Living a life that is directed towards our individual happiness and fulfillment requires discipline and contemplation. Ironically, it also requires removing our exclusive focus on ourselves and considering others too. It entails knowing what to include and exclude, where to spend our focus and when to deny our attention. In other words our priorities and our philosophy of life (everyone has one, even if unknown to themselves), determine our experience, our road map and our chances for arriving at our destination of choice.
If a man knows not to which port he sails, no wind is favorable. Seneca
Very few of us would agree to spend an evening about town, following the random dictates of absolute strangers; and yet in our own lives, we unconsciously cede control of the most important decisions by simply not contemplating and questioning our core underlying beliefs.
“Know thyself” ( nosce te ipsum) the philosophers urged us. The corollary to this statement would be « question they self.” What is important to you and more importantly, why? Are you sure that which you desire will actually bring you contentment and satisfaction? Can you be sure? Could there be another way? What is it that you want and truly need?
To me Marcus Aurelius’ teaching is compelling because he already had all the things most of us covet. And yet, he recognized that they were not the key to the good life. There is the power of experience in his vision. Where are we spending our efforts? Our energy? Are we on the right path? Does what you want, what you do, what you worry about matter? If you took the long view of a lifetime, what would be important? What would seem silly? If you took the view of eternity, considering what you left behind, what you created or contributed, what and whom you loved, then tell me, what matters to you? What can be forgotten?
The same way that we declutter our homes, assess our budgets, tune up our cars and bodies, our life’s purpose also needs to undergo periodic simplifying, revising and assessing. Stripping down life to its necessities, we arrive at that which is essential. We need to ask the basic questions of why am I here? What is my purpose? And how to best fulfill this noble purpose, in order to live meaningfully?
When we quiet our minds, and declutter them from extraneous thoughts, we have a chance to arrive at a clear understanding. Quieting our random thoughts in order to hear the faint sound of our soul, we can finally learn what it is that she yearns for, what it is that she can’t live without?