Thursday, 6 January 2011

The Meaning of Life


Imagine if everything you took for granted was taken away from you?

What would be left?

Would you even have eyes to look for the things that were suddenly missing?

Would you have arms and hands to feel around in the dark, or a body at all?

If you could still shout for help, would there be anyone there to answer?

I’ve been considering the biggie – “The Meaning of Life” – and it seems so obvious that the meaning of life is to experience life, but when so much of our experience is taken for granted and overlooked, can we say we are truly living?

Perversely, in our search for the meaning of life, we lose sight of it. It stares us in the face all of the time and we just can’t see it.

Following on from that opening, theoretical question…

Imagine if everything that was taken away from you – all that you’d mourned the loss of and wished you’d cherished while you could - was given back?

If you had come to terms with the death of everyone you love, and there they were, in hug’s reach, to smile at and cry and laugh with again?

Would you shush a child so you could focus on a soap opera, or shoo a cat from the computer desk because you were busy on Twitter?

Would you miss the opportunity of watching the Sunset, or to stare up at the clouds and feel the rain on your face?

Imagine… being able to experience everything afresh?

Of course, the truth is, you can do that right now.

It’s just a matter of perception, and changing that perception is your choice... right now.

The meaning of life… is to live… right now.

Stop searching.

Wake up.

89 comments:

  1. Hey Les: I think you nailed this idea. Life is in the perception. How we "see" is very important, yet most people do not know they can see differently, even as they choose. Also, I believe you nailed the meaning of life - to experience and the greatest of these experiences is happiness. Keep Up the Good Work. Dr Bob

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  2. Thank you, Dr Bob! If only we all saw what we really have and cherished it, perhaps the world would change. :)

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  3. Great stuff Les - unfortunately my earlier comment got lost - about the meaning of life being life itself - i.e,. agreeing with you - except more fully - hope this one gets through

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  4. Thank, Gerry! I didn't realise I had unmoderated comments! Really appreciate you letting me know you enjoyed the blog! More soon! :)

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  5. Hehe, thank you for the enthusiasm, Berit! :)

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  6. Great stuff! Live it now!

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  7. Bravo! well said.. to many people not really living. I can tell you that for sure from a philosopher's point of view, and from someone who is very passionate about life.There is beauty in almost everything around us from the very simple to the very extravagant, from the rich to the poor you can live very happily if you only believe you can.

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  8. Awareness of the moment brings true consciousness and true vision. It's amazing how much more we see in that state. Self-belief is such a powerful tool. :-)

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  9. Great post. Doesn't happen everyday but while on vacation I tend to notice more, when more can be noticed where I'm at.

    Jeff Greene

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  10. Fantastic post. I will be following you!!

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  11. Great post Les, totally agree with you. Carpe diem, 'tis the everyday things that are the miracles. Looking forward to the sequel :-)

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  12. Good thoughts. The part about shushing a child really hit home (even though I don't watch TV at all). Thanks Les.

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  13. Thank you both! Glad some of these ramblings make sense. ;-)

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  14. Makes perfect sense. Been a while since I've seen someone spell it out like that. This is what I'm always telling friends. Enjoy what life you have now and don’t ignore your dreams. Or your kids.

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  15. The thing is we don't even know what we take for granted, until it's lost, sometimes. Sometimes, we appreciate something, and when it's taken away, we realize it was even more important than we thought.

    Other things we might lose, and see it was for the better.

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  16. What I'm trying to say is embrace all you have, right now, and have the perception to appreciate what's there - rather than just stumble past all the great stuff.

    If you lost something and it made your life 'better', then you can only appreciate that from the perspective of the moment, too.

    There's no better or worse in life, though. Worse, as a concept, comes from resistance to acceptance of what is.

