Tui in Blooming Kowhai

To be human is a privilege. It is an opportunity to step beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary. It is an opportunity to shift one’s focus from the quest for ‘more’ to the search for ‘meaning’.

As many of you already know I consider our purpose in life is to find out who we are. Human birth, human existence is a great privilege. It is an opportunity to ask the big questions: Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going? What am I here to do?

But more important than the opportunity to ask the big questions is the opportunity to receive the big answers. Are you asking the questions and are you listening for the answers?

Whether we acknowledge it or not, life is an ongoing search for happiness. Everything we do outwardly—the seeking of a partner, the creation of a family, the search for gratifying work—is an (often unconscious) search for happiness. And through this search, through these means—the caress of a lover, holding our newborn child, the big career break—we capture glimpses of the happiness we seek. But is this happiness lasting? Are these the means to the end we deeply long for?

I say human birth is a privilege. Animals too seek and find partners and raise families. They too find gratifying work each day as they go out into their worlds in search of sustenance, in search of food for themselves and their families. But human beings have something rare, something precious. We have the opportunity to find out who we are. And that discover only happens when we make it our life’s work to ask the big questions. In fact, it may come about, as Ramana Maharshi said, through continuously asking just one question. That question? You guessed it: Who am I?

Late yesterday afternoon, after working for the day in the library, I drove for half an hour to the home of a friend, Peter Bligh. Peter has made it a point in his life to ask the big questions. He is heading off soon to the United Kingdom and Europe, where he will spend part of the northern hemisphere autumn doing what he loves—teaching yoga and meditation. Peter has spent most of the last years of his life in ashrams in Europe and India. He has amassed a considerable collection of books on the nature of human existence and he generously invited me to have a look through his book shelves and to borrow some titles that caught my eye. Hence my trip.

Herekino Harbour

To reach Peter’s home I had to drive through the Herekino Gorge. What a joy that was. The road snakes through steep, bush-clad hills. The sharp peaks of verdant green seemed to seek mergence with a late afternoon sky turned vivid cobalt blue, just as the human soul seeks mergence with the divine. The base of the hills began right at the roadsides. There was no space for farms or human habitation. There were only the bush-covered slopes and the cloud-free sky. There was no opportunity to get mired in the distractions of material existence. There was only nature’s beautiful reminder of why we are here: to seek mergence with our essence, with the core of our being, with that part of us which created all this.

Peter and I sat on his porch facing an impressive hill as the darkness gradually came to stay and the stars glistening replaced the last low filaments of feathery clouds. We shared a salad I’d brought from home, lovingly prepared by Lucia the previous night. A narrow river undulated in the valley below us, like a lazy serpent seeking refuge in the grass. The call of a morepork sliced the silence.

We spoke of last Saturday’s earthquake in Christchurch and how we had both been touched by it. Peter had lived and studied in Christchurch. It had been his home for a time. There are probably no New Zealand adults who don’t know someone living in Christchurch. No one was killed in the quake, but I wonder if this event, like so many uncomfortable moments in life, is a wake up call for New Zealanders, as the Gulf oil crisis has been for Americans.

As I said before, to be human is a privilege. It is an opportunity to step beyond the ordinary to the extraordinary. It is an opportunity to shift one’s focus from the quest for ‘more’ to the search for ‘meaning’. The Christchurch quake is a dramatic reminder that the material things we ordinarily seek, the seeming security of the physical, are fleeting and fragile in the hands of nature. Are we here to accumulate and gather more outer stuff or are we here to experience who we really are?

I wish you stillness and abiding peace.

Peter Bligh can be found on Facebook here.


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Radio host, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives, a startlingly poignant and inspiring real-life endorsement of the power of thought, belief and synchronicity in one’s life.

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