Has life lost its juiciness? Are you missing a sense of meaning or purpose? Without the scaffolding of a compelling why to motivate us and provide direction, many of us can feel rudderless and empty. Our day to day existence may seem colorless and flavorless. But, research tells us there are some important ways we can reconnect with our deepest intentions and our most important values so that life feels juicier – more fulfilling.
As social beings, it’s important we find (or create) a community in which we experience a sense of belonging. Many people allow their social networks to deteriorate as they age. It’s so easy to let connections gradually slip away – lives get busy, friends move, circumstances change, romantic relationships break up, children grow up and fly the nest, our elders pass away, we retire. We may not even notice that it’s happening until there’s a break in the busyness and we pause long enough to look up above the fray, only to discover we’re essentially alone. Because change is a constant, we have to actively cultivate relationships throughout our lifetimes. Being part of a community helps connect us to something larger, beyond the myopic lens of I, me and mine.
For some of us, our relatively safe and automated modern lives can start to feel very routine and mundane. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutiae of day to day living, but it’s also important we understand our connection to something larger than our small selves. Belonging to a community is one way to do so. Other ways include exploring our spirituality, gazing at the stars, observing the power of nature in a storm, or contemplating the cosmos. These experiences develop a sense of wonder at the fragile and ephemeral quality of existence and highlight our true place within the vast and mysterious universe.
With our bootstrap mentality and romanticization of rugged independence, we forget that we are interdependent upon the world and other people for our very survival. Amidst our constant strivings for success, we have to remind ourselves to notice and be thankful for the good and useful things that come from outside of us. We were born helpless and someone kept us alive. Our basic needs and much of what we enjoy, including our food, clothing and shelter, passed through many hands in order to be made available to us. Appreciating what we’ve been given creates a sense of satisfaction, contentment, and “enoughness”. It also helps us feel more connected with the greater whole.
Being open to others suffering, cultivating a desire to alleviate it, and taking compassionate action, with no attachment to outcome or return, helps move us beyond the limiting confines of “I, me and mine” and unites us in a sense of common humanity. Altruism is hard wired in us because it promotes the very survival of our species. Helping others activates the reward and pleasure system in our brains. There’s also a sense of freedom – a letting go – that arises out of giving from an honest attitude of generosity or altruism.
Here are some practical ways to increase the juiciness of our daily lives:
- Join a club or organization with frequent meetings or get involved in a regular group activity
- Volunteer for a charitable cause
- Go outside and notice all that your senses take in
- Develop a mindfulness practice, creating space to pause and reflect on your inner experience
- Keep a gratitude journal or make it a daily habit to mentally thank people who have offered you love or support along the way
- Become a part of a spiritual community
This is what was bequeathed us:
This earth the beloved left
Left to us.
No other world
But this one:
Willows and the river
And the factory
With its black smokestacks.
No other shore, only this bank
On which the living gather.
No meaning but what we find here.
No purpose but what we make.
That, and the beloved’s clear instructions:
Turn me into song; sing me awake.
– Gregory Orr, This Is What Was Bequeathed Us