The Search for Meaning in a Sh*tball’s Existence

Today’s guest post comes from an “unlikely” source, Cracked.com‘s Felix Clay. Yes, it is long, may sound a bit irreverent and contains some NSFW language, but remember, Cracked is a satire site. This article, however, really hit home with me. I hope it does with you, too. Namaste. – Stacey

The Search for Meaning

Hinduism is widely considered the oldest religion in the world. There’s evidence from thousands and thousands of years ago of funerary rituals and statuary being buried with the dead, but the meanings behind all of that have been lost. Hinduism is generally the most organized form of religion that has survived and is understandable for you and me. What do you know about Hinduism that wasn’t taught to you by Apu, assuming you’re not a Hindu yourself? It’s safe to say you probably only have a passing familiarity with it.

Because Hinduism is actually a large number of beliefs and traditions that are all tossed together, it seems a little complex, but for the purposes of understanding the meaning of life, you need to know only a few key points: Hinduism, the oldest major religion humanity has, is concerned with the knowledge of truth and reality, moral order, and right actions. In so many words, a good Hindu is someone who does right and seeks the truth. He is tolerant of others and acts in a good way. Sound familiar? It’s pretty much every major religion ever.

How did it come to pass that, as a basic tenet of Christianity, we are supposed to love our neighbors as we love ourselves? And those who follow the Muslim faith are to pardon and forgive others, for Allah loves those who do good to others? All major religions that people adhere to en masse have the same message, because it’s a good one: do good, be good, and everything is good. Only an idiot would argue with that, right? This is the point where you ignore our history of religious intolerance and bigotry and agree that, fundamentally, every human who is “normal” believes the same thing. Theists, atheists, and agnostics likely all believe or will pay lip service to the ideal that we should treat each other as we want to be treated. We should be nice and not harm or steal from one another. In fact, I will argue that you can’t reasonably, rationally propose another method of existence. No sane person could do so with sincerity, because to propose a world in which it is OK to harm some, to kill some, to steal from some, is to readily accept that you are OK with being harmed and killed yourself, for any arbitrary reason, and I believe no one who is rational would ever accept that. So it’s wrong.

It’s a reasonable argument to make that we believe goodness is not a construct of man. Goodness and the idea of what it means to be good exist independent of man (even of God, whether you believe in it or not). Goodness and rightness exist independent of us and are things we aspire to, and that’s why all religions, throughout all time, have included these things. It’s no accident or crazy coincidence. So a major aspect of simply existing is doing good. Being good. And by this definition, it’s a pretty passive thing. It doesn’t take a lot of effort. Not harming someone else is as simple as staying in bed instead of stabbing your mailman. Not stabbing the mailman is a good thing. You did well today.

"I enjoy not being stabbed! Thanks!" Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

“I enjoy not being stabbed! Thanks!”
Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

I don’t want to make anyone think I’m suggesting that the meaning of life is to be found in religion. Religion, I would argue, is a good place to start looking, because it tries to answer those tough questions of how and why things are, and it’s how people have organized themselves for a hell of a long time. It’s like learning sex tips from an elderly person — they have the history to back them up, even if the reality of their involvement in it is horrifying.

Here’s the big issue with the meaning of life and why, I think, Douglas Adams proudly proclaimed that the meaning of life (and everything) was 42. Searching for the greatest, most diffuse, most incredible thing you could ever imagine is, ultimately, a letdown. Imagine being told you were just about to meet the most beautiful human who had ever existed, a perfect person in every single way, flawless and beyond criticism, the most wondrous specimen of biology nature could ever hope to fashion. What would that person look like? Can you even picture it? Probably not, but try. Try to form an image, and once you’re as close as you can reasonably get to what you feel the most perfect human in every way is, imagine them wiping their ass and a finger tearing through the paper. Not their fault; they’re perfect, but the paper was flawed. Now your perfect person has a poo finger. Are you disappointed yet?

