How can we lead a life that is more nourishing and meaningful?


Jack Kerouac’s book On The Road was a life changer. Written in 1951 – when New York was the shiniest most exciting city in the world – it was a cry against the rigid conformity which had overtaken American society. The book is a spiritual quest in search of the answers to life’s big questions.

It occurs to me his book has as much resonance today in our culture where material possessions are rated highly and the spirit is left untended.

The Beat generation of that time were not satisfied with the uniform consumer culture, but yearned for freedom and meaning and to be alive to the senses. I also want that: a life that has meaning and feeds the soul, but I can be so easily distracted by the antics of celebrities, television, internet, IPhone….



How can we lead a life that is more nourishing and meaningful?

Maybe we need to pay greater attention to the things we do every day. Our tendency is to move through life on automatic pilot, like driving on a motorway with our mind on other things. If we bring ourselves into the present and look around us, we may appreciate the beauty in the small things that generally pass us by.   I really admire the philosophy of John Betjeman who resolved to look for the beauty in places and people. When we look for beauty we may well find it. How we live seems more important than why.

 When we notice things we mark them, they become memories, we have thoughts about and – maybe – like John Betjeman – we will be moved to fight to conserve a fine old building or write poetry, or we may develop a set of ethics, or reach out to help another, or simply find enjoyment and enrichment of the senses and a stronger understanding of who we are.

In paying attention to our lives we may notice our relational patterns and our beliefs – if we really look we can see our biases and how we limit ourselves. We may see the evidence does not correspond with our beliefs and we then have opened up a choice.

So maybe next time you find yourself grazing from gadget to gadget, feeling vaguely bored and with a sense of ennui, stop and look around. Maybe you will see the sun’s rays playing through a window, or notice the shape and beauty of fading flowers in a vase, or the sweet familiarity of a loved one’s face. Take time to investigate how you feel in your body and where your thoughts habitually take you to.

Life passes quickly enough whether noticed or not. In paying attention we bring meaning and richness, and vivid lasting memories.



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