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14 October 2011 1 Comment

Life Purpose, Part 8: Balanced Contribution

Life Purpose, Part 8: Balanced Contribution

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill

With respect to Life Purpose, it is natural to consider not only what we want to GET from life, but what we can bring to it. Giving allows us to receive in special ways that put us more deeply in touch with our values, qualities, and other people.

How and why we give is a window to motivation—and to Purpose. What do you enjoy contributing? What does it do for you to contribute?

Like so many essential life skills, learning what and when to give depends on sensing inside ourselves.

Once we are able to tune in to our inner voices and body sensations, we can sense inside whether or not we are called to contribute in any given moment. Learning to notice this call is crucial to spiritual and emotional health. The same skill tells us where we need our boundaries to be in any moment or situation.

Knowing how much to give and being comfortable with our decisions makes for ease and clarity in personal relationships. It allows us to feel good about our contributions instead of feeling like we can never give enough to be acceptable, or that we might be selfish and insular.

Most of us over-give, under-give, or both in different situations. Balanced giving builds self-esteem, boundaries, spiritual values, and the wonderful feeling of Purpose and meaning that accompany heartfelt contribution.

Giving for the wrong reasons interferes with the ability to be on track with Life Purpose.

Giving to appease, please, or protect ourselves from criticism is toxic to Purpose. Over-giving tends to oblige and bind others. It is usually about control, and is therefore detrimental to intimacy. Over-giving is draining. Bleeding out energy to “contribute” to people who are not receptive is invasive.

Giving too little can lead to feeling small, stingy, disconnected, meaningless, emotionally impoverished, hard, and/or defensive.

If you over-give:

  • Try altering the way that you give, even just a bit.
  • Try giving different things or in different ways than you usually do.
  • Change WHEN you give, even by a few minutes or seconds.
  • Give to different recipients, even once.
  • The feelings and insights that accompany these changes will enable you to explore your patterns gently.

If you under-give:

  • Catch yourself at moments during when you are withholding or resist giving.
  • Pay close attention to what you feel at these moments.
  • Listen closely to your internal dialog. What is the nature of your conflict? What motivates each side of the conflict? How do your feelings change with each side? Which side do you like better?
  • Try giving just a little bit more is comfortable, like stretching tight muscles. This can feel freeing and oddly relieving, and it gets more interesting as you practice.

Over- and under-givers:

  • Study your discomfort, consider what you get when you give.
  • What are you trying to preserve and why?
  • Has your life changed since you began these patterns?
  • How would giving differently impact your life?

Once you are in touch with and have done some regular work with your patterns you will be able to bypass all this by simply turning to your heart and going by what FEELS right in the moment.

What if who you need to be to live your Life Purpose requires being able to sense exactly who you really are, what motivates you, and what you can and cannot give?

What if success is measured not by external goals but by giving exactly the right amount in any situation, from nothing at all to your entire life?

How would this model of success change what you do or how you live?

How do you sense what is called for from you?

What happens when you shift your aim from trying to succeed to making a contribution?

8 October 2011 4 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 7: Living Your Values

Life Purpose, Part 7: Living Your Values

Are your goals, dreams, and motivations inspired by heartfelt values or motivated by buried emotional issues?

What if you are already lovable, worthwhile, and even precious, without having to prove anything to anyone? If you knew this to be true–and could feel it–how would this impact what you feel you need to do in the world?

The nature and fruits of our influence in the world depends on our values. Goals and dreams are constellations of our values. Values are like the stars we use to navigate the ocean of our lives. Without values we are rudderless, driven by compulsions and the winds of momentary desire.

Purpose embodies motivation. What motivates you?

Several years back, in an email conversation within a spiritual group, one guy was avidly pushing his philosophy that spiritual values require political action. Tension grew as several people politely tried to say that not everyone was politically motivated. The political guy kept pushing.

I sensed frustration and even anger behind people’s indirect responses. I finally jumped in and wrote: Politics is divisive. Spirituality promotes unity. If you are spiritually inspired to involve yourself in politics it is your duty to do so. If you are not, your time is better spent contributing in other ways.

The tension released and I received some ‘thank yous.’

