Íse Murphy

On drifting and the search for meaning

I don’t know about you but lately I have been feeling the need to completely change tack, and after speaking to a few friends, noticing a theme in feeling like we’re drifting along without direction, seeking something of meaning to live for.

It appears that meaning is indeed worth living for. In Viktor Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning, he recounts his experience in the Nazi concentration camps and how those who survived the brutality were the ones who didn’t give up hope - because they had something to life for. When he was freed, he brought this perspective into his practice as a psychologist and discovered that the woe of his patients would almost disappear once they found meaning to whatever they were suffering for. We all experience pain and suffering, and usually try to make it go away, but it appears, according to Frankl, that if we give meaning to our suffering, then all of a sudden we have something worth living for.

What i’ve noticed recently, is that friends and colleagues have been experiencing what they describe as “drifting” off course, without any bigger picture, without any goal or thing they want to achieve. They were lacking meaning. I also feel this way, and found myself creating mind maps of ways I can dedicate my life’s work so I at least have something to show for myself when I die, other than some Instagram reels.

What we all recognised in these conversations is that we needed some quiet, uninterrupted space to reflect, take a step back and start to understand the bigger picture. I could argue that I have a lot of space but I notice I fill it every day with that damn beeping rectangle device next to me. It serves only to distract me and I find myself drifting through the days without actually climbing up the crow’s nest to see what’s going on.

I truly believe that only our body knows what we need to do next, and that by taking time away to be by ourselves, only then can we drop in and listen. It appears I now need to take some of my own medicine and do the exact same thing. I guess this is why corporate retreats are so successful - take the team out of the environment and distraction and focus on the task at hand - figuring out what the hell is going on.

I know for me that I haven’t been doing anything fulfilling lately. I know those moments when I am creating with purpose, when I have written that researched article or wrote a poem from the heart, are when I feel fulfilled and have something worth fighting for. Even taking the time to write this newsletter is something that lights up my soul, but I have been distracting myself away from any kind of deep work (I recommend Cal Newport’s book of the same name).

I know I am off track. I feel it. So have the colleagues i’ve been talking to. We know something is off and dear reader, you may too.

For the body holds the wisdom of what is good for us. The body knows when there is something that isn’t good for us - we feel off. The body knows when something is great for us - we feel wonderful, alive, joyous and excited.

These emotions and bodily experiences are communication tools, and what we could do more of developing a deeper relationship with. Following your gut, or listening to your intuition, or taking your time to make a decision - are all how we truly make a decision anyway. Human Design helped me with this greatly as through our chart we are able to understand how our bodies make decisions (the mind is not required!).

What i’ve come to realise, however, is that the hardest thing to do, is nothing. And right at this moment, at this cusp, at this solstice, there is nothing I can do. I try to do something and my body withdraws the energy for it. So I need to heed her warnings and wait. Waiting and doing nothing are two strong habits that are discouraged in this society. Everything needs to be now! and fast! and full of exclamation marks, and how dare we try to think we can align with nature (even though we are part of it). Nature has her rhythms and so do we, and if we could honour our own rhythms, we might not get so frustrated all the time.

That still leaves me without meaning however. Yet as I continue to practice Wu Wei (going with the flow), I know that over time, and at the right time, the meaning will reveal itself to me.


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