Imagine doing what you love every day, guided only by your creative interests and personal passions. Take the Leap ( Conari Press, 2013) envisions such a reality, where 15 minutes a day are all it takes to bring your soul to a more fulfilled state. Heather McCloskey Beck, columnist and creator of "Peace Flash", shows readers how to discover a truer purpose of life than what they've known before, and to take the leap towards a new direction. This excerpt from "The Purpose of Life" states that first, you need to find what you were born to do.
For all millennia that humans have inhabited this Earth, there is one compelling question that mankind returns to, again and again, in our search for deeper meaning and greater understanding. At first glance, this question may appear to be strikingly simple, but do not underestimate the power of simplicity. The spectrum of responses are oft times complicated, and most certainly, mystifying. To lightheartedly pose this question bears no great significance, but when we utter these words as our prayer to know truth, this is an act of the highest nature. And when we hear our inmost answer whispered within our own heart, we may find ourselves wandering in that middle ground: in a place where the old ways no longer work for us, yet we cannot see our pathway into the future.
So, what is this question that carries such import? What is it that we truly want to know? From within times of great brilliance or moments of dire distress, many of us have cried out, in joy and in pain, “Why am I here? What is the purpose of my life?”
There is a longing for understanding, a yearning to experience personal meaning and significance within our human lives. Many of us sense that we were born for something greater, but we have no idea what that might be. We wonder what life actually is, as we question its ultimate and essential purpose. Yes, we have an understanding of the biology and genetics involved with the creation of a new human being, but what is it that makes us the thinking, emoting, creative person that we are? What is it in us, that makes us, us?
As a young girl, I wanted to know why I couldn’t simply slip into being another person, so that I could understand what they saw, felt, and thought. The idea of being able to experience the world from someone else’s internal perspective intrigued me. I remember sitting in our family kitchen one Saturday morning with one of my best friends, playfully talking about what it was that made her be her and what made me be me. I proposed to Cindy that we try to merge, one consciousness into the other, just for fun. As we sat facing each other, trying hard not to laugh, we concentrated with all our might, attempting to send messages back and forth between us. We did this for a while, each taking our turn, but how disappointing it was that nothing seemed to happen at all. Quite clearly, at the end of our little session, Cindy was still Cindy, and I was still me. Soon after, in walked my dad and some of his tennis buddies and I earnestly turned my questions to them. What might you imagine was their response to my youthful inquiry? To this day, their bewildered facial expressions are more memorable than anything they may have said at the time. Who thinks of such things on a sunny Saturday morning, when fresh coffee is brewing and the tennis was great?
Historically, we have looked to religion and philosophy in our quest for understanding, but far too often, we have been left feeling frustrated and dissatisfied, told that life is, quite simply, a mystery! We ask if we are our bodies or our thinking minds, and we wonder at this mystery which challenges concrete description and defies rational, linear thinking. We hear words like “soul” and “inner self” tossed about interchangeably, and we question if there is something greater to this life than our daily routines that keep us so frantically busy. We are immersed in the rhythm of the have-tos and need-tos, which only seem to deepen our collective struggles, leaving us wondering if there really is such a thing as inner peace.
Yes, our pursuit of truth is challenging, requiring us to be willing to think and respond in new and fresh ways, to be ready to break away from the pack mentality of thought. And so when we question what the purpose of life might actually be, we are treading into wild territory where we must be alert and bold and prepare ourselves to take the journey of a lifetime. And it is when we begin this journey and Leap into our quest for understanding that we might discover that our Tale of Possibility and Calling is not just a story after all, and that we, ourselves, are the master designers of our own beautiful plan: a plan we have likely forgot- ten altogether!
Just what it is that brings us to the point in our lives that we begin to reflect on these things? Some of us may have been slapped by divorce or death or some other life-altering event, while others of us have been running at a dizzying pace for far too long, without any sense of satisfaction or fulfillment to be enjoyed. So, it is highly understandable that we might come to wonder if this is all there is to life. On the other hand, maybe it doesn’t have to be anything specific that happens to us at all. It is possible, instead, that we have just always had a persistent feeling within us that there was something that we were born to do, if only we knew what that was.
Over the years, I have been friends with a woman who is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met. Sarah had always been remarkably generous, volunteering her time and energy to help others make their projects come to fruition. Year after year, she chaired community committees, helped out in her kids’ class- rooms, and worked full-time, managing a small medical office. And year after year, Sarah would say to me, “When the kids are grown, I am going to figure out what I really want to do with my life.” It wasn’t that she didn’t love being a mother, she just always felt that there was something else calling out to her, but she had no idea what it could be. When the time eventually arrived for her youngest child to leave for college, Sarah began to experience an unsettling emptiness building up inside her. No longer was she running at lightning speed, taking care of everyone else’s needs. Instead, she found herself in the midst of an unfamiliar calm, wondering what she was going to do to fill in this gap.
