Are You “One of Those Purposeful People”?
I was speaking with my friend the other day and was struck by the fact that he seemed to view me as someone who is uniquely capable of knowing/living my purpose. I remembered a time when I looked at certain people like that as well: “Wow they really know who they are and how to bring their awesomeness to the world. I wish I was one of those people.”
And if you were to ask me then why I didn’t believe that I could be such a person, I would probably repeat a belief about myself that my culture, conditioning, habits and thinking patterns had somehow solidified. As a result, I would probably refer to external forces as my source for believing my value and role is in this life (expectations of jobs, relationships, social circles, etc). Believing that we don’t have the capability to know what it is that would actually be a fulfilling use of our energy and time is just that – a belief.
We’re Designed To Know Ourselves
But guess what? We are designed to know ourselves. Self-understanding is an in-built capacity and if we don’t feel connected to it, then it just needs to be exercised and woken up out of atrophy like any other muscle. That’s how it happened for me: I practiced examining what makes me feel inspired, enriched, and truly alive and then I started saying “yes” to those things and “no” to pointless diversions from those things.
Intently doing this allows us to at least start swerving in and out of the causeway that Eastern traditions might call our Dharma. I’m not going to try and fully define Dharma here, but let’s say it has something to do with living like we’re “supposed” to. You may of course respond with, “Um, ‘supposed to’ according to whom?” (see, that’s why I’m disclaiming things with “this is a big and deeply personal concept that I won’t attempt to have full authority over). Well, I guess the answer is “according to yourself”, right? “Yourself” being the deeper sense of wisdom and knowing that’s already in all of us – and although this can be viewed as a deeply mystical concept, living it is simply a matter of simple intentional practice.
You Might Be Fascinated By This Alternative Definition of Dharma
According to one of my teachers, another definition of Dharma is “contact”. I’ve recently learned that this teacher that stated this takes a lot of liberties with textual interpretation, but “contact” actually really works for me.
If you’re living more deeply in your Dharma, you feel more connected to yourself and your world. You’re better able to make contact with life.
But I also feel that the word “contact” also evokes the fact that Dharma is a practice of continually attempting to make contact with that wise, knowing part of yourself (especially as your chattering mind tries to convince you away from that signal). Which makes so much sense for my journey, because knowing myself wasn’t some revelation that just spontaneously descended upon me. Though that does happen, it is more likely to happen when we get into the habit of inviting it. Because living our purpose is not a matter of hoping we’re the kind of person that the universe rains golden snowflakes of inspiration upon. It’s a practice. Knowing what to do with your life, and what kind of person you want to be in it, often requires intently sitting down and either reflecting on what actually matters to you, or even making it a fully hard-lined, practical (maybe written) exercise.
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You’ve Always Gotta Be Ready To Hack Modern Society’s Tendency to Condition Your Out of Self-Knowledge
It sounds simple, but even really brilliant people often don’t think to do this. Contemplating and reflection has been largely cultured out of our production-oriented way of thinking that has become the default of industrialized society. Even really wise people get wrapped up in their commitments and lose that sense of purposefulness in where they’re putting their energy. But we’re never lacking the capability to reclaim that purposefulness, just the sense that we know how and perhaps the commitment, readiness and splash of grit to execute it.
What’s in store for you in this process is not necessarily radical change in your life circumstances.
It may just shift your relationship to what you do and how you show up to it. In bringing this kind of awareness to my work in the service industry, I began to notice what aspects of the work mattered to me, what filled me with purpose, and the best aspects of myself that could be exported to my work.
How Being A Waiter Became A Dharmic Practice for Me
When I began readily inviting the knowledge of what mattered to me, incredible things started happening: more of the seemingly insignificant tasks I did began to shimmer. I noticed their value rippling outwards. I noticed significant ways that my presence could shift the state of others into a more inspired place simply by saying to myself “what kind of person do I actually think it’s important to be right now?” Because we are also designed for any situation to be a source of growth and evolution for us. As a result of reconnecting to that truth, we may not find ourselves seeking purpose “out there” somewhere in the next great adventure. Living our Dharma is found in the little mundane spaces that reveal their importance once we understand our own.
How To Practice This
Sit down and ask yourself what matters to you. (This also works really well after meditation)
If you don’t get a clear answer, then ask again.
When you get an answer, see how that feels in your body. What’s the emotional signature of this idea?
If you want to move things along, imagine how your life would look if you were completely fulfilled. You have everything you need and you’re completely at peace.
Ask this version of yourself what matters to you.
And repeat the process.
Repeat this process in any moment you feel moved to: “What really matters to me right now? What would matter to my most fulfilled self right now?”
Ooh, and I like this one: “What matters to me that I’m not giving myself permission to actualize?” Then, obviously, give yourself some blasted permission.