Reality almost never lives up to expectation, and once you take something from the divine realm of imagination, from the place where your hopes and dreams are born, and set it on your sofa, it loses its mystique, its sense of awe. When you find the thing you think will answer all your questions and make your life more profound, it won’t. It can’t. And this is especially true for the meaning of life. Knowing the meaning of life will not make your life better; how could it? It will not elevate you or inspire you. Consider what happens when you know the end of a movie before you watch it thanks to some thoughtless boob telling you that Brad Pitt and Ed Norton were the same guy the whole time. It ruins it. It doesn’t make it better; it takes the thrill away. The meaning of life has to be 42 in Douglas Adams’ universe, because what the [heck] does that mean? If they got a real answer, it would suck so bad, you don’t even know. It would ruin it. Life would be ruined if someone literally handed you a booklet that explained it all.

The meaning of life is to live it.

Do you want to know what your purpose in life is? Live it and find out. Will you be a leader of men? A revolutionary? Will you feed the starving, clothe the poor, and elevate the spirit of all who meet you and hear your words? Or will you be a short order cook and make passingly good french fries that don’t have pubes on them? Both are valid, because both are lived lives. Do you prefer one over the other? Maybe. Doesn’t matter what you prefer, though. The meaning of life is not related to the life you’d prefer to live, any more than the meaning of a pile of rabbit turds on your lawn is related to the position of stars in the sky.

Asking for a preset meaning for your life is asking for the end of a story no one wrote yet, and even if you are a theist, you are presuming that God or whatever force of will you believe in has already decided where you’ll go and what you’ll do, meaning there is no meaning anymore. It doesn’t matter, because you’re just going to do it, and your thoughts and desires and feelings are irrelevant. Some meaning you have there. You have reduced yourself to a cogwheel in a big, complicated clock, just ticking toward inevitability.

So what is the meaning of a life that gets cut short? A person who dies in a tragic accident? A baby who only gets a single breath? What was the meaning of their existence? What good could have happened there? Did they bring you happiness? Teach you something new? That very well could have been their purpose, as much as a chair’s is to be sit upon or Justin Bieber’s is to be a glib little ass wrinkle. Sometimes you don’t get to know because that story isn’t yours. And that’s why the question of the meaning of life frustrates us so very much. You want to know what your story is, but you want to know the stories of everyone around you as well. You want to know how they fit together and work together. But you don’t get to. And, on some level, we know and have to accept that maybe the meaning of a life isn’t life-changing. Maybe the meaning of one life is just to be a footnote somewhere else. Maybe it’s just to be and nothing more. Or maybe not. Maybe you don’t even get to know the meaning because you never got to see how it fit into the grand scheme of things. I told you it’s unsatisfying.

The best way to approach the prospect of coming to terms with the meaning of your own life is not to ask what it is; it’s to decide what it should be. If you care, that is. If you really want your life to have a meaning, you need to kind of make it happen on your own, and it should be good. Good for you, good for others. Good for something. Make someone laugh. Be a sexual dynamo. Learn to paint ponies that are so kick-ass real that ponies should be [damned] ashamed of their shitty ponyness.

But you need to take the reins. Why should the universe cater to your whims? You need to get off your ass. The universe has 7 billion people on this planet alone to deal with, not to mention the 100 to 200 billion other planets in our galaxy, or the 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets that likely exist in the entire universe (that’s a septillion, by the way). You have to assume there’s at least 100 other guys out there, so that’s 7 billion and 99 people other than you who need to be monitored. Who has the time to ensure that your life has a good and fulfilling purpose? Only you. Now go make me the best damn sandwich you can make!

Felix Clay is not a cat. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/Felix_Clay.

The Kind of Love That Does Your Heart Good

I couldn’t have said it better myself! Read the original article here. – Namaste, Stacey

Love is a universal human emotion that permeates all aspects of life. We love our families, our friends, our partners, and even our pets. We can also love our jobs, music, artwork, landscapes, and certain foods. Love can be defined as a strong emotional attachment toward another person or thing that can produce feelings of euphoria and joy—or sadness and despair. There is no doubt that love is one of the most powerful emotions a human being can experience, yet we spend so much time focusing on loving everything around us that we often forget the most important recipient of love: ourselves.

