to be known and understood.
- You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.
- The meaning of life is to forget about the search for the meaning of life.
Life is bad
- Life is a bitch, and then you die.
- Better never to have been.