Author Topic: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question  (Read 2181 times)

MarciaB

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I retired about a year ago and am feeling adrift and in need of some help with direction.

What I am wanting is any recommendation you might have on resources (blogs, books, websites, courses, authors, coaches, philosophies, etc.) to help me "find my purpose" (or at least my next super meaningful project). I can spend time thinking about this all by my lonesome, but would appreciate some guidance from a third-party source.

The Mad Fientist just put out a blog post along these lines (which I'm sure many of you have already seen) and the timing on it was perfect for me. (https://www.madfientist.com/hierarchy-of-financial-needs/). I especially liked where he said that long-term travel wasn't really for him after trying it out (and coincidentally that's what I'm doing at this point).

Thanks in advance for your help.

Mmm_Donuts

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2018, 03:49:21 AM »
I have found a LOT of inspiring meaning-of-life posts and other resources on Brainpickings:

https://www.brainpickings.org

The author (Maria Popova) has great taste in books!

markbike528CBX

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2018, 03:51:26 AM »
The Power of Now -Eckhart  Tolle   -guidance for living in the now, which increases happiness by setting aside regrets ( past) and worries (future).

Dr Kidstache

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2018, 04:54:10 AM »
I've been wandering through this same dark night of finding purpose since becoming suddenly disabled/retired a couple of years ago. Here are my 2 favorite resources that I've found very helpful (both very directive and pragmatic):

- A mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR) course. They are offered in many cities and academic medical centers. If there's not one near you, there's a free online self-guided course available that I've done at https://palousemindfulness.com/

- The Foundations of Well-Being online course. I wish I could gift this to everyone I know! Even going through a small portion of this course = instant improvement in life. https://www.thefoundationsofwellbeing.com/

A perk of both of these courses is that they include a sampler of of ideas, authors, experiences, etc that you can pursue to find more resources that speak to you. In my personal experience, learning how to listen to myself has been a big part of discovering what brings me meaning.


 

infromsea

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2018, 06:06:17 AM »
I am working through this process as well.

I'd suggest anything by/about the stoic way of life. I also use daily meditation.

I'm also looking for someone to talk these things out with, I try to be stoic and am studying Buddhism but I think this could be a slippery slope if not guided. For example, stoics say to control your response to things but some days are MUCH harder than others, I think it's due to hormones/quality of sleep/quality of diet etc. When I have a "tough day" (get mad at the dog easier than normal) then I feel as if I've failed to live up to the stoic ideas, this can lead to a "mind lock" of negative thoughts/emotions.

Secondly, the Buddhist mentality is to give up all craving since it's the source of all suffering... OK, then I feel bad for craving security for my family (and I know security is an illusion, you can't truly be 100% secure) so I go into another "mind lock" of thoughts bouncing around.....

In short, I'm looking for someone for guidance etc. My wife doesn't have the patience to tackle these topics with me, she can only take so much of conversations like this before throwing in the towel, not that I blame her, I can be pretty intense with these subjects and I'm sure it's a lot to deal with, especially since she's religious and I'm agnostic.

Good luck on your journey!

Duchess of Stratosphear

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #5 on: January 19, 2018, 09:36:45 AM »
infromsea, I'm interested in Buddhism and DEFINITELY not an expert, but my understanding (at least as practiced by modern Buddhists in the West) is that meditation helps you become aware of craving, and over time that awareness can help craving lose its grip on you. We are all still going to experience craving, since none of us have time to live a completely contemplative life meditating all day, but we can slowly gain more wisdom about such things. I wouldn't feel bad for craving security, but only recognize it and maybe how it's affecting your behavior. I find that in my little baby meditation practice, just noticing emotions/cravings is sometimes enough for me to (at least temporarily) let them go, or at least give myself a break for having those feelings. But I'm never done. The journey is the destination, as they say. Recognizing that it's all a process has helped me be much nicer to myself, at least sometimes.

