Don't turn off your phone, don't disconnect from technology and don't worry about meditating at an insane hour. These (well, their opposites) are the prerequisites for finding meaning, purpose or designing your life for the better but is that really so?
With so much stress on finding the purpose of your life, we've lost rather silenced the ability to truly introspect on what's really meaningful to us.
Some of my methods are arguably questionable but they work (at least for me), so if you're someone like me who doesn't want to turn their phone off, disconnect or meditate regularly (although there's really no harm in trying...) then perhaps give this a go.
I try to find meaning in the everyday, not by trying to do something that doesn't come natural to me but by doing something I truly cherish doing. Don't get me wrong, I have grown and developed better habits over time but none that didn't innately feel right and much of the articles I see floating about finding peace and meaning in life always ask you to turn your life upside down, I mean how on earth are you supposed to feel calm about that?
Let's take the same three examples above which are often brutally criticised:
I love my iPhone, mind you I'm pretty convinced that the call function doesn't work and seldom make use of it for traditional phone purposes itself but every time somebody texts me, I am reminded that someone thought of me today. How brilliant is that? Instead of chastising my phone I embrace at the marvel that is how often somebody wants to be in touch with me and that makes my life a little bit more meaningful.
The second one is probably harder to defend, I mean who really wants a bajillion (I checked, this is now officially a word that stems from North America used to describe 'an extremely large number') notifications on your phone or computer when you're trying to work? That's what social media is, it constantly wants to drag you into it's world because without people (read; you) in it it's nothing.
First of all, if you still have all of your social notifications set to alert that's just you not making use of technology to it's fullest potential. I literally have all the notifications turned off on all of my devices but that moment, perhaps it's a Friday afternoon or Tuesday morning when you feel like you're just a cog in a machine venturing into the world of social media can be so rejuvenating. Many of my meaningful relationships have started with a single tweet or a blog post much like this one and they continue to surprise and enlighten me with refreshing perspectives from around the world. How could you possible be angry at that?
The key to finding meaning in the noisy world of social media is to use it in a meaningful way, if you let it dominate your screens and intervene at any moment of course you're going to hate it, you'd probably even hate your other half if (s)he kept disturbing you every half hour with something irrelevant. But every @mention does give my life meaning because it's a reflection of what I put out into the world. Case in point, I could very well write a blog post on all the things that I am currently annoyed about instead I choose to write this. In return, the social space rewards me with meaningful conversations around this subject. Do you see what I mean?
Now, there's a real bad rep going on about meditation; you either are one of the most amazing souls because you meditate or you're simply not good enough because you're not. I respect and even look up to those who are able to meditate every morning at 5:30 a.m. but that's not me, at least not right now. I tried sitting down, closing my eyes and trying to watch my breath but it just made me more anxious. Apparently that's okay and it's a ritualistic phase everyone needs to go through but right now it bothers me more than it should.
But let's examine the fundamentals of meditation, it's about clearing your mind and at the heart of it is focus. My meditative practice includes making a fresh filter pourover coffee (if you're a coffee nut like me, try doing this first thing in the morning -- as the smell of coffee wakes you up gently, the slow actions of watching it drip through into your cup is soothing even to the most hyper of people aka me), reading and my favorite of them all: writing.
If you haven't guessed already that I enjoy writer then you need to learn to focus better. Meditation at it's core is about having the ability to focus on one thing without distractions and that's what writing allows me to do. If you're not one of those people who's born with the gifts of waking up to do yoga or meditate before sunrise then pick an activity that calms you down whilst helping you get into a state of flow -- it's not everything but it's a damn good start.
Writing not just gives meaning to my life but it helps me find myself, everyday. Instead of beating yourself up for not being able to 'find meaning' try finding meaning in your everyday activities. One of my favorites is also taking a long bus ride listening to podcasts, I can zone into the episodes without being distracted by people, notifications etc.
Ever wondered how children are amused at some outright bizarre things? It's because they find meaning in things that are completely new to them so what's stopping you from finding meaning in the most mundane, sometimes ridiculous, everyday things?
Let me know what you're finding meaning in today on Twitter @bhaesa #everydaymeaning. Let's come together and bring meaning to lives everywhere.
Bhavani Esapathi is a writer & speaker on social innovation, arts and technology. She is also the Founder of The Invisible Labs; a social tech venture creating better lives for those living with invisible disabilities. If you enjoyed reading this you might like to check out Chronically Driven where she shares inspiring stories of real people living extraordinary lives with an incurable diagnosis.