Although the connection may not seem obvious, love of self is directly related to heart health and well-being. When we love ourselves, we take better care of ourselves and are less likely to engage in harmful or unhealthy behavior like overeating, alcohol abuse, and neglecting the body. In addition, studies show that high self-esteem levels might even protect the heart by boosting your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). Your PNS calms your heart by suppressing stress levels, lowering your heart rate, and fighting off inflammation, which in turn can protect your cardiovascular system. So when you love yourself, you nurture and revitalize both your spirit and your physical body.

5 Easy Ways to Love Yourself More:

1. Stop Beating Yourself Up and Start Being Kind to Yourself

We can all be our own worst critics, sometimes to our detriment. A certain amount of introspection is healthy, but when you constantly focus on your flaws or failures, you start to develop a skewed sense of self that can spill over into your external world. Instead of focusing on the negative, remind yourself of the things you like about yourself. Give yourself compliments and be compassionate toward yourself. When you are kind to yourself, that positive energy will shine through, making it easier for you to accomplish your goals and easier for others to treat you with the same kindness.

2. Spend Time With Yourself

The better you know yourself, the easier it is to love yourself. One of the best ways to develop a sense of self is to spend time alone. Schedule in some time every week when you turn off your phone and your computer and simply concentrate on you. Read a book, meditate, go for a walk, or take yourself out to dinner or the movies. The more time you spend with just you, the more centered and grounded you will become, and the better equipped you will be to battle negative emotions and to live life with more meaning.

3. Do What You Love

How many times a week do you do something you truly love? How many times in a month? A year? Part of loving yourself is nurturing your soul with the things that make you happy. This could be dancing, singing, traveling, learning a new language, or even just sitting quietly with a cup of tea and a crossword puzzle. Feed your soul with joyful activities, and that happiness and contentment will resonate through your life and extend to the people around you.

4. Choose to Be Around Positive People

The people you choose to spend your time with are a direct reflection of how much you value yourself. Surround yourself with positive people who are caring, supportive, and nonjudgmental, and you will feel loved, appreciated, and respected. Studies show that individuals who associate with cheerful people have a happier demeanor and consequently a better sense of well-being. If, on the other hand, you surround yourself with toxic people who bring you down, how can you not feel unloved and unappreciated? Life is too short to waste time with people who suck your happiness and energy, so make the choice to allot your time to those who encourage and inspire you.

5. Be Your Own Caregiver

At times it may feel as though your job in life is to care for and support those around you. But how can you properly care for others when you neglect your own health and happiness? Make an effort to take care of your body by eating healthily, getting plenty of rest, and exercising regularly. Manage your stress by meditating or making time for yourself. Instead of relying on others to take care of you, take the initiative to look after your own physical and emotional well-being, and your confidence and sense of self-worth will grow.Loving yourself is not about being selfish. It’s about taking care of your own needs so that you can be the best person possible to yourself and others. When you truly start to love yourself, you will find that your health improves, you become happier and more balanced, and you are able to enjoy good people and good things in your life.  For more information about healthy living and balancing your body, mind and spirit, please read my comprehensive book on heart health, Your Vibrant Heart: Restoring Health, Strength and Spirit from the Body’s Core. The book includes many more insights about how to nurture and care for your heart on both a physical and emotional level.

CynthiaThaikFor more by Dr. Cynthia Thaik, check out her website and click here for her blog on The Huffington Post. You may also follow her on Facebook.

Start Loving Yourself By Not Judging Yourself

Jack Kornfield, psychologist and founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, tells a story about a group of western meditation teachers who went to visit the Dali Lama. During a discussion about self-compassion, the teachers related how critical and self-rejecting they felt. In fact, several actually used the word self-hatred which the Dali Lama had never heard. After he finally understood what they meant, he replied ” But, no. This is wrong. The way to relate to oneself is with self-compassion and love.” As Buddha said, “You as much as anyone else in the universe are deserving of your love.”

