Love and meaning of life

Impotant. An updated version of this post is published in

Love and meaning of life – updated

I wrote this post after looking at two videos.  The first is a speach of a Tibetan nunn, Tenzin Palmo Jetsunma. She  explains  the difference between love and attachment. I added a transcript below the video so you can read it in your language.

The second video is about happiness and the pillars for  meaning of life. Emily Esfahani Smith has made an ambitious  psychological research and she tells about her conclusions.



Tenzin talks in her video about attachment. I have been looking around for a synonym.

According to Tenzin, Attachment is like:

” I love you therefore I want you to make me happy”. 

and she adds that
“attachment is like holding very tight. “

It looks like she is talking about dependency like in :


Tenzin says that genuine love is when :

“I love you, therefore I want you to be happy.

Genuine love is holding very gently, nurturing, but allowing things to flow,


“The problem is always that we mistake the idea of love for attachment.

We  imagine that the grasping and clinging that we have in our relationsships, shows that we love whereas actually it is  just attachment which causes pain.

Because, you know the more we grasp the more we are afraid to loose, then if we do  loose, we are going to suffer.

Make happy

I mean, genuine love is… well attachment says ” I love you therefore I want you to make me happy”.  And genuine love says “I love you, therefore I want you to be happy. If that includes me, great.  if it doesn’t include me, I just want your happiness. And so, its a very different feeling.


You know, attachment is like holding very tight. Genuine love is holding very gently, nurturing, but allowing things to flow, not to be held tightly. The more tight we hold on to others, the more we will suffer. But its very hard for people to understand that, because they think that the more they hold on to someone, the more it shows they care about them but it’s not, it’s really just that they are trying to grasp at something because they are afraid  that otherwise they themselves will be hurt.


Any kind of relationship which imagines that we can fulfill ourselves trhough another is bound to be very tricky.  I mean, ideally, people should come together already feeling fulfilled within themselves and just therefore appreciating that in the other rather than expecting the other to supply that sense of well-being. which they dont feel on their own.


Then it’s  a lot of problem and also along with the projection which comes with romance where we project all our ideals and desires and romantic fantasies on to the other which the other cannot possibly fulfill once you get to know them and recognize that it’s not Prince Charming of Cinderella, it’s just a very ordinary person, also struggleing.

And unless one is able to see them to like them as well as well as feel desire for them and to also have loving kindness and  compassion then it’s going to be, it’s going to be a very difficult relationship.”

Impossible relationships

Tenzins definition regards all kind of relations. It doesn’t make difference between heterosexual or homosexual relationship.

In my examples below, I identify therefore the members in a pair with numbers, one (1) and two (2).

a relation is impossible or difficult if

  1. you look for fulfillment through another
    this may happen if 1 needs its companion (2) to achieve fulfillment. Tenzin said that rhis make the relarionship tricky.
    Such a relationship may I think, become a unhealthy dependency relationship
  2. you have different goals for your relationship
    This happens e.g. when you have e.g. these two goals:

    • “I want you to make me happy!”
    • “I do not need that you make me happy as I get happy  fulfilling myself in my work and hobbies”
  3. when happiness for one is incompatible with the happiness of the  other e.g. the happiness for one is a pain for the other as in these two examples:1. :  I must listen to rap music many hours a day to improve myself as a musician.”
    2.:  “I hate rap music, I love opera!”or1 : “I love trecking in the mountains!”
    2 :  “I can not do trecking in the mountains with 
     a wheel of chair.

Look at this video. What is the problem?

There is more to life than being happy

The second video is about happiness and the four pillars of meaning of life

  1. belonging
  2. purpose
  3. transcendence
  4. storytelling

Emily Esfahani Smith has made an ambitious  psychological research and she tells about these pillars and about her own experience.

Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but what if there’s a more fulfilling path? Happiness comes and goes, says writer Emily Esfahani Smith, but having meaning in life — serving something beyond yourself and developing the best within you — gives you something to hold onto. (source:  )


You find the  transcript of Emilys speech in Teds site to have the speech translated in your language or read it here in English: Click on the video below my list of key senttences 

Key sentences in the speech

  1. 00:00
    • I used to think the whole purpose of life was pursuing happiness.
    • chasing happiness can make people unhappy. 
    • the suicide rate has been rising around the world
    • more people feel hopeless, depressed and alone. 
  2.   01:30
    • what’s the difference between being happy and having meaning in life?
    • psychologists define happiness as a state of comfort and ease, feeling good in the moment.
    • Meaning though, is deeper.
    • The renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says “meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you.”
    • Our culture is obsessed with happiness, but I came to see that seeking meaning is the more fulfilling path.
    • And the studies show that people who have meaning in life, they’re more resilient, they do better in school and at work, and they even live longer.
  3.   02:19
    • I spent five years interviewing hundreds of people and reading through thousands of pages of psychology, neuroscience and philosophy.
    • I found that there are what I call four pillars of a meaningful life.
    • And we can each create lives of meaning by building some or all of these pillars in our lives.
  4.   02:49
    • The first pillar is belonging.
    • Belonging comes from being in relationships where you’re valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well.
    • But some groups and relationships deliver a cheap form of belonging; you’re valued for what you believe, for who you hate, not for who you are.
    • True belonging springs from love. It lives in moments among individuals, and it’s a choice — you can choose to cultivate belonging with others.
  5. 04:02 about rejecting
    • I think we all reject people in small ways … without realizing it.
    • These acts devalue others. They make them feel invisible and unworthy. But when you lead with love, you create a bond that lifts each of you up.
  6. 04:25
    • For many people, belonging is the most essential source of meaning, those bonds to family and friends.
    • For others, the key to meaning is the second pillar: purpose.
    • Now, finding your purpose is not the same thing as finding that job that makes you happy.
    • Purpose is less about what you want than about what you give. A hospital custodian told me her purpose is healing sick people. Many parents tell me, “My purpose is raising my children.”
    • The key to purpose is using your strengths to serve others. Of course,
    • for many of us, that happens through work. That’s how we contribute and feel needed. But that also means that issues like disengagement at work, unemployment, low labor force participation —
    • these aren’t just economic problems, they’re existential ones, too.
    • Without something worthwhile to do, people flounder. Of course, you don’t have to find purpose at work,
    • but purpose gives you something to live for, some “why” that drives you forward.
  7. 05:31
    • The third pillar of meaning is also about stepping beyond yourself, but in a completely different way: transcendence. Transcendent states are those rare moments when you’re lifted above the hustle and bustle of daily life, your sense of self fades away, and you feel connected to a higher reality.
    • For one person I talked to, transcendence came from seeing art.
    • For another person, it was at church.
    • For me, I’m a writer, and it happens through writing. Sometimes I get so in the zone that I lose all sense of time and place.
    • These transcendent experiences can change you.
    • One study had students look up at 200-feet-tall eucalyptus trees for one minute. But afterwards they felt less self-centered, and they even behaved more generously when given the chance to help someone.
  8. 06:21
    • Belonging, purpose, transcendence. Now, the fourth pillar of meaning, I’ve found, tends to surprise people.
    • The fourth pillar is storytelling, the story you tell yourself about yourself. Creating a narrative from the events of your life brings clarity. It helps you understand how you became you. But we don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them. Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story, even as you’re constrained by the facts.
  9. 06:59
    • I met a young man named Emeka, who’d been paralyzed playing football. After his injury, Emeka told himself, “My life was great playing football, but now look at me.” People who tell stories like this — “My life was good. Now it’s bad.” — tend to be more anxious and depressed. And that was Emeka for a while. But with time, he started to weave a different story. His new story was, “Before my injury, my life was purposeless. I partied a lot and was a pretty selfish guy. But my injury made me realize I could be a better man.” That edit to his story changed Emeka’s life. After telling the new story to himself, Emeka started mentoring kids, and he discovered what his purpose was: serving others.