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  17. I don't think you are rambling at all Les, in fact your words of wisdom are meaningful as well as helpful in times of disillusionment...you helped me regain my focus through this blog, thanks!
    Cheers,
    Derrick

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  18. You're most welcome, Derrick! I'm really pleased to be able to help. :-)

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  19. A great deal of what I took for granted was taken away. I was hit by a car last October and paralyzed from the hips down. For a 20 year old athlete, it's been a fierce adjustment. What would I do? I picked up the pieces and I'm getting my life together.

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  20. Gosh... that's an immensely powerful statement, Alex. Good on you! I know it must have been a traumatic adjustment, but it seems that nothing's going to get the better of your spirit. :-)

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  21. I know what Alex means. I had cancer when I was 32, which sucked ever so slightly. You pick your ass up off the floor and get on with it. I now laugh and have much more fun than I used to; which is kind of hard since I laughed a lot before cancer.

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  22. I had a 'scare' last year that was obviously a bit concerning, but it made me even more acutely aware of the beauty of life. Turned out to be nothing, which was a relief, but I didn't let it overwhelm me.

    You are both very brave people. :-)

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  23. It springs to mind as I read the comments that no-one related anything to the spirit or the soul you have! To travel thru' life as we do our awareness comes into being thus all perceptions change. You as a soul, have become aware of what really matters and you have done so with honesty and a lovely hearted approach..nothing will harm you now...Enjoy...
    Love and best wishes, Nora

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  24. Thank you, Nora. No, nothing hurts any more. I surprise myself when I face challenges that used to see me collapse, but now I just carry on, and with a smile on my face. I guess there was never any other option than this, though.

    Love and best wishes to you, too. :-)

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  25. I think the point you bring out with the cat and the child is that we are here for each other. That is the meaning of life.

    Computers and televisions are terrible things for keeping us away from real flesh and blood people.

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  26. But you don't necessarily have to have company to experience the joy of life, Claire. I wrote in one of my other posts about being alone in the mountains, but never feeling any sense of loneliness. We don't have to have people or pets around us to live - it's important to appreciate every aspect of life.

    Television is generally a passive, hypnotic pastime because there's very little if no interactivity at all, whereas - as long as you're not just playing games all the time - I think computers can be a very useful form of communication, and also a powerful tool for creativity. I think there's a distinction between these machines. :-)

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    1. I so agree with the difference between being alone and being lonely. As a writer, I value time alone. Not to the extent that I don't enjoy time with others, but I do need alone time, too. Great blog post. You might enjoy my post, A Perfect Day, on my blog: www.debfennellwriter.com

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  27. This is so profound, and particularly helpful at this point in my life. It's so easy to focus on things we don't have, things we wish we had, and to approach life with regret or resentment or envy of others. Thanks for reminding me that there is so much I'm missing out on whilst I lament what I may be missing...truly. :)

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  28. Yes, life becomes difficult and often apparently unbearable because what we want isn't what we have... yet everything we need is right there at that moment.

    I'm glad you found this helpful. Thank you for your comment, Evie. :-)

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  29. I think your words tie in very well with the wisest words of them all- the words of King Solomon. :) Take nothing for granted, keep your perspective in check, and enjoy the life you are given! Well done!

    "Light is sweet, and it pleases the eyes to see the sun. However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all. But let them remember the days of darkness, for there will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. You who are young, be happy while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless...

    Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 11:7-10 , 12:13-14)

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  30. Thanks, Marcy! :-)

    I have to say, I'm not a believer of 'angry god', but I appreciate the wisdom in the first two paragraphs. ;-)

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  31. Once again, you've made another excellent blog. Perception is everything and how one sees the world or the reality makes a huge difference in his/her thinking. Of course we all have to power to live the life we meant to but realizing we are in total control of our emotions and our perceived reality.

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  32. I truly believe that if someone like myself can find such a drastic shift in perspective, anyone can. ;-)

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  33. Thanks for this post. I had a huge shift in priorities in March and quit a very well-paying job for the simple reason that it made me miserable. Material wealth is not a good trade for emotional well-being. Now broke and pursuing my passion (writing), I'm not regretting it. Life is very, very good. Experiences are worth so much more than material possessions.