At livingselfcare, this is one of the practices Stacey and I mention often because many of us relate to ourselves with judgement, self-criticism and even self-loathing. A few weeks ago, I was teaching an intro to mindfulness when a new student commented about how during our breath awareness exercise, she kept judging herself and focusing on how she was messing up. Another student, who’s been practicing mindfulness for a while, spoke up and said, “I used to do that all the time when I started. Lately though, it’s gotten better and I can quiet those thoughts more. I try to be kind and patient towards myself like I am with my children and friends. It’s still an effort but that’s okay.”

This week, each time you look in a mirror smile, and remind yourself how precious you are. Remember, each of you is a unique expression of the universe and that’s something special!

Namaste

Self-Care: Make It #1 on Your “To Do” List

Do you treat your body as if it is sacred? Do you have a regular exercise and fitness regimen? Are you eating healthy meals? When is the last time you went to a spa to pamper yourself?

Your body is your temple. Think about it. It is the only place ‘your self’ has to live in. Life’s responsibilities are countless for many of us. And in trying to juggle those responsibilities we neglect to take care of ourselves–our temple. We might think about our physical health but that is often where it begins and ends.

Most of my adult life has been weighted with high stress careers, once in the military, and now in corporate America. I rise before the aurora and retire long after sunset. Over the past few months my stress levels have been escalating, my body was feeling energy-drained, my skin was breaking out and my mental acuity was becoming dull. So I thought, “I can combat these negative forces and make improvements in my overall health if I just make taking care of myself number one on my ‘To Do’ list.” So I have taken steps to do precisely that and have seen steady progress. You, too, can make marked improvements in your health and fortify your body–your temple.

Make Self-Care #1

Self-care is an integral part of stress management. Our bodies are conditioned to respond negatively to unhealthy forces bombarding it. Granted, it tries to warn us, but often we do not listen. Bottom line is you can dial-it-back and condition yourself to focus on a healthy diet, exercise and relaxation. Increasing your relaxation response can prevent chronic stress from having a negative effect on your body and overall health.

Get started with these five basic tips:

  1. Make exercise a morning priority before your day gets started.
  2. Drink plenty of water (it flushes impurities from the body).
  3. Get a massage (it is known to promote relaxation and well-being).
  4. Go cold turkey on doing things that don’t fuel you.
  5. Take a break from your agent of stress (go on vacation).

Don’t wait for the body to warn you. Start today and put self-care higher on your own ‘To Do’ list.

SavionToday’s guest blogger is Dr. Sydney Savion. Dr. Savion is an applied behavioral scientist, member of the American Psychological Association and scholar-practitioner in the field of life transition for more than a decade. She views life transition as a gradual psychological progression of questioning self, others, the situation, seeking a new direction, and a quest to start to anew. It is a natural part of living that is triggered by an event that has a momentous impact upon and changes a person‘s life ecosystem in a manner that demands a person to cope and adjust. For example, this event could be a loss of a loved one, a marriage, your mental health, or even livelihood. She is the author of the Living a Blissful Life blog on HealthyPlace.com.

10 Things a Pregnant Woman Deserves

I stumbled across this article from The Huffington Post and was thrilled to see a husband writing about how to support his wife during her pregnancy! I hope you enjoy this, too.

My wife, Mel, is seven months pregnant with our third child. We’ve been married for almost ten years. Her last two pregnancies were eye-opening for me. Being pregnant is hard on a woman both physically and mentally. It’s something I can’t experience. I can only observe. As a husband, I often feel helpless. Like I’m just some cheerleader on the sidelines, hoping everything turns out OK. I often wish there were some way I could help her more than I do. Some way I can be more supportive. I mean, I can’t carry the baby for her, but there are things I can do to make her experience a little easier.

Below is a list of a few things that I have been doing — or plan to start doing — to help Mel’s pregnancy go easier. However, I’d love to see ideas from readers on how husbands have made pregnancy easier for their wives.

1. Tell her she’s beautiful.
While pregnant, Mel often describes herself as: Fat, bloated, and spotted (near the end of her pregnancy she always develops little red splotches on her face and neck). Obviously she doesn’t feel beautiful while pregnant, even though I still think that she is. She needs constant reassurance. So when she is pregnant, I often make it a point to tell her how beautiful she is (in person and text message).