Let me clarify here and say that voting, and other societal duties are in a different category from Life Purpose. You vote. You get license tabs on your vehicle. You do not confuse this with Life Purpose. Taking an active stand in the world for a cause requires passion, purpose, and involvement. You may find Purpose in such expression. Such Purpose may or may not feel spiritual to you, depending on your values and approach. This is a highly individual matter.

To know our own values as pure sources of guidance we must lift them up and clean them off. Practice washing away these sources of confusion:

  • Other people’s values including parents, siblings, spouse, friends
  • Conditioned social “values” based on competition, superficial circumstances and material gains that have no special meaning for you personally
  • Reactions and compulsions such as greed, lust, excessive concepts about security
  • The need to prove yourself worthy
  • Reactions AGAINST, such as proving you are NOT what a parent or teacher thought you were

Values change as we develop. Updating our concept of success and our sense of purpose as we grow supports living motivation.

What do you value now that you did not feel strongly about before?

Motivational speakers often say, “never give up and never quit.” It is one thing to give up and quite another to discover that a goal no longer suits us or feels appropriate. Killing yourself off to make something happen may occur at the cost of your happiness and health. Whether or not the goal is worth this use of your life depends whether the goal is truly your Life Purpose. Pay attention when the exertions necessary for success begin to turn you or your life into something you don’t wish to sustain.

This quote from my third spiritual teacher remains apropos:
“If it is your highest option to become a spiritual teacher and you become a garbage man, you have wasted your life.” He paused and added, “If it is your highest option to become a garbage man and you become a spiritual teacher you’ve wasted your life as well.”

Some people have destinies that require global involvement. Some people are envious of these people. Such envy is rarely tempered by understanding the burdens, sacrifices, and discipline such a life requires.

I believe that we are drawn from within and prompted by our environment when we have big work to do in the world. Pushing ourselves into positions of prominence for personal reasons rarely leads to happiness.

As we develop spiritually and open our hearts we are more likely to be inspired to contribute to humanity through service. Inspiration to serve can stem from a felt sense of being connected with others.

Following inspiration develops qualities of the heart and provides the personality with ample opportunities for growth. The motive force behind this impulse differs from a desire to be in the limelight and to find personal importance through leaving one’s mark upon life.

What if your ability to be in touch with yourself and to know yourself and your values is THE MOST important purpose in your life?

The discomfort of longing for meaning and Purpose has great value if it can get you to explore who you really are and what you really need.

What types of experience bring you meaning?

What experiences make you feel connected with yourself and with life itself?

1 October 2011 2 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 6: Saving the World

Life Purpose, Part 6: Saving the World

Saving the World sounds like a positive Life Purpose. Yet there is something grandiose about presuming to know what is best for the entire world–and in seeing one’s self as the agent for its execution.

Let’s look at the way well-intended ideas about Life Purpose may be Frankenstein in disguise.

Tanya told me during a session that she wanted to Save the World. (Name changed, with permission.) As a child she fantasized holding a seat as Supreme Court justice, as a sanction to impose order and control.

“What do you want to save the world FROM?” I asked Tanya.
She surprised me by saying, “From ME!!

With tremendous courage, honesty and faith in her own core goodness Tanya saw that Saving the World can be a way to feel superior while seeking to fulfill a young fantasy of living in a totally safe world—one she could control. The small, scared part of her was hiding behind an aggressive part that longed to “get ahead, to dominate and conquer.”

Saving the World does not occur by marching out to impose one’s ego-driven image of justice onto others, scrapping with others in competition for the same bloody honor. Tanya could save her own world by relaxing her compulsion to control, and learning true compassion for herself. Doing this alone contributes to world peace.

If you think in either/or, and you are a competitive perfectionist, you may feel you must either save the world or be worthless and useless. Familiarity with the way our wounds bias our points of view allow us to make intentional life choices instead of living out unconscious dramas on the stage of life. If you take on a large role, it is for more fulfilling reasons.

A drive to save the world may be about leaving your mark, like carving initials in a tree or gouging them in stone. The urge to cry I exist, globally, can spring from fear of death. It is like the urge to combat mortality by having children. Wanting to prove how special you are to the world can be like trying to fill a black hole.

