I read this post today on the New Lion’s Roar website, providing Buddhist Wisdom for Our Times. I wanted to share the link because I feel it will be helpful for those who are having a difficult time. An ancient set of Buddhist slogans offers us six powerful techniques to transform life’s difficulties into awakening and benefit. Zen teacher Norman Fischer guides us through them.
I am creating a course around Meaning Making or Meaning/Purpose Unfolding. There are those who say that a lack of meaning is a crisis of our current times. I would like to develop a catchy title, something like:
Meaning in Uncertain Times
The person who develops the best title will get a free copy of my ebook: How to Reduce Stress. I have until Saturday 16th to finalise my title.
I would really appreciate the input of my wordpress reading community. Take a look at the tags to get some ideas.
Also see my post Provocation to Meaning
Thanks so much in advance.
You can choose any person from history to teach you any topic you want. Who’s your teacher, and what do they teach you?
I would like to have sat at the feet of the Buddha to hear the early teachings.
“The kind of seed sown
will produce that kind of fruit.
Those who do good will reap good results.
Those who do evil will reap evil results.
If you carefully plant a good seed,
You will joyfully gather good fruit.”
This is because of the profound effect these teachings have had on me. The Buddha taught the Four Noble Truths & the Eightfold Path:
Buddha delivered his first teaching. It is called “Turning the Wheel of the Dharma” and “Dharma” is the truth he discovered. He began to tell the five monks that they must know that there are Four Noble Truths from Buddha Mind Info:
1. Noble Truth of Suffering
“Chasing after the delights of the world, expecting them to bring lasting pleasure, always leads to disappointment. These things are all subject to the miseries of birth, old age, sickness and death. Even when you do find something pleasant how soon do you grow tired of it? None of these ‘things’ offer any real satisfaction or peace.
2 Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering
Not being able to be content with what we have or who we are, our mind is filled with a greed or desire and suffering of all types automatically follows. This attitude of selfishness and greediness is the cause of our dissatisfaction, robbing us of our peace of mind.
3. Noble Truth of the End of Suffering
Seeing the suffering that comes from these attitudes we are liberated from our heart and all our suffering and dissatisfaction will come to an end. We shall experience a happiness that is far greater then our ordinary pleasures and a peace that is beyond words.
4. Noble Truth of the Middle Path or the Nobel Eightfold Path
This path leads to the end of all suffering. If we avoid harming all other living beings, if we sharpen and focus our mind, and if we gain wisdom, each of us can reach perfect happiness, the end of all misery. The way to end suffering is to follow the Noble Eightfold Path namely:
For me, to receive these teachings and others directly from the Buddha, would be the ultimate teachings. From these teachings I find my purpose and my meaning.
Image courtesy Carol Knox.
For free teachings see the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive
As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? How close or far are you from that vision?
I am reading R. D. Laing: The Divided Self as a teen and I am entranced by the possibility of an Anti-Psychiatry movement. I see how an insane society bends and constrains us, the population, within Western Culture, to fit a consumerist and psychological norm, which is so far from what could really be called “sane” that we are profoundly maladjusted and in fact insane.
Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
In The Sane Society the Pathology of Normalcy is mentioned by Erick Fromm, he writes:
“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a folie à deux (a madness shared by two) there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.” (p14)
Did I become a Psychologist? I wanted so to help those experiencing profound life crises. No, for various reasons, more’s the pity. However, I have found Logotherapy and see myself as a Logotherapist in the future, amongst other things.
My new vision is of myself giving therapy from my home, surrounded by roses and herb gardens, having become a writer and continuing my online and mindfulness training and teaching. The focus of Logotherapy is on meaning, rather than adjustment. This is my path to my own meaning, into the future.
According to Viktor Frankl, meaning can be found through, (presuppose the spark for life meaning, to make man capable of what they can become, elicit/make a person become what he in principle is capable of becoming), found in Psychology Today:
- Creativity or giving something to the world through self- expression,
- Experiencing the world by interacting authentically with our environment and with others, and
- Changing our attitude when we are faced with a situation or circumstance that we cannot change.
Header Image purchased at Creative Market – Huge Nature Photo Set. One license only. View cool stuff to purchase.
Will to meaning refers to the basic striving of human beings to find and fulfill meaning and to create purpose in their lives. People reach out to find meaning which they can fulfill. Meaning is in a very real sense the unique demands made on us in the particular situations we find ourselves in throughout the course of our lives. It has a moral quality which requires a responsible response in a way that makes each individual personally accountable to answer these demands in a way that is “right”. Frankl was clear that: “It is the task of conscience to disclose to man the unum necesse, the one thing that is required” (Frankl, 1977:34). Meaning is always discovered and not invented. “Conscience” is the “wisdom of the heart”, (Frankl, 1977: 39).
According to Frankl meaning can be found in three broad ways: 1. Experiential values – experiencing something or someone we value, which might be akin to Maslow’s peak experiences which have a transcendent quality. 2. Creative values – doing deeds, becoming involved in projects, or being deeply involved in one’s own life. 3. Attitudinal values – these include values such as: compassion, bravery, and humour. The most significant here though, is the achievement of meaning through suffering. To choose how to bear one’s suffering for Frankl, was the last inner freedom which could not be taken away.
Frankl, V. (1977). The Unconscious God: Psychotherapy and Theology. London: Hodder & Stoughtan.