2. Excitement.
I know that some men, myself included, see a pregnant woman like a ticking time bomb. I mean, I’m excited to have a baby, but the first year of a child’s life can be hell, with all the sleepless nights, spit-up and dirty diapers. This is not to mention the cost of a new baby. But at the same time, it’s very exciting for a woman, and being negative can really depress your wife. I think it’s important to share in that excitement. I am good and bad at this one. I often exhale, loudly, when talking about things we need to buy for the baby. But I also crouch down, talk to the baby, and then kiss Mel’s tummy. I also enjoy feeling the baby kick. I think this really helps her realize that I am excited too.

3. Judgment (lack thereof).
Let’s face it, women act differently while pregnant. Sometimes I joke that the woman I married is not the woman who has been pregnant with my children. The woman I married would never eat an entire loaf of French bread. She also wouldn’t wear bright red compression tights that make her look like Doctor Eggman from Sonic the Hedgehog. Although we joke around, being pregnant has made Mel do and wear some strange things. It’s best just to let it happen without comment or judgment.

4. Flowers.
Mel loves flowers. They seem to make everything better (I don’t understand it, but I know it’s true). Last week I bought Mel some flowers. The cashier was a woman in her mid 30′s. She asked me what the occasion was. I said, “She’s pregnant. I just thought she could use them.” The casher smiled and agreed. If I could afford it, I’d buy Mel flowers every day that she’s pregnant.

5. Naps.
This is one that I’m not very good at. Being pregnant is exhausting. I can see it in Mel’s eyes. She also tells me about it, too. I often suggest that Mel take a nap, but with the craziness of having two small children, me working two jobs, and Mel in school, it’s difficult to get her to sit down. I think she feels selfish when taking a nap. And honestly, my knee-jerk reaction is to get a little jealous when she gets to take a nap. But I really need to think about the fact that she is growing another person and she needs her rest. I need to be more assertive about picking up her slack so she can feel comfortable dozing for an hour or two during the day.

6. Tell her to sit down.
Standing all day while having a baby wiggling around inside your body, throwing off your equilibrium, must be really difficult. I often see her rubbing her lower back, or her upper legs. I tell Mel to sit down, but just like with naps, I think she feels selfish sitting when there are things to be done. She holds a real sense of duty, which I love about her, but at the same time she needs a rest now and again.

7. A restful night.
Getting a good night’s rest can really change Mel’s disposition. We have a 4-year-old and a 6-year-old. Both are OK sleepers. But they still tend to get up in the night now and again. I will admit that I sometimes sleep through their cries, but for the most part I make it a point to get up in the night so Mel can sleep.

8. Time alone.
This is another one I need to work on. Being pregnant is emotionally draining. There is no doubt about it. The first time Mel was pregnant, she started crying because I asked her to water the Christmas tree. Sometimes I think she just needs a moment or two to simply be alone. I’ve been trying to make it a point to take both our kids out of the house for one reason or another so she can have some time to herself.

9. Company at the OB-GYN.
Often, Mel meets with her doctor while I am at work. We live in a small Oregon town, which means Mel has to drive almost an hour to meet with the doctor. Long story short, I have not been able to accompany Mel to the doctor as much as I’d like. But when I do go, I can tell she enjoys it. I think it makes her feel less alone in all this. Like I am really there to support her.

10. Ask about her needs.
I like to think that I know what’s best for my wife, but that really is a ridiculous assumption. I need to ask her this simple question more: What do you need right now?

Clint Edwards is the author of No Idea What I’m Doing: A Daddy Blog. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook.

Mindful Living Experiment with My Kids

GregGrayToday’s guest blogger is Gregory Gray, LMT.  He is a single dad of 3 beautiful children, which are his number one focus. He’s also a Licensed Massage Therapist serving the Pearland, Friendswood and Houston, Texas areas. He has a passion for helping people (especially moms) find their quiet place where they can rest and recharge.  Greg says, “I know for myself, that no matter how much I love being with my kiddos, that serving my children on a daily basis can be draining. My job is to help you relax so that you get some ‘me’ time, a moment in time where you can think of yourself first (which really is ok, no matter what our brains tell us).” His website, which includes all kinds of great self-care tips, is http://gregorymgray.com/.

