How do you discover your real purpose in life? I’m not talking about your job, your daily responsibilities, or even your long-term goals. I mean the real reason why you’re here at all — the very reason you exist.
Perhaps you’re a rather nihilistic person who doesn’t believe you have a purpose and that life has no meaning. Doesn’t matter. Not believing that you have a purpose won’t prevent you from discovering it, just as a lack of belief in gravity won’t prevent you from tripping. All that a lack of belief will do is make it take longer, so if you’re one of those people, just change the number 20 in the title of this blog entry to 40 (or 60 if you’re really stubborn). Most likely though if you don’t believe you have a purpose, then you probably won’t believe what I’m saying anyway, but even so, what’s the risk of investing an hour just in case?
Here’s a story about Bruce Lee which sets the stage for this little exercise. A master martial artist asked Bruce to teach him everything Bruce knew about martial arts. Bruce held up two cups, both filled with liquid. “The first cup,” said Bruce, “represents all of your knowledge about martial arts. The second cup represents all of my knowledge about martial arts. If you want to fill your cup with my knowledge, you must first empty your cup of your knowledge.”
If you want to discover your true purpose in life, you must first empty your mind of all the false purposes you’ve been taught (including the idea that you may have no purpose at all).
So how to discover your purpose in life? While there are many ways to do this, some of them fairly involved, here is one of the simplest that anyone can do. The more open you are to this process, and the more you expect it to work, the faster it will work for you. But not being open to it or having doubts about it or thinking it’s an entirely idiotic and meaningless waste of time won’t prevent it from working as long as you stick with it — again, it will just take longer to converge.
Here’s what to do:
- Take out a blank sheet of paper or open up a word processor where you can type (I prefer the latter because it’s faster).
- Write at the top, “What is my true purpose in life?”
- Write an answer (any answer) that pops into your head. It doesn’t have to be a complete sentence. A short phrase is fine.
- Repeat step 3 until you write the answer that makes you cry. This is your purpose.
That’s it. It doesn’t matter if you’re a counselor or an engineer or a bodybuilder. To some people this exercise will make perfect sense. To others it will seem utterly stupid. Usually it takes 15-20 minutes to clear your head of all the clutter and the social conditioning about what you think your purpose in life is. The false answers will come from your mind and your memories. But when the true answer finally arrives, it will feel like it’s coming to you from a different source entirely.
For those who are very entrenched in low-awareness living, it will take a lot longer to get all the false answers out, possibly more than an hour. But if you persist, after 100 or 200 or maybe even 500 answers, you’ll be struck by the answer that causes you to surge with emotion, the answer that breaks you. If you’ve never done this, it may very well sound silly to you. So let it seem silly, and do it anyway.
As you go through this process, some of your answers will be very similar. You may even re-list previous answers. Then you might head off on a new tangent and generate 10-20 more answers along some other theme. And that’s fine. You can list whatever answer pops into your head as long as you just keep writing.
At some point during the process (typically after about 50-100 answers), you may want to quit and just can’t see it converging. You may feel the urge to get up and make an excuse to do something else. That’s normal. Push past this resistance, and just keep writing. The feeling of resistance will eventually pass.
You may also discover a few answers that seem to give you a mini-surge of emotion, but they don’t quite make you cry — they’re just a bit off. Highlight those answers as you go along, so you can come back to them to generate new permutations. Each reflects a piece of your purpose, but individually they aren’t complete. When you start getting these kinds of answers, it just means you’re getting warm. Keep going.
It’s important to do this alone and with no interruptions. If you’re a nihilist, then feel free to start with the answer, “I don’t have a purpose,” or “Life is meaningless,” and take it from there. If you keep at it, you’ll still eventually converge.
When I did this exercise, it took me about 25 minutes, and I reached my final answer at step 106. Partial pieces of the answer (mini-surges) appeared at steps 17, 39, and 53, and then the bulk of it fell into place and was refined through steps 100-106. I felt the feeling of resistance (wanting to get up and do something else, expecting the process to fail, feeling very impatient and even irritated) around steps 55-60. At step 80 I took a 2-minute break to close my eyes, relax, clear my mind, and to focus on the intention for the answer to come to me — this was helpful as the answers I received after this break began to have greater clarity.
Here was my final answer: to live consciously and courageously, to resonate with love and compassion, to awaken the great spirits within others, and to leave this world in peace.
