In this thought-provoking exploration, we delve into the concept of purpose and its significance in our lives. While many of us believe that the pursuit of happiness is the ultimate goal, a profound revelation suggests that true fulfillment lies in having a purpose. The following is a personal journey of recovery, self-discovery, and the transformative power of finding purpose
The Awakening to Purpose - Discovering True Happiness
In the first few years of getting to know my husband, he explained something to me that I had never really grasped before. He said that life wasn’t really about finding happiness, life is about having purpose.
When I first heard this, I was dumbfounded. It made so much sense but yet I’d never considered this to be true.
Most of us think that the meaning of life is to find happiness. But most of us don’t really know what makes us happy, and most of us discover that when we find the thing we have thought would make us happy, sooner or later it doesn’t make us “happy” anymore.
In the years before I first met my husband, it was in the first few years of recovery and I had been through a debilitating depression where I felt as if I was sinking through a hole in the floor, deep into the depth of darkness. I was directionless and broken.
Lost and without focus; the gruesome years of searching
The lack of knowing what my purpose was or could be, contributed. I had spent 12 years being a party girl, living in the night, using and being a part of the nightclub underground. Even though it wasn’t healthy, it gave me a reason to be.
A year into sobriety, my father, one of the wisest men I’ve ever known, had persuaded me that going to graduate school was a way for me to get my life back together. He was right, but it took years for me to see it.
The years I went to business school were the hardest time of my life. I was living alone in LA. a humongous city, without a real focus, and without any deeper relationships. I had gone from having a very cool identity as a nightclub doorman to studying for accounting exams in business school.
I was so frazzled and broken that even if someone had explained to me then that that time was about finding focus and resetting, I still wouldn’t have understood enough to be able to see any purpose in it at all.
I realize now years later, that the purpose of those years was for me to recover. And Los Angeles gave me a place to feel like that was a possibility.
Recovery wasn’t something strange there, and healthy activities like yoga and hiking were what people did with their time. Even though I was so depressed, there was a purpose. I just couldn’t see it then.
Like with everything else I’ve discovered in my life, it took me years to really understand what purpose really means and how it applies to life. But understanding that I was lacking purpose, explained so much, and it especially explained why I felt the way I felt.
A simple thing, like my dog waiting for the mailman and barking like he’s been possessed, I can see what his simple purpose is. He is protecting the house, it’s a big job, and if he didn’t have that job, he would become lethargic and depressed as well.
What is your raison d'etre?
All humans need to find a sense of purpose in life, and of course, it ebbs and flows, and with years our purpose changes.
Growing up, coming to the barn and caring for the horses there gave me purpose. It gave me a reason, a “raison d’etre.” It was the place I felt love, connected, and nurtured. It was a drive to do something, and that drive came from my heart and not from my mind.
Once I hit puberty and my interest shifted to boys and parties, my purpose shifted. However, I discovered that this new purpose left me feeling empty and confused. That life didn’t fill my heart and soul just as much as the horses had done.
Your purpose has to matter somehow, it must drive you with a heart filled with love and devotion. I was devoted to horses, but parties and drugs didn’t make me feel loved or nurtured.
In the culture I grew up in, I didn’t often see anyone around me that seemed to have much of a purpose. Everyone just seemed to do things because they had to. I often asked myself; “What is the meaning of all this? What is the meaning of life?” It took decades for me to find answers.
The connection of love, devotion and purpose
Becoming a mother, I discovered a great purpose. The unconditional love that most of us feel is instinctual, these little beings are a part of us, and our devotion is completely natural. There is no need to think, or effort, the purpose comes from our heart and soul.
For me, caring for my children was in some way similar to how I felt at the barn. It was clean, it was an instinct. It was true purpose.
Knowing what makes some able to thrive and have a purpose is a mystery. For me, it took years. Once I became free of major distractions and worked out most of my psychological blocks, my heart became freer to know myself better and to know what I cared deeply about and that gave me the energy and focus to see things more clearly.