I really like Sharon Salzberg as a meditation teacher. Her guided meditations are good for practicing how to be nice to yourself. And I think her orientation is secular if that's important to you. Best of luck in your searching!

Dr Kidstache

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #6 on: January 19, 2018, 11:35:14 AM »
infromsea, there are a TON of helpful resources for pursuing meditation along the secular Buddhist pathway. In my experience, I think you're right about the slippery slope of not having guidance. A small sampling of the resources that I've found helpful:

- MBSR course (as mentioned above). In-person course gives you access to guidance and other people to talk to.

- The Mind Illuminated by Culadasa (John Yates PhD). This is THE book to begin with on meditation. There are also quite a few online groups that work through this book together and an online meditation group for more advanced meditators so it's easy to connect with other around it.

- Local sanghas (Buddhist communities)/meditation groups. Most have a beginner meditation session once a week or month. They're great ways to find out about different styles of meditation and Buddhist teaching. Given your interest in stoicism, perhaps an insight meditation/vipassana or zen group would be a comfortable place to start. Although meditation is an inherently solitary practice, it's actually not meant to do alone in most forms of Buddhism and community is an important part of the path. There are online sanghas, too, if there's not one where you live. Because of a traumatic brain injury, it's pretty rare that I can participate in person regularly so, for instance, I also belong to an online sangha that does silent meditation on Google Hangouts.

-  If you're interested in the intersection between Buddhism and modern neuroscience, check out books, podcasts, or the excellent Coursera course from Robert Wright. The Coursera course (I think it's called Buddhism and Modern Psychology) does a surprisingly good job of reviewing the basic tenets (4 noble truths, Eightfold path, etc) although it's not specifically Buddhist instruction.

- Just about every well-respected dharma teacher has their teachings recorded and available online. Given your interests and lack of guidance, I would recommend checking out audiodharma.org (especially the Anapanasati series from Gil Fronsdal - great starting point), dharmatreasure.org (in particular the Dharma Treasure Curriculum), or dharmaseed.org (though I'm usually overwhelmed by all their amazing audio files).

Just some ideas that perhaps you or others might find useful! Now I'm feeling guilty that I haven't done my meditation for today yet....

koshtra

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #7 on: January 19, 2018, 11:58:51 AM »
There's a little book called "What the Buddha Taught," by Walpola Rahula, that had a tremendous impact on me. If you like REALLY LONG novels, "War and Peace" is a meditation on "what is life for?" that I've been reading once every five years or so for decades -- but I suspect it's maybe most relevant to libidinous and ambitious men. "The Way," or "The Tao," or whatever they're calling it nowadays -- Lao Tzu -- is pretty wonderful. Marcus Aurelius' "Meditations," for the stoic shtick.

MarciaB

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2018, 05:01:55 PM »
These are excellent suggestions - thanks to all of you! I am familiar with some, and others are new to me. I'm happily spending time looking through these.

And Buddhism - coincidently I'm currently in Thailand and before that spent weeks in Myanmar...both very Buddhist places. I'm in a temple or three every day - feels great!

frompa

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2018, 07:12:51 PM »
Hi MarciaB, maybe I'm just being contrary, but I think you might be better off not looking outside of yourself for the answers to this question, but finding ways to really look to yourself, because your purpose, goals, etc., are so completely personal to you, and subject to your own peculiar history and passions.  Like you, I am no kid, and also recently FIRE'd... so your question doesn't seem strange to me.  How do you generally best talk to yourself, or express yourself to yourself?  I have one friend who does this by making collages -- she is visually inclined.  Another friend paints.  I am a word person -- I journal and otherwise write.  Some people figure out their own path by hanging with friends and talking things through.  Or, maybe another way to think about this is to try to identify what's getting in the way of your identifying what comes next for you?  For me, what I see as my purpose is not static in the specifics, though overall I see some lifelong inclinations and themes.  Good luck on this.  It's the most real inquiry you can be making. 

