Part I – Outer Purpose – Doing
I think many of us come to a point in life where we question our existence. We ask, What is my purpose? What have I been put here to do?
Sometimes, I find, it is easier to not care. But when I stop caring about my purpose and find myself letting life live me (rather than me living life) then I start feeling sad or unfulfilled. For me, I feel most accomplished in my life when I am doing the following:
- Reading for growth – this usually means I am reading something spiritual
- Exercising (treating my body like the temple it is)
- Walking in nature (not for exercising, but to feel how everything is connected)
- Acting helpful toward others (my family, my community, my world)
These are actions that help me regard my life as meaningful. Some of these tasks I’m pretty good at doing regularly, and others on my list still need loads of work. I’m sure you have your own, and I’m sure I have some not listed here because I do not even know they exist. I believe my soul expresses itself without my even knowing it every day – doing things to help me be a better person and to learn lessons that will propel me into being a better soul for the next life.
In the past, I thought if I wasn’t doing something Mother Teresa-like then perhaps my life was not being as meaningful as it should be. But being Mother Teresa, for me, is one TALL order.
I’m not that nice, really. I try, but I need a lot of alone time. And when I find myself needing that time and I’m not getting it, I have a hard time being nice. I also can’t deal with the sick (so that definitely puts me out of the Mother Teresa running). Sick people hurt my skin. No joke, my skin literally hurts when I see a cut or something gross on someone. Next, I’m not that un-earthly of a person. I like my creature-comforts. I like nice clothes. I like to have my hair cut stylish, and, please, cover up those gray hairs. I love massages from a spa and having my toenails painted by the Vietnamese lady. I also like to indulge in some of the more expensive foods and drinks – like this crunchy raw kale stuff I discovered at Whole Foods, yum. It’s healthy, tasty and $5.99 for a couple of ounces. And anyone that has kept up with my posts knows how I feel about my $4.33 a day habit of Starbucks mochas.
So let’s face it, I will never achieve Mother Teresa status this time around. It’s not in my cards and I accept that. I can live with myself just like I am as long as I am evolving into a person I feel has greatness as the ultimate achievement in my own right.
For some people life appears much simpler than it is for me. Perhaps a purpose does not need to be questioned. It just is. Like my dad; maybe he has questioned his purpose, I don’t know. But it seems he lives a life of service to others and that is his calling.
He has donated I don’t know how many gallons of blood over the years. First when the donor truck came to his work place, but now, since retiring, he goes over there when they are around just to donate and visit his old co-workers.
He and I exchange an email every night to tell each other about our day and to keep in touch. Many times I read about his visiting a person at the church for this or that. Sometimes it is at a member’s house, other times at the hospital. He had a friend, James, he went to the school football games with. Many of those years his “football buddy” was ill with cancer. At the end, my dad picked James up from his house and took him out. Sometimes they went to eat lunch, or run errands, or just to hang out at my dad’s house. Even if it was to watch my dad take apart a lawn mower to change the blades, James would happily sit and watch and talk to my dad, pleased to be free from his bed for a time. When his buddy died, I know my dad knew that he had made a difference in this man’s life. It was a rewarding experience for my dad and for his friend, James.
My dad loves to serve others in this way and many other ways. He does it through church and through his work (even though my dad is retired he has a lawn business). From what I can see, his purpose is defined by service.
I also have a mentor, Diane. I worked for her for years and we are still in touch today. She’s like a mom to me. She is the most creative person I know. She is involved in her community. She is self serving, but also has the ability to make others feel important. Working for her, I felt empowered, like I was able to do anything, but there was always support a stones-throw away. There is no other person in my life that I laugh with more than Diane. When I am with her, we are living life. But I have never once discussed religious or spiritual life with her. There’s no need. She just is. I have learned much more from her presence than I ever would have learned from a conversation anyway.
Some people are lucky enough to find a job which also fulfills a purpose. Other people I have known work for what seems a lifetime then later may question what really matters later in life. And the answer may be a change in professions. Sometimes getting paid to be nice is nice.
My mom is now in nursing school. Growing up she told me many times that she wished she would have gone to nursing school. She tried to get me to do it, but I believe she came to terms that this was not going to happen when once I fainted at work and they called her to come and get me.
She and I worked at the same office at the time. She was in marketing and I worked in the proposal department of a large medical corporation. I was entertaining a lady who came with her boss on a trip from another office. The lady and I were not the same age, we were not from the same town, we did not know a single person in common, and so what were we to talk about except the gigantic scar running down her forehead? I dared to ask how that scar came to be.
Turns out she was drinking wine (so we did have that in common) and she tripped over her own two feet and hit her oven door handle with her forehead. I regretted asking soon after she started her story. My skin was aching on my head and on my legs. As she was explaining the gap in her face and how her skull was showing I started to see black in front of me. Then I could no longer hear her. The next thing I know I had a group standing over me asking me if I was all right. No, I was not all right!
