But there have been times in my life when I've struggled to find answers or peace. During those times I have dabbled in astrology, numerology, clairvoyancy, dream therapy, angel cards etc.
I always approached these options with scepticism, but ocassionally found them useful as a way of getting to know myself better.
Over the years I've realised that we are all on a life long search for meaning and purpose in our lives.
We all have to find the meaning and purpose that makes sense for us and that allows us to wake up each morning and continue on each day.
Some of us find this purpose and meaning in religion, some of us in creative pursuits, some find it in drugs, physical activity, intellectual endeavour, some of us drop out, some of us reach out. Some of those choices are more successful than others. Sometimes we need to try several ways until we find the one that works best for us. And often times our needs change as we mature and we find that a way we rejected in our younger years is just right later on.
Over the years I have discovered that intellectual pursuits give me comfort. Actively engaging my brain to learn new things, delve into new ideas, grapple new concepts, research and form my own ideas is comforting to me. I like facts. I like tangibles. I like logic. I like theories. I like learning.
When times are tough I go looking for answers with my brain. When my brain is busy it is happy and the happiness flows through all areas of my life to bring me peace and serenity.
But my brain can get busy with negative thoughts. And I have to work hard to turn that around. I can't always do it on my own. Sometimes a friend will say the right thing at the right time that helps me adjust my thoughts. Sometimes I find solace in beauty & nature (a wind swept beach, an art gallery, a flower). And sometimes I get inspiration from books.
About 10 years ago I was struggling with the whole meaning of life thing after the death of a close family member followed quickly by the sudden death of a close friend. It became a time of major reassessment for me as I worked out what was really important.
Lots of conversations were had about our loved ones who were no longer with us as my family & friends came to terms with our grief. I became aware for the first time of the very real legacy of remembrance & "how do I want to be remembered when I die"?
It became an incredibly motivating force to live a better, kinder, more useful, loving, generous life.
One of the guides who helped me with my grief & sense of loss was Lama Surya Das.
I came across Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be quite by accident when browsing in my favourite bookshop. I'd never heard of Das before but the title leapt out at me. It summed up what I was trying to do - let go of the old me to allow the new and improved me more room to grow.
I found words of comfort "When the heart grieves for what is lost, the spirit rejoices over what it has left".
"Whenever we lose something - anything - we come to one of life's little crossroads. With every loss or separation comes the possibility of change, growth and transformation."
I found familiar ideas "The purpose of life is to know oneself."
"Loss is a fact of life....How we deal with these losses is what makes all the difference. For it is not what happens to us that determines our character....but how we relate to what happens."
"This too shall pass".
"Happiness in this world comes from thinking less about ourselves and more about the well-being of others. Unhappiness comes from being preoccupied with the self."
I found new ways of thinking & seeing & feeling "We need to do small things with great love." Mother Teresa
"If you want your life experience to be different, you have to do something different."
"Nothing is more important than cultivating a good heart; nothing is more important than acting with kindness to others."
"We must accept finite disappointments, but never lose infinite hope." Martin Luther King
But most importantly I found the BIG idea that allowed me to make the changes I needed to:
"What are the stories about yourself to which you are most attached? Are you really who you think you are? Do you look for ways that you can affirm your version of yourself? Do you live your life in such a way that your story of what happens between you and others will always be the same? How are you attached to these stories you tell yourself? What would happen to your life if you changed them?"
I already understood that people could view the same event differently and that you could reassess an event with new insight at a later point.
But the idea that we could control which memories we gave power to knocked my socks off. And for the first time I could see that we have the power to choose how we interpret the things that happen to us.
Shitty, sad things happen to all of us at some point or another. We can let those times & those memories & those stories define our whole lives.
Or we can be more than that.