Finding a Meaningful Life

“The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others.”

Mahatma Gandi

I am always looking, along with my clients, for the choices that bring greater meaning and peace to life. Together we wrestle with the questions, “How can my life be meaningful?” And, “How can I balance freedom and responsibility?” Together we examine what adds meaning and what fuels despair, what brings a sense of peace and what tears at the soul with anxiety and angst.

From these explorations, here are a few ideas about what helps many of us create a more meaningful life:

• Staying present. When we habitually ruminate about the past, or worry about the future, we are unable to really experience our lives or our relationships. We are absent. Bringing ourselves back to the moment can be as simple as taking a breath and feeling our feet on the floor. Then, we can appreciate the beauty around us and our connection to other people.

• Shifting focus from self to others. When I sit down with a client and listen to their story, hear their pain and celebrate the positive changes in their lives, my own struggles and grief dissolves. In those moments, I am free. You do not have to be a therapist to claim the beauty of service to others. For example, clients have told me of their joy in caring for a grandchild, sponsoring a newcomer to AA, working at a food pantry or driving a neighbor to the grocery store. When we focus on the needs of another our own tribulations melt into the background. Careful though…this does not mean forcing our ideas or solutions on others or taking over their lives. True service happens with permission and gentleness.

• Remembering our connection to something greater. You do not need a religious faith, or even a belief in God to create a sense of connection with something beyond yourself. For many people this is found in a community where they are known and loved just as they are. For others it is experienced in the natural world. When these folks stand in the midst of a forest it brings an awareness of themselves as a part of nature, as part of life. Others find that groups such as AA or Al-Anon provide a “Higher Power”.

• Create beauty. The act of creating can bring great meaning. For many of us making a garden grow, painting a picture or writing a poem can provide a sense of transcendence. When I am writing, there are times when I feel a mysterious flow of energy moving through me that seems to aid the process. Words come, ideas bloom and I am outside time. It is beauty. It is meaning.

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  • About The Author

    Lois Schlegel

    Lois Schlegel, MFA, MS, mental health therapist at Life in Bloom Counseling in Medford and Ashland, has 20 years of experience providing services to individuals and families. She has taught parent education and life skills classes to adults and ... Full Profile
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