In one of the companies I worked for, a big deal was made of purpose. Employees were coached in finding what really made them tick and then they would spend a lot of time writing it out, choosing each word carefully so that the sentence reflected their sense of who they are and why they are on earth.
What is your purpose for being on this planet? What is your meaning? Why were you born? What are you here to achieve or accomplish? What is the thing that only you can do?
Big questions which, if we are even slightly interested in the truth, can never have an answer.
We have no idea why we were born or if there is even a reason. We have no idea whether there is a particular thing for us to do or achieve to validate our existence. We have no idea what has greater impact for the world – the decades we spend in our job or the few words we spoke to someone in a shop yesterday.
We don’t know.
We sure as hell can make a lot of stuff up though. And that’s what we do all the time. There are thoughts that appear, some of these are believed, take on meaning and relevance and they become our idea of who we are.
Purpose is just one of those thoughts had by a self that is itself created of thought.
And like all other thoughts it can be used to reinforce this idea of a self that is separate from what it sees around it, that is better or worse than others.
The idea of self lives in resistance – pushing away and separation from what is, and in seeking – looking for something better or different.
Purpose is a brilliant tool for use by this separate self of ours.
It can be used to distance ourselves from whatever it is in front of us to do. I spent a long time trying to find THE thing that would justify my life. No job or role or task could ever live up to that and so I was continually dissatisfied, continually seeking something else. Nothing is ever quite the thing. This can’t be it. It must be something else. And in that resistance to what is in front and in the seeking of something better the identity as someone with an as yet undiscovered purpose thrives.
It can be used to blame ourselves, to compare ourselves unfavourably to others. We look around at people who seem to have their lives sorted, who love what they do, who are on a mission and we see ourselves as this directionless, unmotivated soul that yearns to have what they have.
It can be used to justify all sort of atrocities and disconnection. The idea of a higher, worthy purpose can excuse all sorts of fall out in the process. They don’t understand me and what I stand for. They are in the way of my vision. They are wasting my time, dragging me down.
It can be used to make life meaningless when it looks like what we thought was our purpose cannot now be achieved. Losing our job, money or health can become a disaster if we believe our validity depended on it. It is no wonder that retirement can lead to early death for those of us who believe who we are depends on what we do for a living.
All of this is about separation. It is about making a false distinction between who I am and everything else – this moment, those others, this task, this reality. We look out from that perspective and our purpose is used to aggrandise, excuse, denigrate or distance ourselves. Either way it is based on a premise that shifts and slides as thought shifts and slides.
So what happens to purpose when we look at it from the perspective of who we really are?
As we start taking the thought created idea of the self less and less seriously, we start to spend more time in the truth of who we are – the space of awareness in which that self and all others appear.
What happens to purpose now?
Well any idea of purpose that was used to reinforce that idea of self must fall away. It makes so little sense to use one thought to secure another. It becomes a nonsense to believe that anything can validate or make worthy something that is only made of thought.
Purpose as a tool for the ego to separate and distance itself, to make itself better or worse than others, to create identity and meaning for itself becomes so irrelevant that it simply disappears.
And what we are left with is the understanding that we are the whole world as it appears to us, and in that world is this body here.
What is the purpose of that body? To do whatever is in front of it to do. That is all. It doesn’t matter whether that is the washing up or to speak to a room of thousands.
Any resistance to what is in front of that body to do comes from this idea of self. The self continually makes the judgement: too difficult, too menial, too boring, too challenging, too risky, too embarrassing… Without that voice-over there is only what is in front of us to do.
The thought created self becomes less and less believable. The true self, the space of awareness of all this, becomes more and more apparent.
It is like auto-pilot for the body and the machine that controls the plane is the love, peacefulness, joy and freedom of our true nature. There is nothing in the way of what is obvious to do. Equally, there is no reason to do it. Any thought we have about why or value or impact is only a thought. There is no reason to do anything and yet we are unstoppable.
So it could be said that the only genuine purpose for our lives is to rediscover who we really are. As that becomes more clear, everything else flows from that. There are no longer any decisions to make because we realise that who we thought we were wasn’t making the decisions anyway.
There is a new benchmark for what we do. This benchmark is the understanding of who we really are. It ‘pervades the foreground’ as Rupert Spira, one of the great teachers of this understanding, describes it. Our existence moves from confusion to clarity, from limited to limitless, from dependency to freedom, from insecurity to peace.
Our purpose is revealed to be what it has always been: simply to see what is true about who we are and to do what is obviously there to do.
It is no more complicated than that.