At a recent talk, the conversation got pretty deep into the health benefits of meditation. Reduced risk of heart attacks, lower blood pressure, better sleep, less depression...the list is truly remarkable. And that led to a discussion of longevity. I said that the real question is relevance. Not, “How long will I live?” but, “Why am I here?” Few things, I said, are sadder than someone trying to claw a few more years out of a life they feel has meant nothing.
So how do we find meaning in life? What’s our purpose? Why are we here? At a certain point in life, almost all of us ask these questions. How successful we are depends on where we go for answers.
The tendency, of course, is to try to “figure it out.” But as my teacher, Thom Knoles, once said, the intellect is an amazing tool, but it’s a terrible navigator. Number-crunching isn’t the best way to figure out whom to love, or what to do, or even where to live. So if not the intellect, where do we turn for guidance? Within. All of us have an inner voice; some might call it the voice of God while others might call it intuition or gut instinct.
The Veda teaches that this inner voice is the voice of dharma, the path along which our life flows most smoothly. Because when we are aligned with that path, we are fulfilling our personal role in the evolution of all things. Those impulses that arise from within are the signals, the signposts along the way.
But when we’re stuck on the choppy surface of the mind, with all the busywork of speculation and calculation, all the hustle and bustle of life, we often can’t hear that voice. And when we manage to hear it, all too often, we talk ourselves out of it. Many, many failed marriages begin with someone not heeding that voice on their wedding day. (“I knew in my heart it was wrong,” they say.) In our daily meditations, we fall away from the surface and get closer to the source of our dharma. And over time we get better at hearing them and perhaps get better at honoring them.
Years ago, I was cleaning a bicycle chain when a thought arose from within. “You should be a meditation teacher.” I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it. I told my wife, Yvette, and she laughed even harder. It made absolutely no sense...intellectually. Sure, we’d been meditating for a few years and had really enjoyed the benefits. The changes in us were evident for all to see. But I had a successful career in advertising. A meditation teacher? Really?
What is that voice trying to tell you? What’s your dharma? Sit. Listen. And then act. You’ll be happy you did.