What is Life?


Let’s skip some airy-fairy intro to this topic. Seriously folks, what is life? What are we doing here? Why are we conscious, sentient beings?

In our attempts to figure out What is life? we’ve got a couple certainties we can start with. For one, change is constant. Things change all the time whether we want them to or not. The other certainty is death. Death sort of falls under the “change” category, but it seems important enough to be its own certainty. So we can be sure that everything changes and that we’re going to die. But beyond change and death, there isn’t much more we can be certain about. (Don’t be upset, this article will lighten up shortly.)

Despite thousands of years of wondering about the meaning of life, we humans haven’t figured it out yet. Science keeps grinding away the puzzle, and religion offers explanations that seem good enough for some folks, but in all honesty, we don’t really have an official answer.

So what should we do? Here we are, getting out of bed each day, living a life, and we don’t even know what life is. How can we begin to make sense of this situation we’re in?

We can start by showing up. How can we ever figure out What is life? if we don’t bother to show up for it? Life is happening right now, in this present moment. And we’re often missing it!

If you think about the past, you’re replaying a memory in your mind. If you’re thinking about the future, you’re choosing a fantasy over what is actually happening right now. (That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t reflect on past experience, or set future goals, but reminiscing and goal setting are specific activities that can be done with focus and attention. Letting your mind frequently wander one step ahead of where you actually are is not the same thing.)

The quality of our experience of life depends on staying in the present moment. It’s just like the difference between watching a video about Disneyland and actually going to Disneyland. If we spend most of our time “watching videos” in our mind’s eye about the past or future, we are basically experiencing a dimmed-down version of life where our body is in one place while our mind is in another.

Imagining something wonderful is often not as rich or fulfilling as staying in the present moment while doing something mundane! Life is now. It is how your chair feels, the sounds you hear and the light you see, the taste of your sip of coffee, the itch on your elbow.

Every single present moment is a unique experience. It has never happened before and will never happen again. What an adventure! How many things can you notice by focusing your attention on the here and now? How many moments can you show up for?

Most of us have to train our minds to live in the present moment, but with practice, it gets easier.

Find Your Own Meaning of Life

What is life? Ultimately, you must ask yourself this question. Google cannot answer this question for you. In fact, no one can. If nobody has the answer, then life might as well be a blank slate. You can spend your days searching for the answer, or you can create your own meaning.

At this stage of my life, writing and taking care of my family is meaningful enough for me to make each day worth living. For you, it’s probably something totally different. The important thing is to identify what has the most meaning for you, and invest most of your time and energy into that part of your life. If you spend your time doing things that do not have meaning for you, you’re bound to feel empty and discontent.

If you aren’t experiencing life as an amazing adventure, then chances are you aren’t spending enough time in the present moment, doing what means the most to you. As far as we know (or don’t know) we only get one journey here. There is no rewind button. As the hours and days pass, they are gone forever—we can never get them back. So it makes sense to pay attention, and make the most of it.

So although we may not be able to answer What is Life? we can still make the effort to live one that is vivid and fulfilling. We can make healthy choices that help us live longer and feel better. We can decide how to spend our days and who we want to be. We can choose to live our best life, even if we’re not sure why we’re here.