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The Question of Meaning with Mark Matousek

We are pleased to bring you this excerpt from "The Question of Meaning" with Mark Matousek.  Where do we find the meaning of life?  The answer is different for everyone.  Mark Matousek takes us on the journey to understand how we can all discover the meaning of life within ourselves.

Let's talk about the question of meaning. Why is a strong sense of meaning so crucial? What do we do when our lives lack meaning? How do we find meaning in life when things overwhelm us and we can barely keep our heads up, and where does meaning actually come from?

Now, I’m going to focus on six essential tools that we can use to discover and cultivate an inspired sense of meaning and purpose in our lives. Without meaning, it could be hard to face the challenges that are thrown our way and hard to weather the terrible bits, to understand ourselves, to find a reason to go on, and most of all, hard to make choices.

Now, choice is the first important tool we’re going to talk about in cultivating meaning. As Viktor Frankl wrote,”The ability to choose our way is the last of the human freedoms”.  In his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”, Frankl describes being a prisoner of war and seeing the power of choice acted out every single day in matters of life and death.  "We, who lived in concentration camps, can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms, to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way". Now, in deepest despair, meaning was nearly as important as food in the day to day lives of these prisoners.  During his time in the camp, Frankl maintained a sense of meaning by imagining that his wife, who had been sent to another concentration camp, was alive. She wasn’t, yet this story is what helped to keep him alive, to give his existence and the prospect of a future a feeling of significance. His story about his life is the only thing that stood between Frankl and suicidal despair. Later, he would come up with a formulation that captured this wisdom; suffering, minus meaning, equals despair.

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Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron Excerpt - Part Two

We are pleased to bring you part two of the excerpt from Giving Our Best with Pema Chodron.  To continue with this recorded retreat, Pema Chödrön continues to focus on the enlightened heart and mind.  By nurturing a compassionate attitude in our hearts, we can naturally become more open and present to others and free in our lives, even amidst life’s adversities and fears. 

The Buddha’s don’t need our veneration. They don’t need our bows, and they don’t need our water bowls filled with roses, and they don’t need statues and paintings, and candles, and so forth. We do it actually to become open and receptive and humbled so that we might be able to hear something.  So, anyone sitting here who is saying my husband or wife dragged me to this, and I can’t wait till this talk is over so I can go outside, as I’m talking here, is thinking about what you’re going to do when you go home or how stupid this whole thing is or anything where the analogy often is like a pot with a lid on it.

It's like when you’re trying to pour the teachings in but you can’t, or sometimes they say it’s like a pot with spoiled food in the bottom.  So you pour in something fresh but it all gets soured or it's a pot with a hole in the bottom; it just goes right out.  So, these teachings are to this veneration and also the second verse is to make the listener and the speaker as well, in this case the writer, Shantideva, soften and open so that something can be received and can be of benefit. So, as you listen, there is a lot of instructions on how you might be free of suffering and the cause of suffering, but if you don’t listen, too bad for you.


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Power of Space and Reincarnation with Alan Watts (preview 3)

We are pleased to present this final excerpt from "The Power of Space and Reincarnation" by Alan Watts.  Do we really understand space and how this universe exists.  Or even how it differs from the other dimension of our physical world.

The funny thing about space, is that in a way it doesn’t end where a solid begins.  You can shift a solid around in space without apparently altering it in any way, and after all, there is space between the two sides, shall we say, or ends of the solid.

We can think of that in terms of space, and measure it in terms of space. But it is against space that we experience everything that we experience.  And by the way also, we experience everything, not only in the dimension of space but also the dimension of time. And the fascination about space and time is, that while they are basic to all possible experiences that we have, you just can’t put your finger on them.  

Space seems to be completely immaterial. And when St Augustine was asked “What is time?”, he said “I know what it is, but when you ask me I don’t”. So, these two basic dimensions of our physical world, are uncommonly illusive.


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Power of Space and Reincarnation with Alan Watts (preview 2)

We are pleased to present this excerpt from "The Power of Space and Reincarnation" by Alan Watts.  What is space and can we measure it in the same way we measure our physical world? We are always looking for the answers, can we find them?

I began by reviewing two possible concepts of the nature of space.  One that it is simply an abstraction, and projected upon the physical world in rather the same way that we project measurements.  Lines of latitude and longitude or the cutting up of another abstraction called time into divisions like hours, minutes and seconds, which are there only on the dial of a clock. The earth in its rotation doesn't tick and time is of course thus seen simply as a measure of change as between two changing processes,  The changing process of the clock, and the changing process of say a person’s running around.

It is out of that relationship, in other words, that you get a concept of time. And similarly, through being able to measure distances, in a similar way, we get a concept of space. You see, this is one point of view, that it’s an abstraction because force would be lent to this point of view by the fact that space itself isn’t really there. Space is just absence, and you must be very careful, as Whitehead would have said, not to make a thing out of something that isn’t there at all.

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