A Life Well Lived

What does it mean to live a life well lived?

I think about this often (especially as I get older).

I know it essentially includes being open and traveling a spectrum of human experiences. To me, a life well lived is a life of expansion.

This morning, I came across a lovely 4-minute video featuring Jim Whittaker, first American to scale Mount Everest. He shared some of his philosophy on risk-taking, and getting outside to learn about yourself:

“Nature is the best teacher in the world …. it is in the wild places, in the damp clean air of an ancient forest, on a heaving ocean in unpredictable wind, on a snowy summit at the top of the world, that I enter my own personal cathedral and know where I fit in the vastness of creation.”

I understand when he says it is “an unconscious spiritual journey to be in the natural world.” I have only ever felt a sense of awe and wonder while outside in nature’s cathedral.

Moon June
I remember the first time I saw the northern lights dancing in ribbons across a dark winter sky … the first time I saw a shooting star, or watched the luminous orange globe of the full moon, rising slowly over the sea … or felt the vastness of the universe while standing under a million bright and brilliant stars.

My own personal cathedral is the night sky. And in this place, witnessing something special, I have felt very small but also connected to something much larger than myself. I have been overjoyed, stilled, filled with gratitude, and somehow reassured of my place in this world. These experiences have been profoundly expansive.

I will continue to think about this, and build my own definition for a life well lived. In the meantime, if you would like a few moments of thoughtful inspiration, here is Jim Whittaker’s perspective.

1 comment

  1. What does it mean to speak of “a life well lived”?

    Permit me offer a spiritual perspective on this, much of which is inspired by the book, “A Course In Miracles.” For starters, think about the oft-heard statement, “You can’t take it with you.” With this in mind, virtually nothing we think of in terms of material success, or a successful life, matters in the Spirit world, which you may think of as the Kingdom of God.

    Thus, amassing a financial fortune, and becoming wealthy, is not what it is all about in the Spirit world, since “you can’t take it with you.”

    Acquiring fame is also not important, since all too often, fame is fleeting and not lasting. Not only that, but there is no such thing as fame in the Spirit world, where there are no differences, and All is One.

    By contrast consider Jonas Salk, who is given credit for finding cure for polio. Was his a life well lived? One would normally think so.

    Consider Mahatma Ghandi. Was his life well lived? One would normally think so.

    Other famous names quickly come to mind, such as Shakespeare, Alfred Einstein, Rembrandt, or Mozart. But is this what it takes to have a life well lived? Do you need to be world famous?

    I think not.

    Pierre Teilhard de Chardin once said, “We are not physical beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” If we are, first and foremost, spiritual beings, then a physical life well lived must be related to our spiritual progress, or our spiritual growth during that life. This growth can be attained in many, many ways, from being a dedicated physician, nurse, or health-care worker, to a dedicated teacher. It can be accomplished by living a difficult life in which you overcome serious disadvantages. It can be accomplished by raising a family, and doing it well. It can be accomplished by being a Light to everyone you meet.

    I think that in very general terms a life well lived is related to the degree to which you help others. And most importantly, to the degree to which you are able to forgive everyone you meet, family members, friends and strangers alike, for in forgiving others you forgive yourself.

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