When you find your own unique answer to the question of why you’re here, you will feel it resonate with you deeply. The words will seem to have a special energy to you, and you will feel that energy whenever you read them.
Discovering your purpose is the easy part. The hard part is keeping it with you on a daily basis and working on yourself to the point where you become that purpose.
If you’re inclined to ask why this little process works, just put that question aside until after you’ve successfully completed it. Once you’ve done that, you’ll probably have your own answer to why it works. Most likely if you ask 10 different people why this works (people who’ve successfully completed it), you’ll get 10 different answers, all filtered through their individual belief systems, and each will contain its own reflection of truth.
Obviously, this process won’t work if you quit before convergence. I’d guesstimate that 80-90% of people should achieve convergence in less than an hour. If you’re really entrenched in your beliefs and resistant to the process, maybe it will take you 5 sessions and 3 hours, but I suspect that such people will simply quit early (like within the first 15 minutes) or won’t even attempt it at all. But if you’re drawn to read this blog (and haven’t been inclined to ban it from your life yet), then it’s doubtful you fall into this group.
The Bhavacakra or “Wheel of Life” is a visual tool used by Tibetan Buddhists to represent the concept of Samsara. Buddhists are firm believers of cause and karma, as well as birth, death and re-birth or reincarnation. Perhaps the meaning of this symbolic wheel can help others lead a more meaningful life.
In the center of the wheel lie the images represent the three poisons of life – ignorance, jealousy and aversion. These are the three sufferings which, Buddhists believe, keep humanity trapped in Samsara. Samsara is the Buddhism concept of endless misery. A person experiences Samsara when they fail to understand cause and effect. In other words, the individual does not fully understand the consequences of his own deeds. As a result, they are unable to free themselves from the “wheel of suffering.” One analogy is to imagine an insect trapped in a jar; one is trapped in their own reality, regardless of their actions if they cannot fully understand what keeps them contained.
The second layer of the wheel is a representation of Karma. Karma refers to the actions that spring from intentions. Intentions translate into thoughts, and thoughts lead to actions. Eventually, all actions lead to eventual consequences. Whether the consequence is desirable or undesirable depends on the action. Buddhists firmly believe that one is responsible for one’s own destiny. That is to say, we are all responsible for the consequences of our own actions.
The third layer of the wheel is a representation of the six realms of samsara. Namely, they are the God realm, the demi-God, the human, the animal, the hungry ghost, and hell. It is both purposeful and interesting to examine each realm as it related to one’s own self.
For example, the God realm is a place where beings are in a state of bliss or nirvana. They are here, in this state, due to the positive karma that they have built up from their actions. Unfortunately, they neglect to work towards enlightenment. Soon their positive karma runs out and then they are born into lower realms. The jealous Gods are those who envy the higher Gods. They live a more pleasurable life when compared to humans, but they suffer from jealousy of the Gods.
Next, is the human realm, which we are all, obviously, familiar with. In this realm, there is the possibility of enlightenment. From this particular perspective, it is actually advantageous to be reborn as a human. Unfortunately, most human beings spend their life time in the pursuit of materialistic rewards. The chances of most beings being reborn in a lower realm are very high. Once entered into a lower realm, it takes many life-times to accumulate enough merit to be born as a human again.
Finally, there is a moon at the top of the Bhavacakra, and it represents liberation. In other words, it is possible to be liberated from samsara – the wheel of suffering. Buddha points to the moon to indicate the possibility of freeing oneself.
This is just a very brief explanation of the Wheel of Life, as Buddhists see it. I very much suggest that if you’re interested, you do more research and explore this for yourself through the links within. I’ve taken care to make sure these are credible & helpful links. One of my personal favorites is an interactive version of wheel, which can be found here.
Considering the difficult few months that life has presented, I found this particular teaching incredibly relevant. I’ve been a fan of Tara’s for a few months but this one really hit home.
I’m often traveling, so it’s convenient for me to download the audio versions to my iPhone. With this specific episode, there was a full emotional breakthrough – on a Greyhound bus headed to DC.
I related, cried – sobbed even, understood & evolved. Surely the other passengers on the bus were wondering what psychological trauma I was experiencing. Nonetheless, Tara’s prior teachings, together with this specific dharma talk brought about real truth, understanding & awareness. No one else mattered.
The lotus needs mud – and through this … well listen to Tara explain it. You can check out here other teachings here.