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  34. That's wonderful, Jennifer! I like that you say 'broke', rather than 'poor' - you're obviously living a very rich, real life. :-)

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  35. my only thing precious enough for me to care if i lost it would be my 3 adult children..
    they are my pride, love and center of my life... too bad they all are scattered all over the states but i know they are happy and that is all that matters to me.. thanks LN

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  36. It doesn't sound like you take them for granted, though - which is lovely. :-)

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  37. I had one of those waking dreams once. Everything precious to me was drifting away from me, out to sea in a large chest.
    The funny thing was, these were my emotions, the feelings I had about things and people. Not the things or people themselves, but the emotion. I remember thinking: 'of course, this is what goes from us when we die, the emotion towards the thing. After all, the think or object, was never a part of me. In esssence we are nothing but just pure, simple and free - in other words, happy. But we tie ourselves to stuff, to memories rather than just allow the feeling to happen and pass.
    Okay, I'm done.

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  38. If we could all use that same process in our daily lives, the world would quickly become such a peaceful place.

    There's a great quote in Star Wars, by Yoda: "Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."

    We clutch, in an emotional sense, to so much that we should just let go of, which affects our life to such a negative extent.

    I think we could all learn from your dream. :-)

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  39. Thank you. Beautiful post, fantastic reminder.

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  40. So true! I try to find at least a moment everyday to remember how grateful I am for everything I have in my life--including adversity as it's been a great teacher. ;o)

    I don't take ANYTHING for granted...I appreciate the love of those around me and this precarious life I've been given. xoxo

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  41. It's a wonderful way to live. Good on you! :-) x

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  42. A gatha for 'The Meaning of Life'

    I am magnificent
    How to experience this?
    With a bug bang I'm born
    All possibilities are present
    Each moment is precious
    Days, years, eons past
    Why am I here again
    Oh yeah I'm magnificent

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  43. Very insightful and full of inspiration for life... Thanks for sharing... (giancarlonyc23)

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  44. Thank you for reading, Gian Carlo! I'm glad you enjoyed it. :-)

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  45. A wonderful blog and so true. We get wrapped up so much I think in the unimportant things in life, we miss the simple pleasures

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  46. We sadly do... but we can change it. :-)

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  47. i needed to hear this today. had a hard time and after I read your post I realized i am focusing on the wrong things...basically sleepwalking.Thanks, this is a great post

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  48. Great blog post––the first of yours I've read. I've been chewing on the same subject lately, with a different twist. I'll write about this on my blog eventually, http://yourshelflife.com, which is about sanity & success for writers. I've been looking at my life as one of the 500 million Indie authors competing for readers' attention. It's daunting. I like to write. When I'm interacting with my computer, with some new piece of work roaring through me and out my fingers, that's wild! That's alive! When I'm on Facebook or Twitter promoting myself (and here's a twist, I found your blog through Twitter), my being on a computer doesn't feel so healthy. I ask, "Why am I spending my life like this?" It's a dichotomy which I haven't bridged. It's good to find a kindred soul on-line, and maybe many of them through this forum. I have almost a BA in philosophy BTW, an MA in counseling & a very long (30 years +) spiritual practice. Do these help? Yeah. Really a lot. They give a framework for holding life's little enigmas. Thanks for posting, Les

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  49. I have heard many stories from friends who have volunteered at remote locations where the people live simply within their environment. No phones, computers, electricity, even without clean running water. And without fail, they all report being amongst the most contented and happy people they've been around.

    A sign in my home town states: "The best things in Life are not things." There is great truth in that statement.

    We've all chosen to be who we are, where we are, right now. The awareness needed to understand, accept and move forward with that statement is within us all.

    To want back what was taken, or to wish for something new is only the ego taking us out of the present. There are two simple things to know the help open the door to understand:

    The only time is now. The only place is here. Just like the maps at the big strip malls that have a red "X"--they say "You are here," never "You were there and are going over here next." How many people look at those maps and never see the wisdom that is being given to them?

