The life I’d built over twenty-five years was crashing around me. My wife, whom I’d married at age twenty-one and with whom I’d shared a deep and abiding love, was entering a period of disease and dementia that would lead eventually to her death. Because of this, I had been forced to step aside from the company I’d founded and taken public, which then collapsed and brought my career down in its wake. I should have been at the low point of my life. But instead, I didn’t feel so bad. Not deep down. Deep inside me, I said to myself: OK, here’s a chance. A chance to get right to the bottom and ask those questions that I’d always known were there, but had kept deferring. This was it. It was now or never.
These questions were the ones that every one of us has asked ourselves at various times in our lives, but which usually don’t get answered. The most fundamental questions we humans are able to ask. What is the meaning of my life? Of anyone’s life? How can I feel truly fulfilled? Do I have a soul? If so, what is it and what can I do to nurture it?
As I look back on it, I realize that one of the best things that ever happened to me was that catastrophic period in my life. Because I was given the chance to go back to the basics and explore my life for meaning.
And I’ve spent the last six years or so going at it with mind and body. I started reading books on wildly different subjects, which all began connecting the dots for me. Evolution: how did we humans evolve anyway? Neuroscience: how do our brains and minds really work? Anthropology: how did we humans originally look for meaning? Ancient history: And what happened after that? Buddhism. Hinduism. Taoism. You name it: how did it all come together? I wasn’t going to take someone else’s word for it. I wanted to put it all together in a way that truly made sense to me, without any significant parts being left out.
I said mind and body. Not just mind. And with my physical experience, I did the same thing in my search for answers. Things I’d never done before in my life. Yoga. Meditation. And then, more recently, I discovered a whole other aspect of my body I hadn’t even realized existed, because my Western culture had written it out of existence: my energy body. Dance. Sexuality. Movement. How did all those things fit in?
Western culture has always told us they don’t fit in. Keep everything separate. Mind and body? Different. Your reason and emotions? Different, of course. And if you have a soul, then it’s definitely not something a doctor can measure when you go get a physical. Religion and science are separate, we’re told. You can be a scientist and still believe in God. No problem. They are just two different domains of reality. And if you do happen to be a scientist, of course you’re not going to talk about where meaning comes from. That’s for the religious folk. You’d lose your job in a hurry if you even went close to that place.
But I have come to realize that, in fact, they all do fit together. Everything is connected. Mind and body can be as one. Science and spiritual meaning can even be integrated. Western civilization has it wrong. It’s built on a false foundation.
And those Eastern spiritual traditions. We can gain so much from them. From Buddhism. From Taoism. From the Vedic civilization of India. But they don’t have all the answers either. Each of them offers some answers. None of them offers all the answers. Same for the other indigenous traditions that feel so good to connect with.
But one thing I began to realize was that, for the first time in human history, there truly is a global forum of spiritual learnings out there. For the first time, we have the capability to put it all together. To create a satisfactory construct of meaning for our human existence. To understand how we really do connect with the natural world around us. To understand how our minds relate to our bodies. To understand how to lead a fulfilled life.
Over these past few years, I feel I’ve arrived at some approaches to these fundamental questions that seem to make sense to me. Approaches that integrate the rigorous findings of science and the profound wisdom of the Eastern spiritual traditions. Approaches that have allowed me to find deep, abiding happiness as a living organism, even while events in my life tossed me around like a hurricane. Approaches that have filled each day of my life with meaning and joy.
That’s what I’m offering in this blog. It’s a blog that has a very large intention: its objective is putting it all together. A comprehensive, integrated approach to meaning in our lives. One that gives equal prominence to our lived experience and our conceptualizing brains. That gives validity to the spiritual sense of oneness, the ultimate connectedness of all of life, the awakening to the bliss of true meaning. And gives equal validity – the same validity – to scientific insights: the insights of neuroscience, of systems biology, of complexity theory.
It’s an approach that weaves together the findings of Buddhist insights into consciousness, the ecstasy of wild dancing to trance music, the liberation of sexual energy, and the calm assurance of Taoist qigong. An approach that offers each and every one of us the chance to shed those received constructions that imprison us, and to take a journey on a path to liberation, to fulfillment, to an awakened sense of connectedness within ourselves and with all beings around us.
It’s an approach that I call, quite simply, Love and Harmony. And in my next blog post, I’ll explain why.