MarciaB

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2018, 08:10:14 PM »
Thanks frompa for your good insights on this. And you are right that these questions are deeply personal (and that's where the answers of course lie). I'm a person who benefits from guided inquiry (self-help books, coaching, etc.) and am always looking for new resources along those lines.

It's a huge luxury to have both time and money in order to be able to contemplate these issues. I'm grateful for my current chapter.

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2018, 10:27:22 PM »
I really like Martha Beck's books for finding your purpose type of self help. Some of them are a bit woo-woo but overall she's good. I don't know if it was in her books or another that I read to think about what you enjoyed to do as a really young child. It helped me change career. I also recommend reading lots of biographies.

MarciaB

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #12 on: January 26, 2018, 01:25:24 AM »
I really like Martha Beck's books for finding your purpose type of self help. Some of them are a bit woo-woo but overall she's good. I don't know if it was in her books or another that I read to think about what you enjoyed to do as a really young child. It helped me change career. I also recommend reading lots of biographies.

Ooohhh, thanks for reminding me of her. She's written some great stuff.

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #13 on: January 26, 2018, 08:28:01 AM »
I retired about a year ago and am feeling adrift and in need of some help with direction.
.

Please read our own Dr Doom's website.

The one where he tells you how to find out what to do in FIRE
https://livingafi.com/2015/03/09/building-a-vision-of-life-without-work/

Highly recommend each of his articles. He is really good!!!

redwagon

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #14 on: January 26, 2018, 11:41:16 AM »
I just read How To Live in the World and Still be Happy by Hugh Prather. It's one of those books I wish my 20 year old self had read.

infromsea

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #15 on: January 29, 2018, 02:36:28 PM »
Hey MarciaB,

How are things in your neck of the woods?

I've been thinking about this topic almost constantly the last few weeks. I've written a few other posts on the board and I don't mean to hijack your post but I'm going to drop some thoughts here, if I've overdone my welcome, please advise, no hurt feelings!

One thing I'm learning is that I still have some learning to do about myself. I realize that I have to get out of the house every now and then, especially during this weather (snow, now rain...). I'm working to develop work arounds or substitutions for things I enjoy (like going to a sun-tanning place when I can't get any sunlight for 3-4 days since I seem to very light sensitive).

I'm also working on my spiritual side (not much of one) and will eventually go places to interact for that purpose, the local Buddhist temple or something. I keep putting myself into mental vapor lock, using Stoicism and Buddhism at the same time creates some logical challenges...

For example, Stoic thought is to just be happy with yourself where you are, when you are. Control emotions and realize, wherever you go, there you are (travel isn't a solution, you are still taking "you" with you).

Buddhist thought is to try and reduce cravings and shed attachment to things (both stoic in thought) yet, when I do crave, I often make myself feel guilty for craving, even if I don't give in. I know it's a process and I'll improve but right now, it's a logic circle I'm having to work though. Once the guilt kicks in, the stoic mental model says "stop feeling guilty" but, at times, it's not that easy to change mental state/attitude, it's so strongly impacted by diet/rest/gut microbes/genetics etc. Then, the Buddhist model says to crave not wanting to feel guilty is craving... and the vapor lock continues.

I firmly believe in using multiple mental models, overlaying them when appropriate, but here I think I'm a hairless ape on a huge chunk of rock, hurtling through space around a gigantic nuclear explosion and that I'm overthinking stuff and maybe using a hammer for a surgical knife?

The last thing that's messing with my head is the works of Sam Harris. He talks about spending time meditating (and I do) and how we each think there is an "us" up in our dome, riding between the ears, and how finding it is elusive. In my experience, he's right. I've yet to "FIND Tim" up in this big old head. I find endless streams of thoughts, emotions, memories but, as of yet, nothing that points to "Tim" (the kids animated movie about emotions seems more appropriate than a single entity that is "us").