While on the surface, this has the appearance of being a case of Empty Nest Syndrome, it really goes beyond that. Of course when our children leave home, there is both a physical and emotional gap left behind, but what we might not realize is that from within that open space, we have the opportunity to take pause and re-evaluate how we would like to move forward into this next phase of our lives. The problem is, though, that so many of us have no idea how to do that. When we are so busy running, tending to everyone else’s needs, we are likely not giving much attention to our own, so we miss important clues that can guide us into a new direction that we really should go. Amazing things happen when we become quiet and allow our inner voice to begin to speak, when we make ourselves sit calmly amidst our own discomforts, born of changes seemingly beyond our control. Sarah simply had never had the opportunity to be entirely alone, to become acquainted with her own innate interests. What Sarah needed to understand was that what may have felt like a stressful and untimely parting instead was a wonderful opportunity for both Sarah and her daughter to grow.
Within this universal query as to the purpose of life, there resides an innate awareness of our need to feel a sense of purpose, meaning, and value in how we feel and what we do. We wonder if there is more to life than continuing to tread the pathways of our daily routines that we have now worn smooth. And not surprisingly at all, many of us have found that when we lose sight of this thought, our lives have a tendency to run amuck, leaving us feeling lost, without any clear idea of what to do next.
So, let us again return to our tale and see how it might be able to help us to answer our question, “What is the purpose of my life?” According to our story, it was we, ourselves, who determined what it was we would like to do, once we were born into these little human bodies. Along with our Guide, we, as our non- physical selves, chose our talents and abilities that we would bring with us as we Leaped into our new physical lives. These were the qualities and characteristics that defined our unique Genius, serving as an internal directive that was our Calling.
When we arrived, we were determined to excel at being human and directed to express ourselves in our most creative and inspired ways. If we were called to create a painting or a musical composition, we would do it with all the joy and love that intrinsically defined us. If it was cooking that we adored, then we would stir our essential nature of love, directly into our recipes. And so it would be if we were throwing a baseball from sixty feet across home plate, then we were pitching with the focus and intention of our naturally blissful state.
When we are doing something that is truly meaningful, we feel deeply connected to our inner and outer worlds. We are excited and joyful, and our lives feel valuable. When we do something that we love, we begin to understand the deeper purpose behind what we are doing and this connects us to the purpose of life for all. When we are experiencing this sense of wholeness, then we have the capacity to share it with others, which contributes to our collective purpose for being here, as a greater humanity.
If the overarching purpose of our lives is to create Essence into Form, just what exactly does this mean? If our desire is to “comprehend that which has no physical form, yet whose intrinsic energy is the underpinning of all that we know as substance within our physical world,” as I expressed earlier on, then where do we begin in our pursuit for understanding?
Essence may be described as the...mysterious, inward nature that exists, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory. Essence is something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity, that same non-material force at the center of all life on this Earth.
Again, Essence is that non-material force at the center of all life on this Earth. This sounds straightforward enough, but truth be told, our ability to understand “a non-material force” remains challenging and elusive. Instinctively, we feel the vibrancy of our Essence within us in a primal sort of way, but how do we describe something that we have never seen, touched, tasted, or smelled? Perhaps if we likened Essence to our planet’s sun, then we humans could be compared to the sparks of light emitted from the sun’s energy. So, if every flame, every spark that originated from our sun were a tiny reflection of the sun’s collective whole, we too would be individuated components, representative of our own collective Essence.
Another way we might consider this is by thinking of our- selves as expressions of light. Within the theory of Wave Particle Duality within Quantum Physics, light has the capacity to manifest itself as both an individuated Particle and also as a Wave of energy. So, let us equate our human existence to that of light, where every single human being is part of the collective wave of humanity, while simultaneously being individuals living within that collective light.
So, if this life is the physical expression of that which we are in Essence, then we are a living consciousness, born into physical form. When we choose what it is we want to do, we are defining our unique expression by answering that Calling within us. As we engage our talents to create a life that we enjoy, we are differentiating ourselves from the Wave of Essence, as we Particulate in our own unique and beautiful way.
So, if the purpose of life, overall, is to create that which we are in Spirit into a physical, human expression, how does that idea actually help us discover what the specific purpose of our own lives might be? Do we awaken each day and say to ourselves, “I’m going to create Essence into Form today!”? No, of course not. But, we might decide that we are going to practice piano, or go for a five-mile run, if we are a musician or an athlete. As we set short-term goals for ourselves, we are doing the work that allows us to enjoy the long-range benefits of employing our talents. When an actor steps out onto stage, we can be certain that he or she has spent countless hours rehearsing their role in preparation for the performance they are about to give.
As we make use of our talents and abilities, we are actively enjoying our efforts of putting our creativity into motion. When we compose that song, we are expressing our unique Genius as our response to that internal Calling. It is our Calling that acts like a beacon of light for us, as if saying, “Come right this way. This is what you were born to do!” It is our Calling that serves to guide us in the direction we are meant to go, as we establish more specific goals to help us along our way.
But the goals that we set for ourselves are not the purpose of our lives; they are simply a part of our process. It is a big clue for us that when we establish specific goals and accomplish them as planned, we will likely experience a feeling of emptiness: a letdown, leaving us wondering what’s next. This is a common occurrence that companions goal-setting, suggesting to us that the goal-setting is not what is ultimately important to us. Rather, it is living our specific Calling that is the true purpose for each of us, individually. And as each one of us lives our truest purpose, we are creating that which we are in our non-physical Spirit into a beautiful and very human form.
Reprinted with permission from Take the Leap: Do What You Love 15 Minutes a Day and Create the Life of Your Dreams by Heather McCloskey Beck and published by Conari Press, 2013.