Life is incredibly full. I just have to slow down enough to experience it.
When I sit quietly listening to the rain, watching leaves dance in the droplets and noticing the changes in the ebbs and flows of intensity, all the purpose in the world is present and accounted for. Within this space, I hear an invitation to give up my constant pursuit of whatever it is I think I’m looking for and instead just notice what’s already and always present, even as I engage in ‘daily life’.
We, humans, are a curious animal. We seek reason for which something is done, created, or exists. We seek meaning in, or from, this defined consideration. But, for me, there’s something amiss in that pursuit. I’ve enquired into ‘purpose’ for many years, asked what it means, how it’s found, and what it looks like. It started as I sought a way out of loss and depression. I wanted meaning in my life, which later transformed to a desire for direction and meaning for my life. I believed that some vocation would provide what I was looking for, but I’ve never managed to settle into any career, although that grass often looks entrancingly green.
There’s a lot of discussion in the world about finding a purpose, and about how living one’s purpose provides meaning to life. What I find curious, however, is that no other creature on the planet appears to have this need. Animals, plants, fungi, and bacteria move through life unimpeded by any existential concerns. I have to ask, what’s going on?
❝ 𝘔𝘪𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘸𝘦 𝘣𝘦 𝘤𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘦𝘦𝘥 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘱𝘶𝘳𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘪.𝘦. 𝘭𝘪𝘷𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘷𝘪𝘳𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩𝘵 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘥𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘭𝘺 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘣𝘺 𝘮𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵.❞
Is the mind’s constant thought creation decoupling us from direct experience and thus alienating us from life, each other, nature, and what already and always exists in each moment? Could ‘purpose’ be something we grasp at as a substitute for happiness that is actually present within us at all times?
It’s possible that there’s something ‘special’ about Homo sapiens that allows us to even consider the question of purpose, and that answering and fulfilling this mission provides some value over and above what other beings can experience. On the other hand, I envisage that the desire for purpose is a hindrance to living fully in the present moment; one is either constantly seeking their function or involved in the achievement thereof. A third thesis is that realising the irrelevant nature of the question itself is what enlightens humans to their true Self.
I’m drawn to nature. It’s not quite a fascination, more like a curiosity and a desire to be embraced in its quiet and timeless movement. It seems to me that nature doesn’t strive to find and align itself with a purpose. Instead, it already is its own purpose—being. Nature, manifest as the various classes of life, robust in sensation, movement, and creativity just lives each moment. Quite simply, life invests energy in living, nothing more, nothing less. I find this freedom from the constructs of purpose and meaning refreshing, revealing, even satisfying. This is what I see in the ‘Nature on PBS’ video clip below. What do you see?
I have a peculiar, although sometimes annoying for others, habit of requiring clarity in a topic of discussion. As such, Internet searches have helped to delineate features of purpose and meaning.
• Purpose infers an aim or goal, something to be reached.
• Purpose refers to the reason for which something is done.
• Purpose is a real or an imagined belief that something has a use or a reason for being.
• Meaning is the value or values which are assigned to that belief.
But what if true meaning is to live each moment, being present to life as it is in real-time. Quoting Michael again, “𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘧𝘶𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘳𝘦𝘰𝘤𝘤𝘶𝘱𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘪𝘴 𝘭𝘪𝘬𝘦 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘵𝘩. 𝘐𝘵 𝘪𝘴 𝘦𝘨𝘰, 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘪𝘴 𝘧𝘢𝘭𝘴𝘦.” This would explain my own feeling of discontent with seeking purpose outside of the current moment and that filling my mind with thoughts feels empty and unsatisfying.
Since so many of us experience desire for purpose and meaning, there may be some part of our human construct that predisposes us to dwell on the subject. But, I have to ask, is it actually necessary to participate in that thought process? I can’t shake the sense that purpose and meaning are constructs created by a separate(d) self, an individual ‘I’ that seeks (re-)connection. In other words, only a separate self feels disconnected and grasps to find purpose, and thereby meaning. But what if none of us is ever disconnected? And what if we can realise and live this understanding in every moment?
Sri Ramana Maharshi taught, “𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵. 𝘊𝘢𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘳𝘦𝘮𝘢𝘪𝘯 𝘢𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘵 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘭𝘧? 𝘛𝘰 𝘣𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳𝘴𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘳𝘦𝘲𝘶𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘴 𝘯𝘰 𝘦𝘧𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘵 𝘴𝘪𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘭𝘸𝘢𝘺𝘴 𝘛𝘩𝘢𝘵.” This why I don’t see nature seeking purpose. It isn’t disconnected from itself.
The Japanese concept of “Ikigai” loosely translates as “reason for being”. Western mindset characterises this as fulfilment in doing something meaningful. It’s a matter of having a sense of direction. But author, storyteller, and holistic coach, Chip Richards, points out the subtler aspects to which Japanese are referring.
“[𝘐𝘬𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘪] 𝘳𝘦𝘧𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘭 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘪𝘯𝘥 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘪𝘳𝘤𝘶𝘮𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘤𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘰𝘱𝘱𝘰𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘤𝘶𝘳𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘴𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘴 𝘢𝘭𝘰𝘯𝘦. …𝘖𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘣𝘦𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘪𝘰𝘳𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘮𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘶𝘴 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭 𝘪𝘬𝘪𝘨𝘢𝘪 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘰𝘯𝘦𝘴 𝘸𝘦 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘰𝘳𝘤𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘦 𝘣𝘢𝘴𝘦𝘥 𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘧 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘸𝘰𝘳𝘭𝘥 𝘢𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘯𝘥 𝘶𝘴, 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘯𝘢𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘢𝘭 𝘢𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘢𝘯𝘦𝘰𝘶𝘴 𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘱𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘦𝘴 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘳𝘨𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘢 𝘥𝘦𝘦𝘱 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘤𝘵 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘯𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘭𝘪𝘧𝘦.”
When I immerse myself in this connection to life, when I let myself relax into the rhythm of its engagement, it provides and encompasses the direction I long for. It does so precisely because I am open to all of life and experience the flow within it. When I am aware of that flow, and stillness, while moving within and as a part of it, it resolves the desire for purpose because I realise that I’m always living as purpose. Meditation, chanting, devotion, service and self-enquiry are methods, suggested by saints, sages, and gurus, that I use for phasing my awareness back into alignment with this timeless and ever-present flow.
In regards the affair of finding, knowing and living my purpose, and that doing so will provide meaning and fulfilment to life, perhaps the best way to start is to ask the question and enquire into, “Who is it that seeks a purpose?” When I follow that question back to its source it too burns and dissipates in the funeral pyre of enquiry. There is stillness, fullness, intensity—all is present and accounted for (including purpose).
Note: I am tremendously grateful for and owe an enormous debt to my best friend who asks the hard, and necessary, questions that help me get clear on what it is I want to say, and to many others with whom ideas also get bounced around. I only see one part of the elephant. These treasured friends help to reveal more of the picture.
❝ 𝘞𝘢𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘪𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘮𝘶𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘦𝘵𝘶𝘳𝘯 𝘵𝘰 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘰𝘯𝘭𝘺. 𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘯, 𝘸𝘩𝘺 𝘯𝘰𝘵 𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘥𝘦 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘚𝘦𝘭𝘧 𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘯 𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘯𝘰𝘸?❞
✌️ ∙ 🌱 ∙ 🙏