Many of us feel our lives are going nowhere. We might be finding our jobs to be meaningless, or we might be unemployed and don’t see any prospects for improvement. We might still be in school and question the value and meaning of our education. We dread things getting worse and there is danger of falling into a depression. Together with this, we would like to do something meaningful and that would make some positive change in the world, and we would like to share that with others. Many of us even realize that making a lot of money and having a lot of things do not satisfy our need for meaning.
Buddhism addresses this issue with the topic of safe direction, usually translated as refuge. When we realize that the precious human life that we have will definitely end with death and worse rebirths can lie ahead if we don’t do something positive now with our lives, we look at how we can prevent that. Similarly, even if we don’t accept rebirth, we can appreciate our precious lives we have now and, knowing how awful it will be to die with regret at how meaningless our lives were, we dread things getting worse in this lifetime.
The safe direction that Buddhism offers is indicated by the Three Precious Gems. The main one is the Dharma – true stoppings and true pathway minds – so, working on ourselves to overcome our shortcomings and realize all our potentials by developing all good qualities. Shortcomings include disturbing emotions, lack of concentration, self-cherishing, difficulties in communicating effectively, etc. Good qualities include the basic human values of kindness, compassion, patience, understanding, forgiveness, honesty, etc. as well as a sense of ethics, concentration and insight. Working to gain these, as the Buddhas have done in full and the highly realized masters have done in part, would clearly put meaning in our lives.
Although we might like to share things with others, this doesn’t mean to just post our success in social media, but with growing self-confidence we share our development with others by helping them in whatever small or large ways we can. Thus, putting a safe direction in our lives is based on dread of things getting worse, confidence in the fact that working on ourselves is a safe direction to prevent our lives from getting worse, and concern and compassion for others whom we would like to help by sharing our accomplishments.
- Calm down by focusing on the breath.
- Think about your life and evaluate whether or not you find it meaningful.
- Think about how you like to share things about your life with others.
- Think about how working to overcome your shortcomings and realizing your potentials would put meaning in your life and enable you to share something meaningful with others, not just trivia, and how wonderful it would be if what you shared – not only online, but in personal interaction – helped them in some way.
- Imagine falling off a cliff into a deep depression at the lack of a meaningful direction in your life.
- Think how working on yourself would save you from this depression and would be a wonderful gift that you could share with others.
- Resolve to put that direction in your life.
- Imagine the same, but now you are just on the edge of falling off that cliff.
- Imagine the same, but you are some ways off from the cliff, but steadily getting closer to it.
When we find our lives to be routine, boring and seemingly meaningless, we need to take a proactive approach. We need to put a positive direction in our lives, one that is meaningful to not just ourselves but to others. This direction is to work on ourselves to overcome our shortcomings and realize our positive potentials. Whether or not our ultimate goal is to do this in full, as the Buddhas have done and highly realized beings have accomplished partway – still, going on this journey will greatly improve the quality of our lives.