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Susan Smalley, Ph.D.

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Feeling Lost In The Purpose Or Meaning Of Life?

Posted: 03/12/09 11:43 AM ET

I've been feeling 'lost' lately, in transition, and uncertain of my direction in life, a feeling as if I am standing on a microcosm of the earth's land plates, with my left foot on one and my right foot on another, not quite sure if they will move together or split apart. I attribute my current sense of it to my children leaving home for college along with an increased awareness of my own inevitable end of life.

Lost is perhaps one of the most frightening words in the English language. In the 1960s, I grew up with Lost in Space, a 30 minute comedy/drama series of the family Robinson traveling through space trying to find their way home to planet earth. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz is lost and trying to find her way back to Kansas. Lost, the television show about airplane passengers crashed on an island trying to get home became a media sensation. Even the short-lived television show, Life on Mars, was about a man from the current century lost in time, the 1970s. Being physically lost is a recurring theme in media, books, poetry, music, and dreams or nightmares.

Being lost is accompanied by fear, fear of the unknown and fear of isolation from friends, family, and the comforts of home. We root for those that are lost to be found, or to discover their way back home. Many times in our lives we may find ourselves lost, perhaps not physically but mentally. By that I mean, we feel a sense of deep confusion as to the 'why' of life, and the course of action that stems from clarity, not confusion, in relationship, work or play. Interspersed through these times of confusion are ones where we feel 'found', we are clear and focused in meaning, purpose, and course of action. The latter are usually associated with emotions of happiness, joy, and bliss while the former often include negative emotions of fear, doubt, and others (sadness, anger, envy, etc.). Over the landscape of life, we begin to see the repetitive nature of this game of "lost and found" until we see it as the game it is. It is in this knowing that we may experience a feeling of it as 'All Good', both the times of being lost and times of being found.

People often turn to religion and faith to seek shelter from this sense of being 'lost'. But, religion is not necessary to discover the continuous nature of this game of Lost and Found that is life. It may be discovered when sitting quietly in meditation, or walking in nature, or in times of deep connection with an 'other' - whether that be music, art, or a loved one. In such times, we lose our 'self' as 'separate' to something larger of which we are a part and in this experience we can discover an acceptance or appreciation of life 'as it is', the game itself, the continuous process of Lost and Found. The waxing and waning of our individual sense of purpose or meaning is enveloped by this blanket of appreciation in such a way that 'All Good' rings forth in spades.

Remembering this game of Lost and Found is like realizing that neither can occur without the other, each is a required part of the game. Like Hide and Seek, one person hides so the other can find them. Both parts are crucial for the game to continue. No side is more important than the other. It's All Good.

 

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