– Kyle Quandel
This is amazing! I stumbled across this clip today & thought I’d share it. Reason #689 why I’m veg! Enjoy.
“One can measure the greatness and the moral progress of a nation by looking at how it treats its animals.” Mahatma Gandhi
In trying to find the words to express my deep sympathy for a friend’s loss, I came across this piece. There no more nobler truth or wish & a mantra to live by.
May I be happy, may I maintain my happiness & live without any enmity.
May all beings be successful and happy: May they be of joyful mind, all beings that breathe & have life.
Let all beings enjoy safety, contentment, ease & bliss.
Let no one deceive another, let no one be harsh in speech.
Let no one by anger or hatred wish ill to his neighbor.
Even as a mother, at the risk of her own life, guards and protects her only child, so with a boundless heart of compassion, I venerate all living beings by permeating the entire universe with sympathy, above, beneath & all around without limit— compassion for the sorrows of others, immeasurable joy in their joys.
Thus I cultivate an infinite Goodwill toward this whole world.
During all my waking hours I treasure this thought that this very way of caring is indeed the truly noblest behavior in this whole wide world.
Thus shall I, by stilling pointless discussions & controversies, by acting blamelessly, be gifted with tranquility & true insight.
Thus shall I subdue sense-pleasure urge & never again know involuntary rebirth.
May this inspire all beings to fulfill the conditions leading to Nirvana.
May all beings be thus utterly liberated & released from suffering.
May all beings thus escape the dangers of ageing, disease and death.
There has to be a conscious and deliberate effort to establish and promote an animal friendly and humane society as this ultimate goal complement other major variables that are critical to our own survival. It is directly linked to other key issues like environmental protection, poverty alleviation and food security.
A solid and sustainable future for our survival will always dovetail to green advocacies and promotion of animal welfare. This is the mantra adopted by most environment and animal protection groups. It sponsors and coalesces with key institutions and other advocacy groups in order to promote animal welfare and green-based livelihood and enterprises and help protect the fragile environment.
The prevailing conditions during these modern times necessitate the need for us to adopt practices that are beneficial to animals and harmless to the environment. Sustainable development must be the focus of modern society. We have to create an environment where economic, environmental and social issues are taken into account in our effort to promote animal welfare.
Take Care of the Herd and Your
We need to take into account the tangible benefits that are obtaining when we adopt humane treatment of animals and advocate animal welfare. Thus, we must learn to observe the best practices which ensure positive results that are linked to sustainable animal friendly enterprises and businesses.
By doing so, we are able to enjoy its health and economic benefits. Some sectors go to the extent of becoming a vegetarian to demonstrate their commitment to the protection of animal welfare. Of course, these individuals would readily attribute the low incidence of cardiac arrest and other diseases to their meatless diet. You need to fully understand the core value of such practice – you take care of the herd and the herd will take good care of you.
Why We Need to
Animal welfare is one of the important pillars of our green advocacy. Nearly a quarter of the world population relies heavily on animals for their economic survival. Suffice it to say, all sectors of the society must do their share in protecting the welfare of animals as they are important in supporting the main livelihoods of people. You achieve stability and promote productivity if you focus at improving animal welfare and health.
Responsible animal care and management have significant impact on climate change, land use, pollution, biodiversity, habitat conservation and water conservation. Thus, our green advocacy must always be anchored on the best practices that support animal welfare and protection.
Good animal care and management minimize the risk of cardiac arrest and other lifestyle diseases. These include diseases triggered by pathogenic microorganisms that are transferred from animals to human. You maintain food supplies and prevent hunger and malnutrition if you have healthy animals.
Learn about the key parameters of modern-day green advocacy that aim to establish a more humane society. Go beyond the issues like being a vegetarian, cardiac arrest and other health concerns and understand the major reasons why we have to promote animal welfare and be kinder to our planet.
How do you feel spiritually when you eat a meal that contains meat? You’ve probably never given it any thought, but that may because spiritually you feel nothing after eating a meal of meat except tired and sluggish. A diet of meat makes our bodies less functional, and we think of nourishing our bodies in terms of our organs and blood, but we don’t often think about how what we eat can impact the most important organ in our body, the brain.