It took time to discover my purpose. I had to sift through so much emotional instability and difficulties before a purpose could surface and remain visible to my consciousness. I had to understand my ego and its shortcomings before I could have a purpose that could be unattached to its outcome. I had to deeply know my own soul before I could maintain a purpose that only lives in the present moment.
Everyone needs a “why?” Ask yourself what is your WHY?
Everyone needs a “why?” Ask yourself what is your WHY?
Without it, life can feel empty and meaningless. Our purpose has meaning when we carry out our actions from our heart. Something has to really deeply matter to us. But our minds cannot force us into caring.
What energizes you? What fills you with joy?
The critical and most important part of understanding purpose is considering the meaning that is attached to this purpose. A purpose cannot become a purpose unless it really matters to us. Some things we get out of bed in the morning because we have to do it, some things we get out of bed in the morning because we want to.
Sustaining happiness must be driven by deep inner purpose which in turn is driven by deep devotion and love. A true purpose is that way, we perform actions without consciously planning to, while being completely present. We do what we do, in a state of single-pointed focus, as if in meditation. For me, it is at the barn where I lose track of time, and where I’m never hungry.
Our purpose changes throughout life, which is important to remember. But, having a purpose earlier in life will create an imprint to also find it later in life. If we develop a purpose ‘muscle’ early in life then it will be easier to find later on.
When I was young, being at the barn with horses gave me purpose, and now 40 years later it’s my family, our animals, and my practice. Gandhi’s purpose changed throughout his life, culminating of course is something only a few of us will rise to. A total Self-forgetting in service of his purpose. For him, as for many of us, various events throughout our life guide our choices and our purpose.
Purpose must come from the heart
It’s not as simple as you think, you can’t just magically produce a purpose for yourself just like that. There is no recipe to follow. You cannot force yourself to have a purpose, just as you cannot force yourself to feel happy when you are sad. Purpose comes from the heart, thus it comes from a place that is beyond your thinking and intellectual mind. It comes from a place beyond words.
When I was depressed, I felt like I was in a place where it was impossible to feel love. In this place, I could not see any purpose and each day felt like torture. I dreaded waking up in the morning and felt as if there was nothing to look forward to. Depression clouds all motivation and sucks our life energy out of us.
Love as a source of purpose
I discovered that it was love that changed my perspective on what purpose was. Looking back it became clear that it was love for the horses that gave me purpose, love for my children that gave me an even stronger purpose. Love for Hanuman, and for the grace of the universe that gave me purpose to write. All the things I do are driven by that love, and through that love I have purpose.
Some days I wonder if many of us have lost this sense of love, or if this idea of unconditional love even exists? How many let their hearts guide them in what they do? If we don’t let ourselves be guided by something beyond our individual ego, whatever we do, or whatever we spend our time on, we will begin to feel empty and we will lose ourselves. We wonder what this thing is called life? What are we doing? Why bother?
To have the devotion to do something day after day, and keep at it is a gift. Happiness is not the meaning of life, purpose is.
Once I became clear enough to have purpose, I discovered how much better I felt when I had it. A day without focus, or without clear direction, are days when I feel frazzled, tired and empty. A day when I am alert, present, and productive are days where being tired at the end of the day is the good kind of tired.
I found that my purpose, my dharma, is not something I planned for in educational institutions or in career counseling offices. Instead, it is a spiritual purpose, where everything seems to fall into place, and I seem to find purpose in most things small and large, anywhere and in everything, and even in the smallest places.
Thank you for joining me on this journey of understanding the importance of purpose in life. I hope this has resonated with you in some way. I challenge you to take a moment and reflect on what gives you purpose, what motivates you, and what truly makes your heart sing.
If you enjoyed this article, please share it with others who might find it helpful. If you have any thoughts or questions, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. And remember, let’s all strive to lead lives full of purpose and meaning.
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