These urges are not wrong. Desire does drive us, and creates the dramas of life, the lovely ones included. Living with Purpose is about experiencing a sense of meaning and making intentional choices.

In the world of energy, motivation is everything. Motivation establishes the resonance of our acts and their ultimate effect. If we are thinking big and plan to impact others, the nature of our influence determines whether or not we actually serve the world. If the drive to save the world comes from inspiration your actions may be a boon to mankind. If that drive emerges from unacknowledged inner wounds it creates havoc.

Take, for example, a nurse or doctor in a psych ward, whose need for control, approval, or glory casts them into competition with their team or those under their care. Their service is compromised. On the other end of the spectrum someone with ‘a meaningless job’ can be a light in the world by performing service with loving kindness.

A wise friend (Evelyn Roberts) said: “Today’s freedom fighters are tomorrow’s tyrants.”

Ego drive intense enough to presume one’s personal will onto the world may be epic–but is it service or merely drama? Does it play out Life Purpose or merely create karma?

A strident man strode into a spiritual center, talking about saving the world before it was too late. The perceptive fellow who received him asked: “What part of the world are you interested in saving? If it is yourself that you are trying to save, we can help you.”

We are possessed of a whole range of different motivations and inclinations. Finding and following our most beautiful and uplifting motivations is a true route to meaning and purpose in life. Bringing forth the parts of us that want to create something that really matters is an art. There is purpose and beauty in energizing those aims and goals with life breath.

Do you want to Save the World, or are you struggling to save yourself through external acts?

Does the world want to be saved?

How will the world respond if you attempt to save it?

Who do you feel a need to be seen or recognized by?

What do you need people to do or say in recognition of your deeds?

Are you absolutely certain that you will feel better, happier or more worthwhile if you accomplish large goals?

30 September 2011 4 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 5: Almost Everybody’s First Purpose

Life Purpose, Part 5: Almost Everybody’s First Purpose

Life Purpose is the course of action that best actualizes not your brightest, best, and most recognized potential, but the elements of your heart and nature that invite authenticity, joy, balance, and expression of core values.

Life Purpose–also known as Soul Purpose–is the way you align yourself with the Greater Whole to give your life meaning and value.

A sense of purpose is a steady goal we use to inspire ourselves into ongoing action in a specific and meaningful direction.

Steady goals and dreams draw us into experiences we might otherwise avoid. They motivate us to grow and to face challenges that bring into focus facets of ourselves that would otherwise remain latent.

Steady goals and dreams sometimes lead away from what is familiar. At the same time, they provide the means to achieve consistency of motive and intention over time, a center around which to organize experience and come to know ourselves.

We previously explored what happens when we make Life Purpose into an unattainable dream.
Here are a few more types of traps (I changed the names):

Thomas could not connect with desires or motivation. He desperately wanted Purpose but would not take risks. He had learned early on to shut down self-expression to protect himself.

Patricia came from a wealthy family. She felt entitled to work just for fun. She wanted a job like that of a top-notch medium with a television program—without intuitive skills, training, or personal application.

Katherine had a passionate and loving heart. Out of fear she lusted for control and superiority in the guise of world service. Rigorous self-exploration inspired her to note, “My idea of service would have been toxic to myself and others!”

Some get involved in the structure of institutions to make themselves feel valid, powerful and important. Agencies with heaps of rules attract petty tyrants. You know: People who thrive on imposing obstacles and take delight in obstructing progress and projects with obscure rules and regulations that confound common sense.

Inner Work can free motivation from the grip of our issues. Some need to address issues first, to be able to step successfully into external goals. Others find Inner Work gentler and more effective than hard knocks on the world stage.

If you have not done so please read the post Series on Inner Work.  It forms background necessary to fully understand most of my other posts.