When you eat a vegetarian diet, you begin to feel physically lighter and fit. When your body is fit, your mind is also lightened. Most cultures that focus more on spirituality and enlightenment are also vegetarian cultures. From the beginning of recorded history we can see that vegetables have been the natural food of human beings. Early Greek and Hebrew myths all spoke of people originally eating fruit. Ancient Egyptian priests never ate meat. Many great Greek philosophers such as Plato, Diogenes, and Socrates all advocated vegetarianism.
In India, Shakyamuni Buddha emphasized the importance of Ahimsa, the principle of not harming any living things. He warned His disciples not to eat meat, or else other living beings would become frightened of them. Buddha made the following observations: “Meat eating is just an acquired habit. In the beginning we were not born with a desire for it.” “Flesh eating people cut off their inner seed of Great Mercy.” “Flesh eating people kill each other and eat each other … this life I eat you, and next life you eat me … and it always continues in this way. How can they ever get out of the Three Realms (of illusion)?”
These are cultures that are considered more enlightened and focused more on spirituality than is Western culture. If we are to evolve into more spiritual beings, then we must begin to manage our physical lives in a way that will enhance our spirituality, and this means taking the path of vegetarianism as a path to enlightenment.
One of my fav’s from Dr. Seuss, captured & narrated at Burning Man. Wise words never spoken more true.
Spiritual growth in a world dominated by money, power and influence is a monumental undertaking. Our physical wants and needs attract the lion’s share of our attention due to conveniences such as electronic gizmos, television, and the Internet. Meaning and self worth are confused as a result. What is needed so that we may have a balance between spiritual and material things in our lives?
Look Within Yourself
Looking inward is more than thinking about the things that happened to you in the past. Closely inspect and then ponder your beliefs, feelings, motivations and thoughts. TO discover the positive and negative aspects of your self you must examine your relationships, decisions and experiences to gain insight into your goals. In addition, this will guide you in how to act and react in any given situation. Willingness and courage to confront yourself are all that is necessary to learn introspection. These are some hints when you decide to introspect: look for areas to improve in, forgive yourself and try to be objective.
Grow Your Capacity
The human spirit is viewed differently by science and religion. The religious view is that humans are spiritual beings with a temporary existence in Life, whereas scientific views are that the spirit is one aspect of a person. Self control and mastery is an aspect of both Eastern teaching such as Islam as well as Christian, Western teachings. The spirit’s needs are positioned higher than the body’s need, though they are not ignored. The road map to spiritual growth is defined by values, beliefs, morality, experiences, rules, and positive actions.
Self actualization is the psychological term for coming into your full potential. Maslow discovered many different human needs: security, esteem, aesthetic, self transcendence, physiological, belonging, cognitive and self actualization. Earlier James provided three categories of these: emotional, material and spiritual. Once your most basic physical and emotional needs are met, then your existential and spiritual needs will come into play. Overall growth is achieved by satisfying each need for the individual. Psychology views self development as an end unto itself, while religion views self development as a method for serving God, which is the biggest difference in the two.
Find the Deeper Meaning
Serving the Creator is the highest purpose for religions such as Judaism, Islam and Christianity. There are multiple psychological theories that suggest that we need meaning in our lives. No matter if we believe in destiny or free will, spiritual growth allows us to understand that life is more than existence. We are born without purpose or meaning and through our journey in life, our relationships and the situations we get though, we gain wisdom and knowledge. As meaning is discovered we confirm and reject some of our existing values and beliefs. We can find a purpose in our lives. This allows us to put our mental, emotional and physical potential to use, give us strength during difficult times and provides a light at the end of the tunnel to strive for. A life without purpose is like a ship set adrift in the ocean, without a sail or an oar.
Spot the Connections Between Everything
How we are connected to all living and non living things are the cornerstone of certain religions. Even without family relations, we can refer to others as our sisters and brothers. The relationship between humans and higher powers is discussed in monotheistic religions such as Islam and Christianity. Alternatively, evolutionary theory is a scientific link between all living things. This relationship is demonstrated by the ecological web, where all living and non living things interact. One of Maslow’s highest needs is self transcendence and connectedness is one part of that. Recognition of your place within the interconnected of all things will allow your humility and respect for all things to grow. It will help you to appreciate all the things that surround you. It behooves you to extend yourself outside your area of comfort and connect with others, and to become a guardian of the things that surround you.
Growth is not a one time event, therefore everyday is an opportunity for spiritual growth. Spiritual growth is accomplished whether we win, lose or draw, so long as we continue to learn.