What have I learnt from the painful experience of giving up the custody of my daughter?
For me the biggest lesson was to come to a place of acceptance. Sacrifice has a purpose and is never meaningless. The power of accepting circumstances that are created outside of one’s control is liberating.
Has it given me new tasks and challenges?
The tasks have been focused on healing. It is important for me to talk about these issues. It has taken a lot of talking to get to a place of greater equanimity, but it is in this talking that one heals. I feel that things should be spoken and should not remain hidden. In this way one can look at things in the light of the spoken word.
Has it made me a stronger more perceptive person?
Yes, I would say definitely. It has also made me aware that one has to be careful about the choices that one makes and what one brings into one’s life. This also applies to who one brings into one’s life. This makes me a much more cautious person.
Can I use this experience to help others?
Yes, I think I can. I think it can translate to any loss. When I had a Reiki practice interestingly enough, people used to ask for help with grief and to help them go forward with their lives out of bad or difficult situations. I had instances where people were able to make big changes in their lives after receiving Reiki. I think in many ways, coming to a place of acceptance is a key to seeing new possibilities for going forward.
Can the way I endure my situation serve as an example to others?
This question is difficult to answer. I find it hard to hold my behaviour up as an example for others. I am a flawed human being just like anyone else who is trying to do the right thing in life. I make mistakes. Our Gashela has said, “still you must try.” So all I can say is, I just try.
Does this experience make me appreciate things I have taken for granted?
I think we need to be constantly aware of the things that are important and meaningful. We should not need to have a crisis or sorrow to think about what is real and important. We need to have an attitude of appreciation and realise that life is precious and temporary.
What choices do I still have?
I think in the living of life there are daily, even moment-by-moment choices. So to say, what choices I still have would be difficult. What I can say is that I need to continue to make careful choices and to do that in the now while looking to the future. By being future directed, I am in a sense creating my future. I try to remain in a spirit of hopefulness. Yes, some days are easier than others but the words of my Geshela come to mind: “Still, you must try”. Day by day moment by moment to be here now looking towards what can still be. Viktor Frankl in his darkest moments, used to think about what he could still achieve. The warm lecture theater of the future, where he visualised himself speaking.
Provocation to Meaning, (inspired by Langle and Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning)
This formed part of a portfolio for a course on Logotherapy. For Frankl, meaning has an element of a unique demand that is made on us by the situations we find ourselves in over the course of a lifetime. So this kind of turns the idea of “meaning” into something a little different to our usual ideas. It is something with which we enter into a dialogue, in the words of Langle (2003): “the capacity for dialogue is a characteristic of being a person (i.e., a being with mind and spirit and a potential for decision making.” Since we are beings who are dialogical we look for something or someone who “speaks” to us, calls us, needs us, talks to us, looks for us, challenges us. This element of provocation then emerges from everything that confronts, challenges or engages us. This being provoked means we are called.
So then this unique demand or call from a place of value creates a moral imperative to act in a personally responsible and accountable way. Each situation requires that we do or be something. This speaks to our conscience and provokes us to “do the one thing that is required.” Meaning for Frankl is not found like a gold coin under a rock, it is something given to us.
We can think of meaning as unfolded as we live our lives and are provoked to meaning and towards self-transcendence in this meaning. This meaning then is beyond and ahead of us pointing to a future. Frankl once defined meaning as: “a possibility against a background of reality”. 
For Frankl conscience is something spiritual and transcendent which has universal and timeless significance. Therefore, it seems to suggest that life’s meaning exists a priori, waiting to be discovered. Perhaps it is enfolded waiting to be opened, (this could also be too much poetic licence here). This makes me think of e. e cummings:
“Somewhere I have never traveled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which I cannot touch because they are too near.
Your slightest look easily will enclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose.”
Langle, (2003) talks about a meaningful existence that is characterised by “inner consent” which relates to what we do, commit ourselves to, or leave out. This continuous consensual activity has a two-sided dialogue – one external characterised by questions like: “What appeals to me? What attracts or challenges me? Where am I needed or what do I want to do in this situation?” The other side of this dialogue goes around whether I agree with my decision. If inwardly, I have said yes then there will be harmony between inner experience and outer action.
Let’s look forward with hope then that we are all provoked to meaning to the “most worthwhile (the one of greatest value) and realistic possibility present in a given situation and one for which we feel we should decide. “ (Langle, 2003:19).
A meaningless life by contrast could be filled with trivial pursuits, such as seeking wealth, power, popularity, without an awareness of the richness of meaning. This could be characterised by depression, cruelty, sadism, anger and aggression amongst other things.
How do we experience meaning in life?
In three ways in Frankl’s view:
- Goals or projects – creative values
- Through love and loved ones – experiential
- Through a right attitude to life and the tragic triade: pain, guilt and death – having the right attitude – attitudinal.
 In Langle 2003: 34. The Art of Involving the Person.
 Reference for Cummings: www.k-b-c.com/poetry_eec.htm (Accessed 05/05/2012).
Frankl, V. (1963). Man’s Search for Meaning.
Langle, A. (2003). The Art of Involving the Person – Fundamental Existential Motivations as the Structure of the Motivational Process. European Psychotherapy, Vol. 4, No. 1.
Image from Creative Market purchased Epilogue Presentation.