For almost everyone, this is a good place to start:

  • Take back your authority to think for yourself about what is important for you to accomplish in your life and for what it means to you.
  • Change any vague, impossible to enact, non-supportive, notions about Life Purpose to beliefs you can actually work with in your day-to-day life.
  • Sacrifice fantasies that you are REALLY so special and different that your Life Purpose is absolutely staggering—but you just quite face it. This is a recipe for failure. Creating pressure and standards that we cannot live up to is counterproductive. If your purpose IS huge you will do it real time, without fantasy.
  • Develop a relationship with what is meaningful and important to YOU.
  • If you make even a small effort to answer the questions I bring up in this Series you will have made a great start.

In my decades of experience as a healer and guide I have come to believe that Almost Everyone’s First Purpose is to get in touch with who we really are, and to release emotional wounds from the past. Some few people have big destinies to be played out on the stage of life, and do so regardless of their inner hurdles. As for the rest of us:

Beyond question, inner wounds interfere with our ability to perceive, interpret, trust and carry out our Life Purposes. Dealing with this interference is the first work in front of us. Chewing what is on our plate carries inherent meaning and purpose. Doing our Inner Work is the one thing that will most improve our lives—including our ability to succeed in the world. Consider facing yourself one of your main purposes in life.

What if the things you do to TRY and make a difference take you away from your actual Life Purpose?

What habits, beliefs, needs or relationships, or addictions do you allow to have authority over you?

What do you avoid dealing with that prevents you from living your life with greater meaning and value?

23 September 2011 3 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 4: The Comfort Trap

Life Purpose, Part 4: The Comfort Trap

When the idea of Life Purpose arises, the first thing that pops up for quite a few people is terror that Life Purpose will take them away from all they know and love. Since I began this series I have heard several versions of the following:

“What if once I get healed or discover my Life Purpose I find that I can no longer tolerate my _________.”
(Fill in the blank. Spouse? Job? Residence? How I allow myself to be treated? All of the above?)

This is a fascinating question. What we’ve got here looks like this:

I am unhappy with my circumstances. I think maybe I should be doing something else because I cannot fully value what I’m doing. But I don’t want to do anything that would take me away and I’m afraid to make any changes.

Sometimes we don’t change unless the terror and discomfort of remaining the same are worse than the terror of change. Either/or thinking and imagination about the future are usually at the root of this fear. “I must either endure this forever or leave (totally, suddenly, and without preparation, into the unknown).”

Unhappiness comes largely from resisting where we actually are. We get happier with our circumstances by investing in them fully and using them to grow.

Instinctively know we need to be willing to surrender attachment to forms and circumstances to be spiritually free. This does not mean that it is spiritual to leave the entangled life web we have weaved. Sinking in is a more effective way to become free. This is done by becoming Present and authentic, and seeing where things go.

What about surrendering to your current circumstances with the sincere Purpose of resolving your issues there? You will either transform your relationship to your life so you’re happier, or gradually work through it to the point of freeing yourself from it without trauma.

Time is ticking ticking ticking. If you use up your life avoiding being Present where you are you are literally giving up your life. Is this situation you say you do not like worth your life?

You will need to face your current discomfort, moment by moment, and make some real responses to it if you want a happier life. Terrifying yourself with being trapped in your circumstances or floundering without them is not the real issue. The real issue is that your fear of discomfort keeping you stuck. You will be MORE comfortable if you address your discomfort. But you need to FEEL it to address it.

Staying the same is not actually comfort—it is familiarity. Discern the difference between familiarity and comfort. This will help free you from fear of change.

Fortunately, when we tune in to our core authenticity and become loyal to ourselves, our relationship with ourselves forms a steadfast and absolutely familiar basis of operation that remains with us no matter how circumstances change. This core self forms and informs our relationships, through our loyalty to ourselves within these relationships. Thus we become more and more comfortable in our relationships as we become true to Self.

The act of trying to be somebody other than we are makes us unhappy. Here is the most common regret of all at the end of life:

“I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.”

Being loyal to yourself is prerequisite to Life Purpose. If you’re not there yet, becoming loyal to yourself can BE your Life Purpose. We have more than one.

We grow and morph as we accumulate life experience. Being integrated and healthy involves making the adjustments necessary to infuse our current values into daily life. Change can come about gradually and gracefully. Huge changes, if essential, can occur with preparation, foresight, and collaboration with those we love.

What do you tell yourself about Life Purpose?