    Take it all away from me, and I will still be here and it will be now. I will chose to move into the next moment...which is the new here and now and live with the grace of humility and love of creation.

    "Don't worry, be happy..."

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  50. I've been remembering recently, how personal life used to feel as a child. I used to think the swingset at the park was mine, the acorns on the ground were dropped just for me, the rain made the streets smell good all for me. As kids we have a heightened awareness of the mundane and so much love for it. It made me start a photo project, exploring the plain and mundane. There's so much yum out there, but it's always easier to appreciate a peek into other people's windows, forgetting that we have our own simple beauties to enjoy.

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  51. Thanks for the reminder that it is all about the HERE and NOW! Beautiful post!

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  52. So true...and something so many of never learn...
    Can't wait to read the book! :)

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  53. I re-read this post..I still loved it. I had something terribly witty to say but by the time i made it down thru the throngs of fans.. I was wilting from hunger and had forgotten what it was...have any scones? O, and jam, don't forget the jam ;)x

    just one of the throng,
    Patricia

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  54. Live each day as it is your last.

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  55. what a great post!! living my life like its golden and each day is my last

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  56. The trick is to "Live Like You Are Dying". Great post. I learned this trick ten years ago when I survived cancer. I know where I come from; Why I'm here and where I'm going.

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  57. I love the way you think Les. I do believe you "believe" more than you think you do :)

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  58. Hi Les,

    I'm sure you know about the M5 disaster that happened over the weekend. No one could surely ever predict such carnage of that event. As someone else said before me - Live every day as though it's your last.
    What did James Dean say? - 'Dream like you've got forever to live, live like it's your last day' - something like that.

    LK Watts

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  59. It's so easy to get bogged down in the daily life "stuff" and forget to stop, take a step back, breathe and remember what's real, what's true, what matters. A really good time to put into action what you've reminded us of! Thank you.

    ~Mimi

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  60. Wonderful thoughts Les. When I had to get off of the Appalachian Trail to undergo a 6-Artery heart bypass, I figured it was the end. I asked what my odds were, and it was something like 1 out 100 I'd make it. I wrote in my book that was good lottery odds, but gambling with your life, maybe not so much. I lay there a few hours before surgery and realized I was SO happy! No matter the outcome, I had lived the most exciting, adventuresome, loving like any human could live. I wanted for nothing. Long ago I had concluded that material items were not that important (yeah, getting enough to eat, enough sleep and being warm are high on my list, but not much else for material items.) My friends, my family, especially the wonderful wife that is my Jane is all that mattered.
    I came out of the surgery just fine and went on to finish the AT hike and write THREE HUNDRED ZEROES. In the last chapter I talk about being fortunate enough to have a second life. I'm living that second life to it's fullest. Jane and I just finished walking the Camino de Santiago, the second life continues. Thanks for the inspiration Les.

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  61. this actually happpened to me about 15 years ago..and it did change how i see the world..

    i found myself struggling to breathe, i was experiencing excruciating pain. I could still think and perceive the world around me albeit panicked and quite stressed...

    i was rushed to hospital and placed on oxygen, my lung had collapsed spontaneously..

    at this point, i thought death might be imminent.. a huge sadness welled up in me as i recalled all the things i had planned to do and not yet achieved, all the unfinished business with the people i cared about and with those i hadn't yet met.. i was in my late 20's.

    in those dark hours, i thought about what was important in life.. there was only one thing important at all at that moment. the ability to breathe which in turn allowed me to keep thinking.. without breathing i was dead..everything else seemed like i could do without it..

    i could do with out everything i owned, i could probably do without food for a while and even water seemed like something i could wait for.. but another breath was always going to be an imminent and everlasting need in order to keep consciousness.

    I experienced a profound mental shift and realised that to merely experience life, even in the most trying circumstances is a gift worth having.

    I thought to myself, do it..whatever it is that i need to do, just do it and don't wait around.. cos tomorrow might be your last day to do it.

