What’s the purpose of your life?
When our basic needs are met, this is the question that comes up. We want to find purpose or passion.
Nadia of HappyLotus recently wrote, with usual excellence, about an interview with Jeff Klein, who has written a book called “Work for Good” and in it he uses a quotation from Goethe which gives a hint as to why it’s important to us find a purpose or passion:
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now!
We want to find purpose because we know from experience that purpose is the fulcrum of change. Without purpose we are listless, living life without joy or enthusiasm, and doing what needs to be done to get through the day. When we have purpose we are energized and focused and full of enthusiasm. Life is joy.
When we have purpose we get approval and validation. Our friends, family and the world at large pat us on our backs: we have purpose, we are going somewhere, we are being productive and good and useful.
And we’ve experienced the magic that Goethe refers to. When we are energized and flowing with purpose, it seems the world cooperates to make us powerful. We glide forward confidently and effortlessly, pulled by our dreams. Thoreau tells us that the person with purpose “…will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary: new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or old laws will be expanded and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with license of a higher order of beings.”
And, getting even more mystical, Krishna tells in the Bhagvad Gita: “When a person is devoted to something with complete faith, I unify his faith in that. Then, when his faith his completely unified, he gains the object of his devotion.”
We want purpose because purpose, just like happiness, is energizing and approving and meaningful.
So there is some irony in the realization that the seeking of purpose, just like the seeking of happiness, can be the very thing that keeps us bound in time, overlooking the present, and looking forward to a purposeful future, which never comes.
We find it difficult to connect with true purpose. But we want the things that purpose brings; we want the energy and the glide and approval and meaningfulness, so the ego often comes up with substitute passions. This is probably why most of us end up working for a paycheck, in professions that we don’t really enjoy, or start projects that we don’t finish, and have to pretend to work up enthusiasm. We see the “working up” of enthusiasm all over the corporate culture. Magazines and pop-psychology berate us that we should be more enthusiastic and more positive and more optimistic—in short, more purposeful. The entire business model of gyms and fitness centers depends on people first gathering up, and then quickly losing the pretend-enthusiasm of New Year’s resolutions—resolutions which are not true purpose but substitute passions.
I have felt these fake shifts many times in my life before, as I’m sure you have—maybe it’s to lose weight, maybe start a new exercise routine, maybe a new project, a degree, a job…
But these purposes have been for validation or approval or control in some form. These have not been true purpose, but rather the movement of the egoic mind, which pits one set of beliefs against another, and the result is that these shifts can be sustained only with a great deal of effort and discipline and self-improvement. One corner of the mind commands the rest of it to move in a certain direction. There is no unity in that.
So what’s the trick? What is it that makes us step authentically from one side of the fulcrum to the other, from fear and doubt over to energetic and self-sustaining enthusiasm?
Perhaps you’ve felt a shift in your life which has come from true passion, and not from effort or discipline or the need for approval or validation, just as I did recently, for the second time in three years. When true purpose comes to us, there is no longer any doubt or question or fear. We step over the fulcrum with confidence. The see-saw tips happily into the field of energetic flow and we feel the “genius, power and magic in it.”
I am writing a book on how to maintain a healthful weight with Awareness and Release. The technique is not difficult—but it’s delicate. It has to do with letting go of our driving needs to control and self-force. It has to do with the understanding of why so many of us, so very often, so heroically, lose weight, with the latest secret of losing weight, only to gain it back, with vengeance.
When we look at it, all our desires stem from wanting control, approval, security, or separation, and if we can let go these wants, Truth manifests readily. Feeling the joy of being, feeling Truth, losing weight, or finding purpose—all of it, is not about getting, it is not about figuring out, it is not about discipline or effort or self-forcing. It is about letting go.
So, what is the trick to finding authentic purpose? There is no trick. When we can release fear and the mind is still, passion finds us.
This is my experience:
Cultivate Awareness. This is the passive, watchful, non-analytical, non-labeling, non-thinking intelligence which mysteriously provides quiet, non-verbal answers.
Release: let go of fear. Let go of all the conditioned and conflicting beliefs about purpose and passion. Let go. When you stop thinking about letting go and actually try to let go, you will see that letting go is as easy as opening your hand.
There is exactly one purpose: the purpose of living is to experience the joy of being. In the joy of being, passions and goals are sometimes invited.
How do we know when there is true passion?
When we no longer need to ask the question.
Update October 14, 2009
So the most important thing to realize is this: Your life has an inner purpose and an outer purpose. Inner purpose concerns Being and is primary. Outer purpose concerns doing and is secondary…. Inner and outer, however, are so intertwined that it is almost impossible to speak of one without referring to the other.
Your inner purpose is to awaken. It is as simple as that. You share that purpose with every other person on the planet – because it is the purpose of humanity. Your inner purpose is an essential part of the purpose of the whole, the universe and its emerging intelligence. Your outer purpose can change over time. It varies greatly from person to person. Finding and living in alignment with the inner purpose is the foundation for fulfilling your outer purpose. It is the basis for true success. Without that alignment, you can still achieve certain things through effort, struggle, determination, and sheer hard work or cunning. But there is no joy in such endeavor, and it invariably ends in some form of suffering.—Eckhart Tolle