Could it be that my circumstances actually support me in that Purpose?

Could it be that taking on what I am resisting and having difficulty with is a part of my Purpose?

16 September 2011 4 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 3: The Intersection of Feeling & Belief

Life Purpose, Part 3: The Intersection of Feeling & Belief

Life Purpose lives at the crossroads of Feeling and Belief. It is shaped by the collision between:

  • What we feel about ourselves
  • What we feel about participation in life
  • Who we believe ourselves to be
  • What we believe about participating with others

What we believe informs our behavior in specific ways. We may believe, for example, that Life Purpose must be recognized by others to be valid. This type of belief is largely subconscious. As a belief alone it remains inactive and theoretical–unless we activate it by aiming to put it into direct practice. As our energy becomes engaged, feelings arise.

What we feel informs our behavior in totally different ways than do our beliefs. We may feel that we are incapable and inadequate. Emotional patterns that sabotage success are quite common.

The intersection between beliefs and emotional patterns operates according to our unique personality structures. Following our example, when we combine a belief that we must be recognized in the outer world with feeling incapable of measuring up, we come up with an interpretation like: “I must contribute to society to be a worthwhile human being but I can’t.”

Life Purpose is shaped by translating belief WITH FEELING into day-to-day action, and shaping our time to express what we value.

Whether or not we can access our sense of Life Purpose is determined by the degree to which we can align positive feeling and belief, so that insight and action are not derailed by conflict.

Feelings, if used for awareness, provide us with the opportunity to revisit and revise our beliefs. Take note of the feelings and beliefs that arise as you read this series.

Interpretation, like the quote above, can become activated and rub us raw after listening to talks or exposure to teachings about Life Purpose. A belief that inspires some personality types and serves development casts other types into despair, or excessive striving. A passionate, ambitious personality will suffer more keenly with Life Purpose issues than someone who feels fulfilled through the bonds and exchanges involved in family life or artistry. Passionate energy needs positive direction.

When beliefs and emotions are not congruent (harmonious), they cannot empower the actions we take in the world in healthy ways.

From an energy perspective, beliefs and emotions that intersect smoothly weave patterns that support, magnetize and attract people and circumstances that allow you to express your sense of purpose. Beliefs and emotions that clash form nodes or clumps of energy in one’s personal fields. These inconsistencies are associated with inefficient or blocked function.

The more passionately we aim to do something that expresses our life meaningfully the more steam we build toward action. When emotional patterns derail the urge toward action, distress or despair can result.

In my role as healer and guide I naturally discover imbalances and specific issues that underlie such distress. Misconceptions or unfortunate interpretations about Life Purpose can be at the source of this distress. In the next several posts we will investigate common issues and misconceptions related to Life Purpose. I will offer insights that can alleviate distress and frustration to help get your energy on track with your sense of meaning and purpose.

Why do you want to make a difference in the world?

What do you seek to gain or take from your experience?

What are you willing to give to life?

9 September 2011 3 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 2: The Backlash of Inspiring Stories

Life Purpose, Part 2: The Backlash of Inspiring Stories

Dynamic changes in our world remind us we will not here forever. Remembering our impermanence stimulates gratitude for what we have, and can inspire us to live our lives to the fullest. Life purpose is about living our lives to the fullest.

Feeling purposeless and not knowing what to do to make life worthwhile is a distressing plight. Monumentally important questions cry for deeper engagement with life. Pat answers and distraction do not suffice. Having answers that are not your own frustrates your sense of purpose—even if you cannot get your arms around it.

I am writing this detailed post series to address the issues that arise when we consider Life Purpose. I hope to free Life Purpose from misconceptions that derail and confuse. For now, let’s look at a trap some of us set up for ourselves:

Most of the clients who talk to me about Life Purpose use the concept of having a purpose in life to beat up on themselves in some way. What is going on with this?

Cultural focus on Life Purpose causes a backlash as we interpret the messages we receive. Most of our input about Life Purpose is laden with extreme stories of people whose purposes involve wild and amazing success after devastating losses, who change the world with money or place themselves in service like Mother Teresa. I remember being terrified, when I became more seriously spiritual, decades ago, that the ultimate fate of my life would be extreme sacrifice for the benefit of mankind. We are fed stories to inspire us. Inspirational stories can have a vicious backlash.