    • The psychologist Dan McAdams calls this a “redemptive story,” where the bad is redeemed by the good.
    • People leading meaningful lives, he’s found, tend to tell stories about their lives defined by redemption, growth and love.
  10. 08:08
    • But what makes people change their stories? Some people get help from a therapist, but you can do it on your own, too, just by reflecting on your life thoughtfully, how your defining experiences shaped you, what you lost, what you gained. That’s what Emeka did. You won’t change your story overnight; it could take years and be painful. After all, we’ve all suffered, and we all struggle.
    • But embracing those painful memories can lead to new insights and wisdom, to finding that good that sustains you.
  11. 08:42 Emily Esfahani’s own experience
    • Belonging, purpose, transcendence, storytelling: those are the four pillars of meaning. When I was younger,
    • I was lucky enough to be surrounded by all of the pillars. My parents ran a Sufi meetinghouse from our home in Montreal. Sufism is a spiritual practice associated with the whirling dervishes and the poet Rumi. Twice a week, Sufis would come to our home to meditate, drink Persian tea, and share stories.
    • Their practice also involved serving all of creation through small acts of love, which meant being kind even when people wronged you.
    • But it gave them a purpose: to rein in the ego.
  12. 09:28
    • Eventually, I left home for college and without the daily grounding of Sufism in my life, I felt unmoored. And I started searching for those things that make life worth living. That’s what set me on this journey. Looking back,
    • I now realize that the Sufi house had a real culture of meaning.
    • The pillars were part of the architecture, and the presence of the pillars helped us all live more deeply.
  13. 09:54
    • Of course, the same principle applies in other strong communities as well — good ones and bad ones. Gangs, cults: these are cultures of meaning that use the pillars and give people something to live and die for.
    • But that’s exactly why we as a society must offer better alternatives.
    • We need to build these pillars within our families and our institutions to help people become their best selves.
    • But living a meaningful life takes work. It’s an ongoing process. As each day goes by, we’re constantly creating our lives, adding to our story. And sometimes we can get off track.
  14. 10:36
    • Whenever that happens to me, I remember a powerful experience I had with my father. Several months after I graduated from college, my dad had a massive heart attack that should have killed him. He survived, and when I asked him what was going through his mind as he faced death, he said all he could think about was needing to live so he could be there for my brother and me, and this gave him the will to fight for life. When he went under anesthesia for emergency surgery, instead of counting backwards from 10, he repeated our names like a mantra. He wanted our names to be the last words he spoke on earth if he died.
  15. 11:21
    • My dad is a carpenter and a Sufi. It’s a humble life, but a good life. Lying there facing death, he had a reason to live: love. His sense of belonging within his family, his purpose as a dad, his transcendent meditation, repeating our names — these, he says, are the reasons why he survived. That’s the story he tells himself.
  16. 11:47
    • That’s the power of meaning. Happiness comes and goes.
    • But when life is really good and when things are really bad, having meaning gives you something to hold on to.








Having listened to Tenzin and Emily I have now come to a few conclusions.

  • I think it is interesting Emily grew up in a sufi family. I have myself been in contact with sufi people.
  • As a former teacher and now a president of a no profit organization ( )   that leads school projects with the purpose to enhance a global dialog among youth,  I can not avoid thinking about our youth.

I think it is important for our youth to 

  1. avoid and get rid of phobias. as these causes stress
  2. develope ocooperation
  3. to get free from previous life traumas that have been hidden in their subconscious (this is part of the Buddhist psychology.  )
  4. to not hunt happiness to wont really make them happy
  5. To find at least one  pillar of meaning of life
  6. where “meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you.”
  7. not feel alone and enter relationships as a free will and not as an escape from lonelyness
  8. If they wish and want to spend time for it, look for sane  relationships without dependencies
  9. relationships with genuine love as Tenzin defines it,
  10. a relationship where  they are valued for who they are, like Emily said in her speech.

It is our dury  as adults to help our youth to achieve this.


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