    I have since tried to do just that. it made me a better person and i've done a lot more with my life since before that time..

    when i'm feeling a bit glum i try to remember what it was like to struggle to breathe and problems suddenly become halved.

    the experience made me more empathetic and helped me to enjoy quiet contemplative meditation and since then no matter what has happened, i have handled the concept of physical pain with a much increased awareness.

    that's all, Thanks x

    Chit_H

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  62. Several years ago I had physical limitations placed upon me after always having been extremely active. I was married with three children, well off financially and had a pity party for myself for about a year. Then I ran into a friend of mine who I hadn't seen in years, she was in a wheelchair due to an acute form of MS. She asked me over for a cup of coffee. I followed her home, watching her disembark from her van, thinking about how frustrated I get waiting for a single page to download from my pc while this woman made sure to get out of the house everyday in order to still experience life on her terms, despite it taking 15 minutes to get in or out of her vehicle. We talked for hours, with her telling me about the volunteer work she did for homeless shelters, literacy programs, and still finding time to take care of her husband and two young children under the age of ten. By the time I left there, my entire attitude had changed. Her will to live life on her terms made me realize how I had let my physical problems take over my life. I vowed it would happen no more. I've accepted what I can no longer do and am extremely fortunate in that we have the financial means to hire someone to do the extensive cleaning I can no longer do and enjoy having the ability to do what I can. While I can no longer work in the same position in my chosen field, I started a home business utilizing my skills in a different manner. When 3 years after starting, I hit the 6 figure mark for income, I was proud of myself but set new goals. Because although I had come far, I never wanted to let go of dreams I had for the future. I lost my friend to her disease almost 3 years to the day after we had reconnected but from that day on, we spoke daily and saw each other at least a few times a week. I remember as things became much more serious for her physically, even when it became difficult for her to communicate, her concern was for those she had been doing volunteer work for, she was worried about them, felt sorry for them because she had been blessed financially, had a husband who loved her, children who adored her and yet she felt that she could have done more. I promised her I'd do what I could and despite having my own business, I found the time to volunteer whenever I could. As my children grew up, they wanted to do more and more with me. These very same privileged children were willing to give up weekends at the shore because they knew that without help, many of these people would have nothing to eat, nowhere to go, etc. To this day, I realize the friend I ran into that day was an angel sent to re-awaken me from my self-induced pity party. She came back into my life for far too short a time, I always hope that she realizes what she gave to others, her joy in life's little pleasures, her ever present smile, her ability to relate to those around her no matter the difference in socioeconomic status, religion or lifestyle, she always connected and taught me how to do the same. It's a matter of opening ourself up to life and being available to those around us, never taking for granted what we have, no matter how little or abundant it may seem especially when it comes to those people we love. We ended every phone call with "I love you" and when she could no longer answer but could listen, I still said it and I would hear her ring her bell kept on a string by her bed.

    I haven't thought about her as much as I did until I read this article but it reminded me that she taught me the meaning of life and how to live it fully. She did so until the day she died and it's a gift I will always cherish and hold dear to my heart. Whenever I hear a little bell ring, I think of her. Sometimes I think I've heard one as I wake up in the morning, and when it happens, I think of her and smile.

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  63. That's why I want to remove every unnecessary item from my life so what is left is the essence, the most important especially time to do the work I care about.

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  64. This is SO beautiful. For me, it is the ONLY way to live. Each day, I ask these same questions. This type of awareness was something I took on a long time ago and I can honestly say that it has made my life SO rich, no matter WHAT is going on in it. No matter what, I ALWAYS have SO much to be grateful for, so much to EXPERIENCE, so much to wonder and awe over. So much.

    When we take nothing for granted, we become "aware", live in gratitude, and life becomes truly, deeply, profoundly rich.

    I am grateful for your insight and vision, Les. It is beautiful to experience you. And yes, we ARE here simply to "experience". And there is SO MUCH to experience, especially if we so what MAUREEN DEVLIN said and remove the unnecessary.

    Thank you for the beauty you bring into the world, in being YOU.

