I just got out of a situation where I stepped up to help someone I cared about. It cost me my house, all the money I could earn, beg, borrow or steal, put my life in danger, and ultimately ended in failure (she dropped out of drug rehab and went back to abusive ex). I have since found that I don’t really have anything that I still care about, which makes my life very easy but ultimately meaningless. I often say it as when you have nothing worth dying for you also have nothing worth living for. Any ideas of where to go from here? Thank you.
In responding to your letter below, a reminder about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Let’s say someone is in a deep, dark hole:
Sympathy: You jump down with them; now you’re both in the same hole…
Empathy: You stay where you are, but throw that person a ladder. (He or she may say, “Please come down here with me! I need you!” You respond, “I understand, but I’m fine where I am; I’m rooting for you, but it’s up to you whether you choose to climb out.”)
You’ve learned a valuable life-lesson about codependency. Now it’s time to regroup, take stock (as a child might, or a teen, or a high-school or college-graduate, or someone in mid-life asking, “Now what? Where do I go from here?”
This might be an excellent time for you to peruse my book, The Four Purposes of Life: Finding Meaning and Direction in a Changing World — written precisely for folks like you, at this point in your life. It will help provide a foundation of reminders and clarity.
The good news is that you can only go up from here. Keep perspective in the knowledge that many people have stories about starting over —a little wiser and stronger.
We make up our meanings — the beginning is to form one purpose, then the next. Start small and connect the dots, each purpose being a steppingstone on your continuing path.
What you can do to begin is to strengthen your foundation by:
• Getting regular, moderate exercise at least 6 days a week
• Eating a balanced diet
• Getting sufficient rest (the exercise and diet help with that)
At the same time, focus on building back a sense of sufficiency and stability. Put the past behind you, where it belongs — don’t drag it around with you. Faith is the courage to live as if everything that happens is for our highest good and learning; our soul’s education.
I’ve just finished reading the book “way of the peaceful warrior,” which I thoroughly enjoyed. But when I reached the end of the book, I felt confused and lost. I was not sure if I was interpreting the book’s final messages correctly. At the end of the book Dan realises that nothing really matters in life. He believed that different achievements and goals don’t matter. After I read this, I felt an unexplainable sadness, as if life doesn’t worth living. At the moment I’m struggling to make a decision about my future. I am studying medicine because I enjoy helping people. But now I find my studies difficult and have begun to doubt whether I should continue, since I would have to sacrifice much to become a doctor. So after reading this book, I thought, what do I want to do? If nothing really matter, then is becoming a doctor worth sacrificing and studying all the time?
You are right to have questions, and to have a curious, thoughtful, inquisitive nature. But your sorrow comes from a misunderstanding of Dan’s teaching — not through any fault of your own, but because no single book can fully convey the depth of a teaching expressed now in 15 books over several decades.
We live in two worlds — the conventional world of everyday life, and a transcendental (higher) reality pointed to by the spiritual and religious traditions. At the end of my first book, I was describing a perspective or understanding of the transcendental reality. But both realities are important. As Ram Dass once said, “We can be lost in cosmic bliss, but are still respondible for remembering our postal code.” Or to put it another way, we’re here to live with our head in the clouds — but our feet on the ground.
Nothing I wrote was intended to dismiss or discount the vital importance of everyday life, relationships, service, work, family, etc. Anyone who has read more of my books understands this. In fact, after I wrote Way of the Peaceful Warrior and (ten years later), Sacred Journey of the Peaceful Warrior, people begin asking, “How do I apply all this to daily life?” That’s when I wrote No Ordinary Moments — a Peaceful Warrior’s Guide to Daily Life. And, equally important, more than 20 years after I wrote my first book, after the “Peaceful Warrior” movie was released in 2006, I was compelled to write Wisdom of the Peaceful Warrior, which explains and clarifies most or all of the teachings in my first book — and I would encourage you to read this as well because it may help.
Finally — and I apologize for mentioning so many of my boosk to a busy and accomplished student — my most recent book, The Four Purposes of Life — completely clarifies most or all of my books in its full and proper context, and can provide useful reminders for anyone at a crossroads or decision point.”
It’s not that ‘nothing matters’ — it’s just that we take everything SO seriously. I recommend the notion that ‘Life is a game we are here to play as if it matters.’ So play well! Medical school is an admirable challenge, leading to a profound and needed area of service. Mere difficulty should not stop one if that is where your heart is. (Much more about this in The Four Purposes of Life).”
I hope that these reminders are helpful. Given your limited time for leisure reading, you might want to take a look at my online course at www.dailyom.com titled “Master the Path of the Peaceful Warrior.”
From a fellow traveler,