While compared to many past generations, most of us have a plethora of options to choose from and diverse comforts, at the same time we experience an unpleasant challenge specific to our current way of life: We seem to have confidence and interest in the new; at the same time many of us are exhausted by it.
Within this overall environment of a loss of depth, daily duties seem to make things worse, forcing us to hurry and multitask. Our own and others’ daily needs and interests keep us busy more than we would like. At the end of a long day or week when we might find some time for something more, perhaps something with more depth, we often feel nervous and exhausted. It’s like we’ve been skimming on the surface all week at a frenetic pace, and we don’t even have time to slow down, let alone plumb the depths. This is not an easy place from which to satisfy our longing for meaning.
A quick look at the offerings in the publishing, travel, and seminar industries reveals a deep cultural need for relaxation and for going deeper: on offer are study trips; yoga, relaxation and meditation holidays; even monasteries are opening their doors and rooms for us. Since I know personally that it can be difficult to learn to access more depth at home by oneself, I’m happy about these different offerings.
I’m also touched when I see people sitting somewhere in nature, in a coffee shop, or on a bench, where they seem to just be taking a break. Some write in their journal, others read a book, walk with a friend, or meet like-minded people after work. Next to entertainment these activities have become a bit more famous of late. Have you noticed?
For some reason we have been drawn to a calm space, and once there we find our attention moving towards deeper levels of being. Something has called us there, some inspiration—a what, how, when, where, with whom, why, etc.—a particular fuel that, we might later find, is driving a search for meaning. Maybe this interest and inspiration has come from a talk, a conversation, a nice article in our favorite media, or possibly because of a personal crisis. Whatever has moved us to go deeper is precious, even if we don’t quite know what it is yet or what to do about it.
Outer Inspiration and Inner Resonating
Often there is something that interests us most; it sticks out for us. Maybe it doesn’t strike us as especially meaningful right away, but reflecting on all of the stories I’ve listened to from people who’ve found their inspiration and their way, they’ve all gone from one stepping stone to the next. Following what interests us most, we’ll meet others who are interested in it, too. We stumble upon similar topics and begin to make experiences. Sometimes we meet exactly what we were looking for. Other times we don’t, but staying attuned to and authentic with ourselves, an exciting journey has begun.
Every path has many crossings and forks in the road, and there are dead ends here and there. Sometimes we like the food in an unknown country and sometimes we don’t. The same might be true for the content and companions we meet along the way. But having found “our thing,” or at least “something” replete with question marks, the adventure is starting. We can go deeper into the matter, whatever it is.
We try some things, experiment with others, shy away from what does not feel good, reflect upon all that and then we start again. In between we rest from time to time from the visits to the edge of our comfort zone.
As with food in cultures new to us, the process of adjusting to new topics can be curious and challenging. Some of it might sit funny with us for some time, but chewing it well might help clarify if we can find meaning there or not. Then the questions are coming: Do I want to go further with this or not? Where can I find more information? Why doesn’t it make sense for me? What is there to learn right here? Am I the only one having these difficulties?
These might even be the moments we are discovering and learning the most:). At some point we will find our own place with respect to our new knowledge, maybe our own hypothesis that we can explore further at another point in time, and we move on. In this process of experience, questioning, balancing, and play, we are learning a lot.
As far as I can see, there is no end. There is always something next to come. Many elders in their 90s are astonished again and again about continuing to discover and learn. I’ve heard this many times. Sometimes they think with amusement about their own inexperience when they were in their 70s. A good orientation for the process seems to be to maintain interest, flexibility, and beginners’ mind, and to notice when these have been lost for a time. Within the context of deepening, the very best is that we are inspired to be engaged, active, curious, reflective, very authentic, and very alive. This movement deeper, from skating fast on the surface to diving into the lake—this to me is the essence of the spiritual journey.
For me it’s always wonderful to pause for a moment and to reflect on what I’m doing, on how and why I’m doing it, on how I’m feeling being in my present situation, and on where I’m moving. Not with judgment or panic, just a curious looking: what’s really happening right now?
Deepening can happen in any and every moment, no matter what, if we allow for a little breathing space here and there.