• How to live a meaningful life: Connection with something greater than yourself – part two

    September 24, 2017 | curtrosengren
  • something greater than yourself

    In my most recent post in this series on meaning I explored the value of leaving the egosphere and feeling connected to something greater than yourself. But there are umpteen ways to dice that potato. In this post I want to take a look at some specifics.

    As I explored the possibilities for getting beyond ourselves, I noticed that they all fell into one of three categories:

    • Service
    • Belonging
    • Spiritual transcendence

    Interestingly, there was a lot of interlapping (kind of like overlapping, but more integrated) with several of the meaning sources I’m exploring in this series.


    As a way to connect with something greater than yourself, service can take many forms. They’re all facets of making a difference. They might entail serving individuals, groups of people, the natural world, or future generations.


    The first and most obvious is straight-up service. This could be formalized service, like volunteering, or it could be informal, like running to the store for your neighbor when she’s sick in bed.

    That beyond-me experience could come from specific efforts, but it could also come from treating service as an overall philosophy of life, habitually scanning whatever is happening and asking, “How can I help? Who can I help? Where are the opportunities to help?”

    Being a catalyst for positive change

    You can also focus that service around a specific cause or change you want to see in the world. Not only does that provide you with an opportunity to focus on something bigger than yourself, it also offers a source of energy as you work towards something you care about.


    One last way to connect with something bigger than yourself is to work towards a personal vision that inspires you. Maybe that is building a business that makes a difference. Maybe it looks like creating a small non-profit on the side addressing an issue you care about deeply. Or maybe it is simply something like creating a greater sense of community in your neighborhood.

    Whatever it is, working towards a vision inherently forces you to think and act in a bigger context. It offers a bigger agenda to guide your life.


    A sense of belonging inherently brings with it a connection to something bigger. That can take numerous forms.


    Anywhere you find that sense of one-on-one connection. Relationships turn that focus on me into an experience of we.


    Community comes in many shapes and sizes. It could be, for example:

    • Geographic based (like your neighborhood or town)
    • Organization based (like a church/synagogue/mosque, or an educational institution)
    • Interest based (like bicycling enthusiasts, or comic book collectors)
    • Cause based (like social justice or environmental sustainability)

    Being part of a movement

    This is really a cause based community with the volume turned up to 11. Not only is there a common cause, there is an upswelling of energy around it that feeds the sense of being part of something greater than yourself.


    One final source of a sense of belonging is simply a deep understanding and awareness of the interconnectedness of everything. We all operate in one complex, interconnected system. That’s true environmentally, economically, socially – any way you slice it, we are all individual parts of a greater whole.


    When I say spiritual transcendence, I’m not talking about some out-of-body experience (though I’m not excluding that either). I simply mean something that takes you out of your small-self focus and into something more expansive.

    Spiritual practice

    In this context, spiritual practice is anything that opens you to a greater expansiveness. That might be prayer, meditation, chanting, yoga, or any one of a million other practices that people have engaged in for millennia.


    If you have ever stood in an old-growth forest and felt small yet part of something bigger, or stood in awe at the grandeur of a natural wonder, you know what I’m talking about.

    As a species, we evolved in nature. For most of us, there is a component here that is missing from our day-to-day lives. And when we connect with nature, there’s something visceral about the experience.


    Finally, there’s love. I don’t mean the saccharine Hallmark card version. I mean the kind of love that opens your heart wide, that expands your circle of existence to include others. This love can take many forms, from compassion, to selfless giving, to acceptance and inclusion.


    In a way, this source of meaning is about noticing what’s already true. Because whether we’re aware of it or not, we ARE all part of something greater than ourselves. Many things, really.

    So part of stepping more fully into this meaning source is simply about recognizing where we have narrowed our own lives down by our insistence on occupying the egosphere, and looking for opportunities to let that go. As we do, our experience expands.

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