Discovering One's Life Purpose
I’ve been in India for six weeks now. Six weeks of yoga, meditating, singing, praying, monkey watching, dodging cows, wincing at soul piercing car and scooter horns, observing my inner self, making choices, eating, laughing, waiting, walking, wondering and wandering. This morning, I am sitting on my yoga mat in the sun on the roof of Anand Prakash Ashram, typing and inwardly dancing to the drums of the Holi celebration taking place in the streets below. I just reviewed all the things I have written since I got here, hundreds of pages of notes and impressions. A spider has started making its way across the keyboard, he’s a yellowish brown and about the size of the comma. I guess he’s going to keep me company as I type this out. As I reviewed my notes, the thing that jumped out at me was some notes I took from Prem Baba’s satsang, about finding one’s purpose. Prem Baba is a Brazilian teacher, you can read more about him here. I read through what he said about this topic, and I have transcribed the notes I took here. The whole time he was speaking, I felt like he was speaking to me; I found his words to be very helpful. And today as I was reading my notes, I realized that I have so much to say about this topic, things that may be helpful to my brothers and sisters who are longing to know their purpose, because I have been in that place as well. Since then, I have discovered some life hacks … what to do NOW, while you are waiting to “know your purpose”.
When Prem Baba says that purpose is a program for the fulfillment of the soul, for a business person like me, this implies that our purpose is going to come with a plan, a strategy and/or a map. Well, it doesn’t. Our souls don’t speak the same language as our minds or our bodies. Prem Baba suggests that in order to “hear our purpose” (my words, not his) we need interior silence. Yeah, well, that’s pretty hard to come by. Have you spent much time listening to the voices in your head? I have. How often are they all quiet at the same time? Yeah, that’s what I thought. So here’s my life hack for this. Let’s be a little more focused. Instead of waiting for interior silence (which may not come until we die!) what I have done is to learn to recognize the taste of things that my soul likes, that resonate at this deeper level. It’s like I have asked the watcher presence in me to be on a constant vigil for things that make my soul happy. One of the things that just so happens to please my soul is … wait for it… silence. Not all the time, but sometimes, like at the end of a workout, or a meaningful conversation, or when sitting on a rock with a friend overlooking an expansive valley at sunset. And so I take note of this. I just notice the way the silence tastes, the way its vibration drips from my heart down into some deeper place. It’s like I made a deposit in my soul’s savings account. A few other things that give me this dripping feeling: rock climbing, cuddling, dancing, writing, cooking, and making heartfelt decisions, holding space for others… to name a few. Making contact with this “watcher presence” that we all have, I suppose that is a process, too. But we all have this capacity, or else we wouldn’t be here, breathing, reading these words.
When I was in that place of feeling desperate for a purpose, I thought purpose would be a comfort, something I could rest in, a container. I wanted to know my purpose so that I would use it to help me make decisions, to make my life simpler, and clearer and hopefully more effective. I thought purpose would give my life structure. I wanted a purpose so that I could reassure myself that my life was “headed somewhere”, and so that I could have deeper faith in my connection with the Divine, a faith that would be reinforced with progress and evidence of success.
Now I see that this yearning to know my purpose was actually a strategy to meet a whole basket of spiritual needs, all of which can be met in other ways. When we find ourselves questing after purpose, it means that one’s spiritual self can no longer lay dormant. It means that the soul wants to participate more actively in one’s daily life, to be consulted when we make decisions.
Which brings me to another important life hack, for us spiritual people who often give in to confusion when it comes to making decisions, big and small. By the way, one thing that happened for me here in India is that I have given up confusion, for good. But that’s a topic for another post. Last year, I came upon a new way to make decisions that seems to give my soul more of a voice. When I find myself deliberating about something, especially when it comes to how I am going to spend my time, and especially when I feel exasperated by how many choices I have, I go consciously subconscious. What this means is that I ask my thinking brain to take a break. I tell my rational brain that it will not be the one making the decision. I then ask for guidance from the most divine part of my subconscious (which let’s hope is my soul) and I just let my body and my heart do whatever they want to do for the next period of time (an hour, fifteen minutes, four hours, whatever chunk of time is in question). Sometimes I set a timer. Meanwhile, the “watcher presence” in me gets to watch with curiosity to see what I end up doing with myself. Will I go to the concert or will I do the dishes? Will I make the phone call or will make some artwork? Will I mindlessly eat popcorn? Will I journal? Will I nap? Will I call a friend or pay bills? Who knows. It’s like sitting on a sled at the top of a sledding hill and all I know is that I’m going to go downhill via the path of least resistance. It’s like a game of soul roulette. The more I make decisions this way, the more I learn to feel into this mysterious realm of the subconscious. And the more I learn to trust this divine part of my subconscious, which, let’s hope, is my soul. This has built more spiritual self intimacy and ease into my life than just about any other practice I have discovered in the past year.
Yes, it’s true, by allowing myself to go “subconscious”, I am taking the risk that one of my many shadows will take the wheel of my life for that period of time. I am willing to take this risk, because I have also, over the past year, begun working diligently with many different shadow aspects of myself. This, also is a topic for another post. The cool thing about this approach is that if a shadow does take over during one of these “sledding” periods, it’s much more likely that I will get to observe this shadow in action and learn more about how this particular part of my psyche functions.
And a couple more thoughts before I go… Don’t be too fast to come to a conclusion about your purpose because the resonance of the question itself contains the most pure note your soul has been able to sound thus far. And do not insist on a particular kind of answer to your purpose question because then you are making the question less pure. Focus on the yearning behind the question, and the depth of the yearning. Follow it into the deepest place you can, and then rest there. I mean this. In fact, as I sit here, typing, I’m going to do just that. I’m taking a few breaths, and pause, to really feel into the deepest yearning I can feel. Maybe even in silence.