To seek for a meaning in life is probably the most epic, yet common journey in the world. There is as much greatness in it as there is simplicity. There are so many questions surrounding this conquest. Is there truly one key meaning to our life – or may there be more than one? Is it truly possible to reach the end of this quest – or is there no end to it? Will we ever truly find the meaning of our lives before we die, or won’t we? “The perfect blossom is a rare thing. You could spend your life looking for one, and it would not be a wasted life”. For years I have heard this sentence and not given it what I now believe is its true meaning. One day, as I watching The Last Samurai for the hundredth time, it finally struck me: enlightenement. That is, I believe, what Katsumoto called the perfect blossom. But for those who don’t know or don’t believe in the genuine sense of this phenomenom, maybe you can view it as something else: finding a purpose to life, discovering its meaning, carving your path through it. There is nothing simple about it – and maybe it is a lot simpler than we think. Why? Because, in truth, all the answers we need are already inside us, waiting for us to find them.
I don’t mean to say that we cannot learn from the outside world, from other beings or from life’s experiences. No. Every single thing we go through in life is meant to help us unlock those understandings that already lie inside us, waiting to be found. The hardest and greatest challenge, perhaps, is to learn exactly how to view each event that happens in our life as a lesson to further understand ourselves – and, therefore, to further understand the reason why we are alive, the reason why we came to this World… or, in other words, the meaning of our life. A question: is it only when we look inside us that we will understand the world around us, or is it only when we look at the world around us that we will understand ourselves? Maybe both. Maybe it is the other way around: only when we look inside us will we truly understand ourselves, but we can not do so without being fully aware of the world that surrounds us. Why? Because our life is what shapes us, and our life is deeply affected by the world we inhabit. But each of us reacts differently to the things that happen to us. How can we explain that? By looking inside us and finding what is there. There, in the depths of our being, lie the answers we need to everything. But by no means is it easy to look inside yourself.
It is a lot harder to look inside yourself than to look around you. Why? Because there is as much depth to you, as much width and complexity, as there is in the universe that surrounds you. Look at the common sentence: you are a drop in the universe, and the universe in a drop. So, how can you discover yourself? How can you find those answers? For they are invisible, inaudible, but not impossible to feel. You can feel them with your heart, as you can feel them with your mind. I believe meditation (be it traditional Buddhist meditation or reiki, shamanic practices or spiritual retreats, et cetera) is the best way to reach it, as have said the wise people of the East for thousands of years. But for those of us who don’t practice meditation, are not interested in it or don’t know enough about it, one good piece of advice is this: fight complexity with simplicity. “There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment” (Tsunetomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book Of The Samurai).
If we view the quest for a meaning to life as an epic, arduous journey, we may never feel brave enough or strong enough to face it. But no journey can be done by jumping from start to finish. You must take one step at a time, and follow your path. There are two things to reflect upon in this fact. First: you must take one step at a time. You will never succeed at something if you are constantly looking at the ending, at the final result, and not fully focused on the task at hand. Therefore, everything you do must be done with full respect for the present moment. To perfect yourself, you must do everything by heart, moved by the awareness that every gesture of yours must be a representation of your best self. You must help others, love others, always do your best for the best of others… and, in doing so, you shall also be doing what is best for yourself. Secondly, follow your path. This does not mean that you must follow whatever life imposes on you. No. You must create your own path by learning to listen to the advice that the Universe offers you. If you open your eyes and if you listen attentively, you will see and you will hear that life guides you in the right direction. This, of course, can only happen if you fulfill the first part of your quest correctly: if you remain true to yourself – and, therefore, to the world around you – at all times. Remain true to yourself at all times. Always be your best self. And life will offer you guidance to find and carve your own path.
It may be hard to find guidance in everyday life. Sometimes, we feel completely lost and alone – as if the Universe doesn’t see us or care about us; or worse, as if it is punishing us for something we don’t even know we’ve done. However, that is only a sign to show us that we are doing something wrong: we are most likely not being true to ourselves and doing the best we can. To find a meaning to life, we must wholeheartedly dedicate ourselves to everything in our life; but that doesn’t necessarily mean putting ourselves out there for great, perilous tasks. Instead, it means that we should find love, strength and courage in the simplest activities and gestures, offering those same gifts (love, loyalty, strength, courage) to those around us. In the end, if we are true to ourselves, we will begin to see that the Universe is not indifferent to us. We were not born into this World simply to fill it, to be another insignificant number in an overcrowded planet. No. I don’t think any of us was born simply to be another number, another empty face, another empty body. I think we all have a purpose in life, but most of us are dormant, unaware of our true paths, of our true selves. And if you get lost, your destiny – the destiny of this endless journey we are all on – will be much harder to find.
Most importantly than life, there is integrity. Integrity of the spirit, integrity of the heart and of the mind. Like Yamamoto Tsunetomo said, “Life is not so important when forced to choose between life and integrity”. To the Samurai, this was a cornerstone of their principles. And in the words of Miyamoto Musashi, “Get beyond love and grief; exist for the good of Man”. I want to change this sentence to: Get beyond love and grief; exist for the good of all the living. If you get lost in your own troubles and your own worries, you are only working for your own ego – which is what the vast majority of people in this world do. But if you see the little, simplest things in your life as they are all serving a higher purpose, you will be working for the universe and all that live in it. To end with the words of Buddha, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path”.