What is a life of meaning? Surely everyone’s journey along his or her unique path brings meaning and spiritual growth?

If true happiness and fulfillment are the keys to a meaningful life, what exactly is real happiness?

I did not always ponder these questions; there was a period in my life when I was not yet awake.

Having married my school sweetheart when I was too young, at just 22, I spent my twenties losing myself in my career, trying to be the responsible provider and committed husband that I imagined myself to be.

I was too young and naïve to realize that I did not even know myself very well, how could I know how to be a loyal husband, a successful provider and to know the direction I should travel in life?

Perhaps it was too much to expect a young man to know the answers to these questions and to be the master of his destiny.

So, like most young men, I figured it out for myself and tried to do the best I could in every area of my life…or so I thought.

My career took off and I gained success and achievement beyond my youthful inexperience.

I became a Father at 26 and devoted my time to caring and nurturing my son, but my marriage was not healthy.

We were cut from different cloth and had opposing ideas of what life held for us.

My travels around the world chasing adventure and intrigue separated us even further and we were divorced when my son was 6.

In truth we were not well suited for one another but in hindsight we just didn’t know how to love.

At that young age, life is all about you, what you want, what desires and ideas you want to explore.

As I’ve discovered later along my journey, this is not the most nurturing energy to sustain a healthy relationship and partnership.

Being a truly committed Father who loves his son deeply, I remarried my ex-wife after just a year of divorce, but for the wrong reasons.

I wanted to raise my son and give him the love of a family; an honorable intention yes, but not one that was centered on a loving and healthy marriage.

Ashamedly I remember rationalizing to myself that my wife would never change and we would never have the passionate, loving, intimate relationship I desired, so in order to stay married for my son’s benefit, I would simply create a secret life.

My secret life would be where I fulfilled my need for connection, passion and adventure.

Somehow I figured that this was the only choice I had if I wanted to both raise my son and lead a life that brought me joy and excitement.

Exacerbating my illusion was the fact that my secret life was a blast.

I went scuba diving all over the place, had wild passionate affairs and explored my sexuality.

I took private courses in Indian head massage, meditation and traveled alone for many regular work assignments that took me to exotic places filled with interesting challenges and adventures.

And I would return to my dispassionate marriage devoid of connection and love; but I did have my son.

Throughout this phase of my journey I had a yearning for something more meaningful, something real.

I later understood that while fun, adventure and excitement are wonderful, they are only temporary highs that cannot sustain real fulfillment.

I had this fine balancing act between my “married life” and my “secret life” well polished but deep down I knew that this was not an authentic or healthy way to live.

I began in earnest to read and reflect on my spirituality and studied eastern wisdom practices.

This was in my early to mid 30’s and was definitely a period of introspection and inner growth.

But my outward reality was not yet grounded or peaceful.

I knew then that I had not yet found real love, probably because I had not been ready to give real love.

I began to have more honest and open discussions with my wife about how disconnected and unloving our marriage was and that we needed to reconsider our path together.

It was a difficult time because I had hurt my wife and son deeply when I left the first time and here I was, only a few years on, wanting to end the relationship again.

Then lightning struck! In the midst of my turmoil and search for authenticity, I met my soul mate.

Our meeting was by pure chance and we were at the time both heading in very different directions.

But the universe had other ideas.

I must explain that our meeting was not the “romantic cliché” we all watch in the movies, it was a complicated time for both of us and we were both ending long-term relationships and exploring other connections when we bumped into one another.

I was 38 and she 36 and a deep, spiritual connection with our soul mates was most definitely not on either of our radars.

But the electricity could not be ignored.

Neither of us knew what this connection would mean and what it would bring, but we both took a leap of faith and jumped.

I moved into my own place and finalized my divorce and she moved back to Africa after having left to go back home to Europe.

We both had a profound sense that we had met our soul mates and that we had both come home.

Our love was at once wildly passionate and deeply peaceful.

I had always longed to find love with someone who was truly kind-hearted, graceful, friendly with everyone and who shared my love of adventure and the joy of life. Well, I had struck gold.

So here is where my story gets interesting.

You see, I am a strong character with a good sense of my values and yet I had somehow conspired to create a reality built on deception.

I had rationalized that at least I was always being honest with myself, but in truth, until I met my soul mate, I had created and lived a forgery, an illusion of happiness.

Granted there were enough distractions and adventures along the way but I never felt truly at ease or at peace.

But it was not meeting and falling in love that changed my life, this was the catalyst.

It was awakening to the realization that I deserved real love and possessed an innate ability to give authentic, honest, passionate love that changed the direction of my journey.

My soul mate and I were engaged after 3 months and married after just a year.

We’ve been joyously married for 6 years now and life could not be better.

We have one of those rare marriages where we genuinely adore each other and have a lot of fun together.

Mostly we know how to be loving & kind to one another and follow our passion for adventure. We are really well suited and compatible partners-in-crime.

Not only is life good for us, but also for my now 19-year old son.

He and my second wife have hit it off famously and have such a close bond and friendship. We have built a really close family.

We laugh a lot.

Understanding the rare gift our love is, we promised to look after it and to nurture and protect it above all other priorities and pursuits.

We agreed to put our marriage and our relationship first and to make sure that the way we earned our living, where we lived, what we did for fun and our day-to-day realities never conflicted with our abilities to honor and nurture each other and our love for one another.

In a fiercely materialistic world with so many demands, responsibilities, distractions and opportunities, this is not a simple undertaking.

But by placing our love above all else, it has given us a compass that guides our travels.

When we agreed to follow and honor true love, it set in motion an awakening to what our soul’s purpose is in this lifetime.

What are we here to learn and teach? What do we really want to do with our lives?

This awakening of what our real purpose and passions are motivated us to change our realities and our careers to become restorers and healers of ocean ecosystems.

Our deep love of coral reefs and diving and the desire to create innovative solutions around marine conservation led us to train as coral reef gardeners and instructors.

We’ve moved to a tropical island, opened a non-profit association and are building clients and projects together, hand-in-hand.

This is a major shift from the world of jewelry design and national security! Its also a major shift from a life lived for yourself, to a life lived for one another.

My short story brings me full circle to the questions I posed in the opening paragraph.

The little bit of knowledge and wisdom I’ve acquired along my short journey offers me the understanding that a life of real meaning, is a life lived in alignment with your soul’s purpose, in pursuit of a passion that is focused on the joy and benefit of others, doing things that nurture and excite you to your very core.

Authentic, lasting happiness comes from real love.

The kind of love that allows you to set aside your ego, your desires and your yearnings and realize your innate ability to be truly loving and kind to a soul mate and in turn to everyone you encounter.

We will all experience pain and hardships along our travels, there is no growth without it; but we will only transcend suffering when we learn to accept pain as a natural and beneficial part of our lives.

Joy and pain are opposite sides of the same coin called life experience.

But lasting happiness isn’t about more joy and less pain, its’ about finding something greater than our own life experience.

Finding real love was a defining moment in my life that inspired my awakening to a life of meaning and purpose.

It’s a real help that my soul mate is a gorgeous, mischievous, sassy Minx.