It’s the big questions that keep you awake at night. You’re lying awake at night and can’t sleep because it’s on your mind. The big life decisions. Questions about death, freedom, responsibility and your meaning of life. It can feel like an asteroid shower sometimes, but handled in a certain way it can be a beautiful thing. We can even become skilled at it. Existential questions aren’t just for philosophers. We as adults work through these on a daily basis.
Getting information these days isn’t always easy. Even with Google and Smart phones, there is so much to sift through and evaluate, it should be obvious that a college training makes a lot of sense. If you’re pressed for time, here’s a place to start.
Existential Therapy $100/hr
Yup, I went there first. Just because I want to see you shell out a couple of bills and sit on a couch answering the question “And how does that make you feel?” Okay, maybe not. Existential therapy differs from other therapies in that it doesn’t presuppose that just because you feel anxious, sad, pissed off or confused something is wrong with you. No, the doc is not going to give you a bottle of pills for your problem, per se. Existential therapy views so-called problems as merely natural stages of life. You aren’t mentally ill — you’re human. This is the therapist you go to if you want to work and understand things and grow as a person. You will grapple with and overcome your existential questions if you stick with it.
Existential Sitcoms $0-20
Can you learn through watching TV? Of course you can. Existential TV shows that ponder the meaning of life have been on the increase in recent years. There are a ton of shows out there that tackle heavy philosophical matters. Look no further than My Name Is Earl which engages us in the question of what it means to be a good person.
Shows like Lost throw you headlong into the human condition and all of its difficulties and difficult questions. If you want to get even more metaphysical shows like Rick and Morty and Westworld will open up the world of relativity and address the seemingly random and meaningless world we live in. You might even find some answers to the issues you also face in your life. Plus, you can eat popcorn while doing so. You can be the first couch potato philosopher. All you need is A Netflix or Hulu subscription, and maybe can find some of these shows for free.
A hit of LSD will have you watching the ground breathe and your face melt. It will also have you asking questions like what is reality, who am I and when will this end? Psychedelic experiences open up a whole can of worms, so if that’s not what you want, stick to MSNBC and a glass of wine. That duo will leave your assumptions nicely intact.
But if it’s existential questions you’re dealing with, then LSD, magic mushrooms, peyote and ayahusaca will get you further. The word psychedelic comes from two latin words “psyche” and “delios” meaning “mind revealing.” These substances disorient you and cause you to look at everything with a set of fresh eyes. Researcher Stanislav Graf says, ” is a catalyst or amplifier of mental processes. If properly used it could become something like the microscope or telescope of psychiatry.” This method could send you to the center of the universe, so hold on tight. Higher doses are for psychonauts only.
Mindfulness Meditation $0
If psychedelics aren’t your thing, other options exist. Mindfulness meditation will increase your awareness and open the door to new perceptions. Contrary to popular thought, meditation is not necessarily about just checking out and floating away on a cloud of bliss.
and in their Washington Post article point out that “Buddhist meditation was designed not to make us happier, but to radically change our sense of self and perception of the world.” Sitting and observing your breath and thoughts eventually leads to increased awareness and that awareness can include a fresh look at questions relating to your very existence. Topics like emptiness, ignorance, consciousness, thirst, attachment, clinging, existence, being, becoming, birth, and death. Basically — existential questions.
This can cost you zero dollars if you visit mindfulness.org. Many meditation techniques are simple to learn, yet difficult to practice well. But you have to start somewhere. Also, numerous meditation/mindfulness apps like Headspace, Calm, Aura, Stop, and Insight Timer point you in the right direction. Numerous techniques of meditation can be learned and practiced using these simple apps.
Whatever your route, taking a journey into these existential questions is quite the undertaking. Go slow and be patient with yourself. Not sure if anyone has answered any of these questions. That might not even be the point. It’s the questions that are interesting, not necessarily the answers.
Featured image by Zoltán Bánfalvy— Flickr.