Edited by HENRY REED, Ph.D.
February 25, 2007
The Intuitive-Connections Network

Creating a Meaningful Life

Atlantic University Mini Lesson

By Amy Betit, M.A

You may e-mail Amy at amybetit@intercom.net
"We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give." Winston Churchill

Professor Tom Curley's Atlantic University course, Philosophy of Holistic Education, and my course, Creating a Meaningful Life, were taught back to back this summer at Atlantic University.

We participated as learners in each other's course. I was intrigued by the connections between the creative process as it can be used to bring more meaning into our lives, and holistic education.

There is considerable interest today in the creative process, as researchers, psychologists, philosophers, business people, self-help writers, and educators are all thinking about what role creativity plays in our lives.

My interest is the use of creativity in everyday living. There are some simple creative tools and processes that can be used in creating lives.

Some critical questions need to be asked. What do we mean by a "meaningful life"? What is meant by creativity? Are the concepts connected?


Can we actively use the creative process to bring more meaning into our lives? Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has studied creative individuals in an effort to understand how each of our lives might be enhanced by creativity.

In his book, Creativity, he proposes that "creativity is a central source of meaning" and asks "How can our days, too, be filled with wonder and excitement?"

Viktor Frankl, the author of Man's Search for Meaning, developed a system of therapy called logotherapy (Logos is a Greek word for "meaning"). He has this to say about meaning:

One should not search for an abstract meaning of life. Everyone has his own specific vocation or mission in life; everyone must carry out a concrete assignment that demands fulfillment.

Therein he cannot be replaced, nor can his life be repeated. Thus, everyone's task is as unique as is his specific opportunity to implement it.

The question is not "what is the meaning of life?" but rather "what am I being asked by life?", I believe we can only answer this question by being fully responsive to our life as a unique gift and responsibility.

Creativity Is a Choice

In a 1954 paper titled "Toward a Theory of Creativity," American psychologist Carl Rogers postulated that creativity is not operating in a vacuum, but rather is a relational response to life, "growing out of the uniqueness of the individual on the one hand, and the materials, events, people, or circumstances of his life on the other."

This echoes Frankl's idea that to find meaning in life, we must be in a process of responding to life. Frankl believed that although we cannot necessarily choose the conditions we encounter in life, we can choose how to respond to those conditions.

The Cayce readings also speak of choice, the possibility of choosing that which is constructive in the Creative Forces, over that which is destructive:

Man has a creative force from the divine, see? Man may mis-apply that own creative force, then become a destruction to self. 900-227

In the Cayce readings, the terms constructive and creative often appear side by side, and in many of the medical readings there is emphasis on a constructive, creative attitude in healing the physical body. Here is a definition of creativity from a Cayce reading:

What is good? . . . To do good is to think constructively, to think creatively. What is creative, what is constructive, ye may ask? That which never hinders, which never makes for the bringing of any harm to others. 1206-13

This is creativity in its most fundamental form, something that is constructive, generative, and productive.

The Wonder of Creativity in Everyday Life

Martin Apelman, in an article in The Best of the A.R.E. Journal, "Creativity in Everyday Living" defines creativity as follows:

Creativity, in its broadest sense, is the soul's entering into events (through attunement) in such ways that the consequences are other events, each working to fulfill the promise of shared human existence (service).

Creativity, thus, can be as little as not forgetting to water a garden or brewing a pot of coffee for an unexpected visitor, or as big as writing the Declaration of Independence or painting the Mona Lisa.

This power of everyday creativity as a vehicle for personal transformation and fulfillment is what particularly interests me.

A painter friend of mine calls his artistic process "Dancing with the Creator." This is a useful image for thinking about a flexible give-and-take between our decisions and choices in relation to the circumstances presented to us.

How do we use this image to understand the ordinary creative endeavors such as brewing a pot of coffee, writing a letter, or growing a garden, and then apply them to those aspects of our lives which are perhaps more elusive, such as healthier relationships, purposeful work or a nurturing environment?