    Robin

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  65. Good words, Les!

    I expect I will grow old and lose what I now take for granted, but I must take them for granted with gratitude. When I am in my death bed, I will not weep. I will find peace in the contemplation of the love that surrounds me now. As Emily Dickinson reminds us...
    "That love is all there is, is all we know of love"

    Man's search for meaning is through love, and in love he will find it.

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  66. Since I read your post it caused me to really think. Over the post few years I felt I lost everything there is to lose. My job, my home, my car and the respect of my family. At the time it was hard to think of life without material trappings but slowly and surely I rebuilding a new normal for myself. There were days in my past life I would shoo the kids away, be a little too full of myself. God had other plans for my priorities and I do view the world and relationships with new eyes. It's a more content place to be and I have finally made peace with my past.

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  67. this is so true.:) good job!!

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  68. Thank you! Well said, couldn't be much simpler to the meaning of life than to one's life perception...completely wide awake :)

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  69. Amazing and so so true. I think I may print this off and pin it up somewhere so I can read it everyday, especially when I need reminding.

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  70. Like Lauren (above), I want to keep this around as a reminder. You hit the nail squarely on the head. Awesome. Kudos to you for actually making me THINK about it while I have my nose in the corner, because I needed slapped upside the head like that. Most of us take pretty much everything in our self-absorbed worlds for granted, and I am no different. Thank you for the attitude adjustment. This belongs in my gratitude journal...

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  71. "Keep death on your shoulder to wake you up to the aliveness of this moment" or similar - from David Deida Good reminder! Thanks!

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  72. Spot on Les.....
    What is the Meaning of Life?
    To have a Life of Meaning!

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  73. Wise words my friend, Rob W

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  74. So very very true, and so relevant.

    I have just started reading a book: "Power Versus Force" it is brilliant. Have you read it? I think you would enjoy it.

    I follow you on Twitter and pop over and read your posts everytime the headline grabs my attention.

    Liska
    @NewMumOnline

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  75. I've just finished reading a book about someone who finds lost people, gets very lost then finds her way home. Life's like that, it's like growng into your self "what's meant for you, won't go past you" and "you don't get what you can't deal with". Life unfolds before us all, we all paint our own pictures, and somewhere among it all are rainbow. We nurture a bit more inside each time, learn compassion, "the meaning of life" ..Lesism ..."life, the universe and everything" Ritchard Bach... "No bird soars too high if he soars with his own wings".

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  76. so true Les.Value what you have and treasure it.:)

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  77. Would you even have earth- we certainly take it for granted! Ask folks on Pluto how meaningful it is to live on a planet. Oh yeah, there is nobody there to answer, you can't live on Pluto; better stop taking "biggies" for granted.

    I don't know the meaning of life, but I am happy to keep finding out from moment to moment.

    :)

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  78. This was so beautiful. There was a time I almost lost what I took for granted and it gave me so much perspective. I really humbled myself and changed my ways.

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  79. I found out, at the age of 22, that I'd lose all my hearing. I had studied music in school -- it was everything to me.

    I wasn't given a termination date -- I have neurofibromatosis type2 -- it could all cash out at any moment. Turns out, the hearing didn't wink out overnight BUT it was all gone by the time I was 46.

    I'm happy to say that I spent the years between diagnosis and dénouement immersed in music as well as the beautiful bass rumblings of my husband's voice.

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  80. I love this! My brother passed away, unexpectedly, last week. I am at peace with it because we've had a good relationship for the last few years. Would I do anything differently? Yes. But I learned, just in time, that life is too precious to hold grudges.

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  81. great topic. i have been writing about it over on my wordpress site. i've been reading a book about steve jobs and i read that every day for the last 30 years of his life he looked in the mirror and asked himself whether he was enjoying what he was doing. he said that if there were a few days strung together where that answer was no, he immediately made changes. he, in essence, lived as if he was dying. free to take risks. free to follow his passion, purpose, and dreams. free to make the world a better place. thanks for keeping the conversation going, les!

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