All of this is leading me closer and closer to agreeing with Mad Fientist when he discusses "what's it all about", and how the answer may be... nothing... it's all about nothing.... We are a grain of sand in the great scheme of things, why not make the most of it, without lurching into hedonism (damn I want a beer right now) and still applying restraint, goal setting, and having a personal mission/vision in life.

My head hurts. I hope your journey is progressing well.

Tim

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #16 on: January 29, 2018, 03:43:52 PM »
Tim - Maybe look into the humanist society resources. My family on one side are humanists and it's the only thing that makes sense to me. I think you're right, the bigger picture is that it's is all about nothing, but our purpose is to do good for humanity while we are here & tread lightly on the earth. We just have to find the niche that fits our personality and interests.

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Re: Resource Recommendations please - for the "Why am I here?" question
« Reply #17 on: January 29, 2018, 04:02:22 PM »
Hey MarciaB,

How are things in your neck of the woods?

I've been thinking about this topic almost constantly the last few weeks. I've written a few other posts on the board and I don't mean to hijack your post but I'm going to drop some thoughts here, if I've overdone my welcome, please advise, no hurt feelings!

One thing I'm learning is that I still have some learning to do about myself. I realize that I have to get out of the house every now and then, especially during this weather (snow, now rain...). I'm working to develop work arounds or substitutions for things I enjoy (like going to a sun-tanning place when I can't get any sunlight for 3-4 days since I seem to very light sensitive).

I'm also working on my spiritual side (not much of one) and will eventually go places to interact for that purpose, the local Buddhist temple or something. I keep putting myself into mental vapor lock, using Stoicism and Buddhism at the same time creates some logical challenges...

For example, Stoic thought is to just be happy with yourself where you are, when you are. Control emotions and realize, wherever you go, there you are (travel isn't a solution, you are still taking "you" with you).

Buddhist thought is to try and reduce cravings and shed attachment to things (both stoic in thought) yet, when I do crave, I often make myself feel guilty for craving, even if I don't give in. I know it's a process and I'll improve but right now, it's a logic circle I'm having to work though. Once the guilt kicks in, the stoic mental model says "stop feeling guilty" but, at times, it's not that easy to change mental state/attitude, it's so strongly impacted by diet/rest/gut microbes/genetics etc. Then, the Buddhist model says to crave not wanting to feel guilty is craving... and the vapor lock continues.

I firmly believe in using multiple mental models, overlaying them when appropriate, but here I think I'm a hairless ape on a huge chunk of rock, hurtling through space around a gigantic nuclear explosion and that I'm overthinking stuff and maybe using a hammer for a surgical knife?

The last thing that's messing with my head is the works of Sam Harris. He talks about spending time meditating (and I do) and how we each think there is an "us" up in our dome, riding between the ears, and how finding it is elusive. In my experience, he's right. I've yet to "FIND Tim" up in this big old head. I find endless streams of thoughts, emotions, memories but, as of yet, nothing that points to "Tim" (the kids animated movie about emotions seems more appropriate than a single entity that is "us").

All of this is leading me closer and closer to agreeing with Mad Fientist when he discusses "what's it all about", and how the answer may be... nothing... it's all about nothing.... We are a grain of sand in the great scheme of things, why not make the most of it, without lurching into hedonism (damn I want a beer right now) and still applying restraint, goal setting, and having a personal mission/vision in life.

My head hurts. I hope your journey is progressing well.

Tim

Heh. The teacher at my Buddhist place took some people aback when he said, "what if life doesn't mean anything?" He wasn't asserting that it didn't, he was just inviting us to take the thought seriously and sit with it a while. Maybe it doesn't. Probably it doesn't, I think. Then what?

For me quiet meditation, what my bunch calls shamatha, and the Zen folks call zazen, is the most fruitful way to work with this stuff. You can think till the cows come home, and still be in the same fretful muddled place. Learning to really let the mind settle -- experiencing a few moments of genuine spaciousness -- that does something else.