The Meaning of Making Spaghetti Sauce

To take an example of something tangible that most of us have either created or watched being created, first consider the possible meaning of cooking. It binds families, friends, and communities together; it is an act of loving kindness and of service. It nourishes us in physical, emotional, and spiritual ways.

What can we learn from the ingredients and conditions necessary for making a fine spaghetti sauce? Here is a list of key elements:

  1. A recognition that the sauce needs to be made
  2. A constructive attitude and faith that you can indeed cook the sauce
  3. Imagining the ideal sauce
  4. Desiring the sauce to be made
  5. Time and focused attention
  6. Proper tools and cooking pot, stove, spoons, etc.
  7. Proper skills or directions (recipe)
  8. Healthful tomatoes, garlic, peppers, herbs, olive oil
  9. Pleasant physical environment
  10. Good physical condition of the cook
  11. Psychological freedom
  12. Commitment
  13. Action

Optional reading: A 1972 Tufts University student paper that summarizes seven philosophers', psychologists', and theologians' interpretations of the problem of meaning in life, can be found online at:

From the External to the Internal

Perhaps there is something less tangible that you wish to create, that you imagine might bring a deeper sense of meaning into your life, perhaps patience or harmonious relationships.

You still need the ingredients and conditions above, but translated to fit what is being created.

To take the example of creating harmonious relationships, the very first step would be a recognition that this is needed in your life; next you would need to take a constructive attitude towards your ability to create these relationships, and actually imagine yourself interacting in them.

For the fourth ingredient it is very important to know yourself well, and to be honest with yourself--do you honestly desire what it is that you say you want to create? Or are you just as content with life the way it is?

Two of the most overlooked ingredients for creating something are time and focused attention. In creating harmonious relationships, this time might be for meditation and prayer, journal writing, or therapy to better understand yourself.

And the overall process might take some years, rather than the hours needed to create the spaghetti sauce. The important thing is that you are focused and devoting time to your endeavor.

Do you have the proper tools and skills? These might be self-awareness, listening skills or speaking skills. Sometimes we try to create something without the proper tools, and then we are hampered unnecessarily.

I was cooking together with a friend recently, and she said that she thinks the nitty-gritty food ingredients of the sauce--the tomatoes, peppers, and herbs--might best be represented in the case of relationships by attitude, perception, and love. What might you call the food ingredients?

The next two conditions on the list have to do with the proper physical environment and physical condition of the cook, or the person desiring to improve relations with others. Do you have a nurturing living space, are you well rested and well nourished?

By psychological freedom, I mean freedom from negative thought patterns. In the case of creating relationships, it might mean freedom from old baggage, and a willingness to be wrong, to be trusting, open, and vulnerable.

Without the last two on the list, commitment and action, the garlic would never be peeled, the knife would never slice the tomatoes, and the sauce would never be ready for eating. Nothing can be created until we move into action, and persevere in our efforts.

Creating a Meaningful Life, the Product of Holistic Education

A common theme in holistic education is a trust that with a deep honoring and nurturing of all aspects of the learnermind, body, and spirit-he or she will move naturally towards fulfillment and service.

Many holistic educational systems address the education of children or young people, but the principles apply to us throughout life as we continue to grow and learn.

To maintain continued growth as adults, it requires of us that we set up the conditions for our lives to be creative and constructive.

An artist goes to her studio each day, a fine teacher of children thinks creatively about bringing out the very best in the children under his care and tutelage. We need to be equally intentional in our efforts to unfold ourselves.

To explore visually what might bring meaning into your life Make a collage

Making a collage bypasses the left-brain, or rational, logical, functions and takes you directly to the right brain, or intuitive, functions of the brain.

Gather up magazines that have pictures you like, get out scissors, glue stick and paper, and begin to cut and paste. For an example of a collage, go to:

You may e-mail Amy at amybetit@intercom.ne
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