What is the difference between living and existing?
We all exist. Everyone and everything in this world exists. But existing does not mean we are living.
We can go through all the motions of life: we can pray, we can work, we can do our responsibilities and duties as parents, spouses, friends, children etc. But we still can be only existing. Life is dull. We do not have enjoyment out of life.
When we are truly living, truly alive, we exude a sense of joy. There is joy just in being alive. Every moment, every breath, becomes a cause to celebrate. We are joyous because we have a sense of purpose. And really living means infusing every part of our lives with this joy of life: joie de vivre as they say in French. We have a passion in life. We do everything with enthusiasm, with happiness.
So what causes us to go from a state of living to a state of simply existing?
Usually we lose our enthusiasm in life. We lose our sense of purpose. We lose our sense of happiness. There can be many causes: suffering we go through, frustration in life, not getting or having what we want, feeling bored or lonely…..
But how do we regain our enthusiasm? We need to regain a sense of purpose. We need to have a mission. A project to be busy with. We need to feel useful, needed and productive.
But that does not mean we have to invest in a new business or take upon ourselves a huge momumental task. We can simply infuse life and meaning into everything we do. We need to find happiness and enthusiasm in life’s simple every day chores and activities.
Much of the enthusiasm comes through learning more Torah, especially Chassidus: that brings chayus into our lives. Once our neshomahs are fired up with enthusiasm everything becomes filled with joy and becomes an opportunity to fulfill Hashem’s will.
Often our wills clash with Hashem’s will. We imagine what we would like to do or accomplish in life and not always do things go that way. Often we find ourselves bogged down in very mundane, boring and unenthusiastic jobs or activities. But we need to understand that within those activities we also are fulfilling G-ds purpose for us in this world. We do not see the bigger picture. We do not see what G-d sees. But if we put ourselves in His hands and just go with the flow, we will feel happier and have more joy in life.
We need to learn to find happiness in the small things. That means developing an attitude of gratitude. We need to train ourselves (yes, it takes training) to see the good in our lives. Don’t take your spouse or children for granted. Don’t take health for granted. Don’t take your job for granted. Or your home. Or anything that you have. But also learn to thank G-d for all the good He bestows upon you, even if it is not necessarily what you had in mind. Look at your house and appreciate it. Enjoy it. Look at your kids and be happy. Have nachas. Look at your spouse and be thankful you have a partner to go through life with. Look at your job and figure out how you can use it to serve Hashem: are there people you can influence in a positive way? Are there people you can be an example to? Start to find the good and purpose in everything. That is how you infuse life into everything and you start truly living, not just existing.