Have we really begun to believe that every Life Purpose is about becoming rich and famous and changing the world? This would mean that everyone who is not up for this has no Purpose?

It is not a calling for every life to have an obvious and public destiny. Living to the fullest—in any case—begins with becoming truly Present with ourselves, exactly as we are, in our current circumstances.

If you are one of the people who stops yourself from dealing with Purpose by thinking it’s way out of your reach, I have some questions for you. They are not rhetorical. Take time to contemplate them or journal.

Can my Life Purpose be something that is so far beyond what I am capable of actually doing that it is a pie in the sky or dooms me to failure without even trying?

Do I really believe pursuing my Life Purpose will make me less happy and satisfied?

Is the universe really designed so that our Purposes are virtually impossible, or so difficult to take on that they are only for highly exceptional people?

Could it be that my Life Purpose is something that I myself can take on, starting where I actually am?

Could it be that my Life Purpose–being correct for the actual me–is something I can begin right here in my current circumstances?

2 September 2011 6 Comments

Life Purpose, Part 1: Re-Defining Success

Life Purpose, Part 1: Re-Defining Success

“Your work in this life is to find your work, and to give yourself to it with your whole heart.” Buddha

Whether you got your notions about Life Purpose from parents, spiritual or religious leaders, from an assortment of media input, or somewhere else, your concepts will be biased by their energy and their values.

Considerations about Life Purpose are usually entangled with concepts about success. Part of this is because advertisers target those who long for purpose and success by firing up their issues, to fuel their urge to buy programs. The lure of simultaneously succeeding and setting aside the nagging feeling that we must make something of ourselves is powerful.

What about you? Does what you hear about Life Purpose inspire you, cause resistance, or leave you flat? Wherever you got your notions, no problem. But let’s add some deeper, balancing thinking to take out the hooks and get into action.

Focusing on Life Purpose can help us remember to use our time and energy in ways that we value. Remembering that we will die helps us get real and stay present with what is truly meaningful and important. Life is more interesting with a sense of purpose.

I saw a video considered a big deal in the online advertising community. A rich, mucky-muck was saying, “Forget about life balance when starting to be an entrepreneur.” He advises putting aside all values except health and family in order to make money. I have to ask: What values are shoved aside and what is the long-term effect? What else is lost along with life balance? Heart? Soul? Introspection? Perspective? Integrity? I remain unconvinced that the attainment of money will make up for a long period of life without acknowledging internal values.

I have a friend who teaches classes on end of life issues and dying. Here is #2 from his list of deathbed regrets: I wish I didn’t work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

Re-defining success in personal terms is powerful and helps us access our feeling of Life Purpose. Getting in touch with Life Purpose requires being deeply in touch with yourself.

This is the age of collaboration. Competition can drive us to beat ourselves up for not living out a notion of success that would never make us happy. Competition may be healthy or unhealthy. Motivation makes the difference. Healthy competition relies on good self-esteem. It stimulates skillful action and allows for team effort. You are able to celebrate the wins for the group, whether or not your own performance is stellar.

Unhealthy competition is toxic to collaboration. It is driven by ego issues and may even be a touch maniacal. Unhealthy competition is motivated by the desire to be worth something. This assumes that you are not worth anything to start with, and that proving something on the outside can change this. It doesn’t. It can’t. There is always something or someone bigger and better.

It is perfectly okay to define yourself as a success just as you are. Try it. Then you can go ahead with your sense of purpose without worrying about external standards.

Goals driven by aims that are not truly and deeply meaningful to YOU leave a disturbing sense of meaninglessness in their wake. This empty meaninglessness may exist inside before the goals emerged. The goals were a temporary distraction. When a major goal is achieved a sense of being empty or worthless may float back up toward the surface of awareness. Getting in touch with Life Purpose helps us to face and set to rest this type of feeling.

This series contains a lot of important questions. If you have an issue with Life Purpose, make a journal and answer them as we move through the series.

Where did you get your notions about Life Purpose?
How well are they serving you?