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Meaning

Jump to the following topics:

  1. What is meaning?
  2. Personal meaning and "the meaning of life."
  3. The benefits from meaning.
  4. Techniques for exploring meaning.


What is meaning? It can be explained in various ways:

  1. Meaning is a quality which signifies that an object is important in ways which cannot be fully explained in terms of functionality. For example, a hammer is simply a functional object which has no meaning; however, this hammer could have meaning if, for example, it was given to us by a beloved relative, or it is an antique, or it was used on our first job during adolescence.
  2. Meaning is a quality which evokes particular feelings: awe, reverence, respect, devotion, care, concern, cherishing, etc. We discern meaning through our feelings and intuition.
  3. Meaning is a quality which we ascribe to something which we "value"; i.e., if something is meaningful to us, we value it.
  4. The word's synonyms include "significance" and "importance."


Personal meaning and "the meaning of life." Meaning exists on both the personal and impersonal level.

  1. Personal meaning. For example, we might discover meaning in a marriage or relationship, or parenthood, or giving assistance and love to individuals, or contributing to society in general (through a job or volunteer work), or our spiritual exploration of life. We have meaning when we can answer the questions, "Who am I?" and "Why am I here?"
  2. The meaning of life. In addition to our personal sense of meaning, there might be a universal meaning for our existence -- a meaning which underlies all experience for all of us. Philosophers have speculated that the meaning of life is that it presents opportunities to learn to love, or to explore spiritual truth, or to discover our divine nature. The belief in a universal meaning can be constructive as long we do not deny our own personal meanings; for example, if we accept the religious idea that the meaning of life is found in service to mankind, we are betraying ourselves if we abandon our family (in which we find meaning) in an effort to find meaning in the abstract religious idea of service.


The benefits from meaning.  

  1. Meaning gives guidance. In many decisions, our choice is (1) a meaningful activity or (2) a less-meaningful activity. If we know what is important to us, this decision-making process is easier.
  2. Meaning grants context and continuity. Meaning is a central theme, from which our life makes sense. Our individual activities and goals are not random occurrences; instead, they are extensions from this theme.
  3. Meaning grants strength. If our lives have meaning, we can experience peace and courage even when we are struggling and suffering.
  4. Meaning grants satisfaction. When we are performing a meaningful activity, the activity itself is emotionally rewarding, even if the results are not perfect or even successful; "we fought the good fight."


Techniques for exploring meaning.

  1. Archetypal field-work.
    • Self-talk. For example: "Life has meaning." "I enjoy finding the personal meaning in things." "I take care of the things that are meaningful to me."
    • Directed imagination. For example, we can visualize ourselves tenderly caring for something which has meaning to us.
    • Energy toning. When we encounter things which are meaningful to us, we can cultivate energy tones such as love, affection, fondness, awe, cherishing, etc.
    • The "as-if" principle. When we discern the meaningful things in our life, we can act out the role of a person who cares for those things -- treating them with respect, and growing them into a substantial part of our life.
  2. Intuition. Meaning becomes apparent to us through our feelings, which is one means by which our intuition expresses itself. We can also use intuition itself to direct us toward the activities which are meaningful; then, intuition will tell us how to interact with these meaningful activities such that we fulfill them.
  3. We can make a list of the things which are meaningful to us. What do we care about? What is most satisfying in our life? What causes the most happiness? What is in our daydreams and fantasies? What are our aspirations? What were our goals when we were children?
  4. We can discriminate between our own meaning and the meaning which is presented by external forces. Many people try to tell us what should be important to us; those people include parents, religious leaders, politicians, the media, celebrities, advertisers, etc. But meaning is a very intimate matter which is based upon our own feelings and intuition.

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