Someone called my mom to come get me. I had a big scrape on my nose where I hit the floor on that scratchy, thin office carpet – the kind you can feel the concrete through. I told the office people that I had not eaten breakfast, but I told my mom the truth. That lady made me faint with her gross story. My mom realized then that I was not the one to fulfill her dream of being a nurse. She tried to get my cousin, Laura, to become a nurse too, but Laura chose dental hygiene instead. Then my cousin, Christina, was the next for my mom to ask to please be a nurse, but she too chose dentistry. My mom decided she was going to have to go herself. And so she is slated to be a nurse in December at a number in front of a 4. She’s going to have a purpose helping the sick, and be able to make money at the same time. And a flexible schedule to boot.
I have met others that find their task in pain. From a happening that seems like a tragedy comes a purpose. I know a woman who has two children that were both born needing new kidneys. Reading her Facebook posts is a glimpse into the lives of people that deal with serious, lifelong illness on a daily basis. With every cold her children get she has to face life or death. She is a brave reminder for me to not sweat the small stuff (as much as I can). But she has also found much purpose in the challenges of parenting these two children. She writes blogs on more than one site, she is heavily involved with fundraising, she still has to raise her kids as “normal” as possible – taking them to school, homework, decisions on what they are ready for and what should wait, she still has to cook dinner and has to make time for herself when possible. She even has a business from home – she’s a working mom on top of everything.
I believe everyone has a purpose. The other day, I was having coffee with a mom from my son’s school and she was telling me about her boyfriend. She said the boyfriend’s wife died suddenly after 30 years of marriage to him. Of course my response was to make a sorrowful face and give my condolences to her man. But she said, “Well, it is sad, but his family has confided that they are glad for him. They said his former wife was a tyrant that treated him horribly. She was not that nice of a person to anyone.”
I am so glad I was told this story. Because this lady was a mean tyrant to her husband, I get to decide from her legacy that I would rather that not be me upon my own death. It would be my desire to have those that choose to live a life surrounding me say something kinder upon my absence. Maybe to become a teacher upon her death was this lady’s purpose. I sure learned something from her story.
Part Two – First Purpose – Being
In my spiritual studies, one principle mentioned frequently brings me great relief. It says that no matter what I am doing, I always have a purpose for being. In other words, no matter what, I have a purpose. And that purpose is not something outside. It comes from within.
There is a book called, A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose, that talks in great detail about how everyone has a purpose that is the same, it is humanity’s bond. This is not about religion, but it is about being connected to all of humanity through one common thread, the Creator, the Universe, or God. Whatever you call it, we all have this same strand in common and we all have this part of us inside. Be still and know that I AM God. The I AM is the common thread and this is the essence of God himself inside each human being here on earth – it’s our connection. If God is you and God is me and God is the sandwich maker that just got your order wrong, it is much easier to have compassion for our fellow man.
We are all created in God’s likeness, this is not to say image – this implies we look like God. But we do not all look alike. And we are not supposed to. We are all God. God is all of us. We are created in God’s likeness, meaning we are God-like and every person has a purpose which is to be like our creator, in spirit. Our creator is kind, compassionate, ever evolving, creative, conscious of choices, and conscious of the world. We are meant to be present – to be STILL – and to see how each moment, each choice, each time we choose to be nice, helpful, wise, creative, kind, and generous, we choose to be like our creator.
Eckhart Tolle, the author of A New Earth, says this in the book:
“As soon as you rise above mere survival, the question of meaning, and purpose becomes of paramount importance in your life. Many people feel caught up in the routines of daily living that seem to deprive their life of significance. Some believe life is passing them by or has passed them by already. Others feel severely restricted by the demands of their job and supporting a family or by their financial or living situation. Some are consumed by acute stress, others by acute boredom. Some are lost in frantic doing; others lost in stagnation. Many people long for the freedom and expansion that prosperity promises. Others already enjoy the relative freedom that comes with prosperity and discover that even that is not enough to endow their lives with meaning. There is no substitute for finding true purpose. But the true or primary purpose of your life cannot be found on the outer level. It does not concern that you do but what you are – that is to say, your state of consciousness.
So the most important thing is to realize 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.”
The next part of the chapter is spent talking about how to align those two. What I get from this is how, even if I am not always doing something to feel purposeful I always have a purpose to fulfill – being conscious and present in my life and knowing that I have a choice in my being, or how I want to be in the moment.
And so, no matter what I do, my purpose ends up being this: I am a part of humanity. I am an individual thread of life that knows, feels, believes, that I am connected to all of humanity through a commonness I share with all, a soul.
I want to achieve greatness in my actions, by my soul’s standards. Whatever I came here to do, I hope I choose to do it. I hope I have the courage, the wisdom, the strength and the desire. I hope I always feel that I am not alone in the process, I am never alone. When I encounter greatness I hope to notice it, to appreciate it, to learn from it, and to incorporate the lesson into my self. When I encounter something not so great, I am still going to learn from it. I am going to know that everyone has a soul with goodness and they too are a product of my creator. So I try today, now, this moment, I really try, to find goodness in all, and have compassion for all of mankind.
Today I live with purpose.
A New Earth, Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle