In an online kindness class I facilitated not too long ago, I asked this question of the participants: Where do you find meaning? I gave them a little exercise to help, too, which was to choose a relatively small, personal object and place it somewhere so they’d encounter it each morning. I asked them to pay attention to what happened, and to write up a little story of their experiences.
One person, I’ll call her Anne, told us about how a large black pot she bought 20 years earlier connected her to her feminine side, something she wanted to do more. Her story was a beautiful expression with incredible and vivid descriptions. In it, Anne told us not only the circumstances of how she acquired the pot, but included the full names of the artists who crafted it. Clearly, this was something that helped Anne find her center and not just because the object had symbolic functional value for her. It had roots of its own that were important to her, connecting her to a part of the country and to art. After telling the class all about the pot, I found it interesting that Anne wrote, “I want to be kinder, more generous, more service oriented, and hopefully happier about the person I am.”
The connection to the pot and the desire to be kinder and happier weren’t necessarily apparent to the casual reader. But the important thing is that they were connected for Anne. The presence of the pot, an important object to her, helped connect her to a desire within her. There she found meaning.
If you find this interesting, try it yourself. Pick an object, maybe something you’ve had in one place for so long that you’ve taken it for granted or stopped really seeing it. Move it to a conspicuous spot, a place where you’ll encounter it each morning, ideally soon after you get up. Then just pay attention to what happens, what thoughts and ideas enter your mind. You may very well find something of meaning.
By Andy Smallman