I gave 3 chocolate chips to each of my children (ages 8, 9, and 16) and gave them the following instructions:

  1.  Close your eyes.
  2. Stay quiet.
  3. Place the chips in your mouth but do not eat them. I told them to allow them to melt.
  4. Focus on the flavors and textures in your mouth.

Let the experiment begin!  We took about 2 minutes (that’s forever for an 8 year-old boy) and then we discussed what we experienced. My children then began to describe the flavors that they experienced. I was impressed that they were able to pick out the salty flavor and some fruitiness. I explained to them that life was like that as well. We miss many enjoyable moments because we are moving too fast. I challenged them to join me and to mindfully eat their meals today to the best of their ability and attempt to notice as many flavors and textures as possible.

I challenge you as well. Take a few bites of a meal today and eat them mindfully. Savor the flavors and in the process, you may find relaxation in there as well.

Comment below if you take the challenge. I would love to hear you experiences!

PTSD: Pathetic and Too aShamed to Discuss?

As many of you know, I am heavily involved with my local police department on a volunteer basis (no, I’m not a familiar face in the City Jail!). One thing that continues to gnaw at me is the stigma that surrounds mental illness and symptoms. There’s no better place for mental health resources than a police station, fire station, EMS or any other “first responder” office. Yet, many obstacles stand in the way. I wrote the following article for our local PD’s newsletter. I’d love to hear your comments and questions if any of this resonates with you! – Namaste.

BlueLine

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder can occur when any traumatic event is experienced or witnessed. For one person, it may be going through active combat. For another, it may be witnessing a wreck. For some, having a pet run away or being yelled at can cause it. It depends on the individual and the circumstances. It’s the brain’s natural response to an event that causes intense emotional distress.

The “hallmark” symptoms of PTSD are sleep problems, constant irritability or outbursts of anger, problems concentrating, being hyper-aware of his or her surroundings and exhibiting an exaggerated startle response. If these symptoms last for at least 2 months and interfere with any aspect of daily functioning, the sufferer needs to seek treatment.

It’s pretty straight forward, right? Unfortunately, it isn’t. Many people who could be diagnosed with PTSD aren’t because they don’t seek treatment. American society still stigmatizes illnesses associated with the brain and its functioning, which keeps hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of its citizens just trying to keep their heads above water. There’s a certain shame to seeking mental help for some reason, as if experiencing this disorder (or maybe admitting that it is being experienced) makes a person weak, pathetic or un-manly. This couldn’t be further from the truth! It takes a tremendous amount of courage to talk to someone about the most intimate demons that haunt the mind. Personal growth and change is very hard work because the person has to face things that they have probably been mentally avoiding for a long time.

Fortunately, more organizations around the nation are encouraging veterans, first responders, law enforcement personnel and others who have experience “on the front line” to seek help if they need it. A powerful documentary is in the works to spread the message that seeking help is courageous, not cowardly. Entitled Code 9: Officer Needs Assistance, this film, “explores the darker side of law enforcement as it tells the stories of police officers and their families who are now suffering the mental anguish of the careers they chose, which has led some to suicide.” The 8-minute trailer may be viewed at http://vimeo.com/26689571.

While law enforcement is certainly not the only career or situation in which a person can be traumatized, it is a widespread problem in the field. Officers often feel that getting help affects the air of authority, confidence and machismo that they sometimes rely on to do their jobs. In reality, dealing with and processing through trauma increases the ability to concentrate, to evaluate persons and situations quickly and reliably and even improves well-trained, reflexive responses.

Help is available to those who are brave enough to seek it. A national hotline has been set up for first responders, public safety and law enforcement personnel and their families that is answered 24/7. SafeCall (SafeCallNow.org) trained personnel are available at 206-459-3020. Please don’t go on suffering (and causing anguish for loved ones) because seeking help makes one “weak.” Man up and make a connection!