Over time, I’ve come to believe that each of us has something unique to offer to the world, which brings us a sense of meaning and a feeling of connection to the greater whole. That which brings us both meaning and connection is how I’ve come to understand what finding your life’s purpose means.
Unfortunately, due to the extensive conditioning we’re all exposed to in our culture, we aren’t authentically encouraged to discover our unique offering to the world. Too often, it seems, most of us are taught to chase after such illusionary things as money, power and fame. And not only do we pursue these things, but we choose to enter “safe” careers that only deliver us social respectability and material comfort.
Sadly, one of the consequences of our conditioning is that far too many of us never take a chance on our own lives. Instead, we relegate our innermost passions and life callings to the back burner. However, deep down inside, we know better. I’d argue that we’re all hard-wired to satisfy an innate desire to connect with what aligns us in harmony with the Universe.
As someone who writes and speaks regularly on the themes of personal empowerment and destiny, it might sound just a little too ironic for me to admit that I, myself, am still very much in the process of trying to fulfill my own life’s purpose.
10 days of clarity
Truth be told, for the first three decades of my life (I’m 39 now), any awareness of what my unique offering to the world was had totally escaped me. This fog of unknowing continued until I was 30 years old, and already well-settled into an academic career as a college professor.
It was towards the end of that year that I inexplicably began to feel that something in my life just wasn’t jibing. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. All II knew was that beneath the surface, I wasn’t feeling fulfilled. At the time, I also knew that I had a serious drinking problem, but I was unable to identify the subconscious triggers of my repeated abuse of alcohol.
At first glance, my life was wonderful. I had a highly respected and well-paying job, with ample paid time off to engage in recreation, and many supportive friends and family members. During this time, though, I’d sometimes lie awake at night, contemplating the source of my internal discomfort.
Then, one month before my 31st birthday, I had the very fortunate opportunity to travel to Maui, Hawaii for 10 days with my parents and sister. Once there, I went off on several solo adventures, where I got to explore the surrounding nature on breathtaking hikes through the island’s many enchanted forests.
What I found on those unforgettable and mesmerizing hikes was a sudden sense of clarity as to the roots of my feelings of discontent: I wasn’t honouring the spiritual facets of my being. Rather, I was clinging to the egoic trappings of intellectual hubris, social striving, sexual conquests and a lifelong fear of being ostracized by my peers. But all it took was the mystical power of the Earth to pivot me in the direction of greater awareness.
Big changes for the better
When I returned home from that transformative trip, I felt infinitely lighter, less fearful of change, and surprisingly empowered to take back control of my life.
Accordingly, I proceeded to quit abusing alcohol; took up a meditation practice; joined a Buddhist sangha in Nashville, Tennessee, where I lived at the time; studied the mystic writings of the East; and began to devote my time to writing (which, I discovered, had always been a lifelong passion of mine). I also deepened my relationship with the natural world by getting out on daily hikes in the woods with my inspiring dog, Abbie.
In just over one year after my trip to Maui, I moved away to the Great Smoky Mountains to continue deepening my bond with the Earth. And it was there in the mountains where my life purpose gradually started to come into focus.
Since moving to the Smokies all those years ago, nature, contemplative writing and the teaching of meditation have all become my greatest passions. So, I’ve reasoned, it only makes sense that I should work to spend the rest of my life serving others by founding a wilderness centre where those who suffer can come heal through the profound power of nature.
Our ultimate purpose
We all have the great potential to become fully empowered beings who are able to discover their unique offerings to the world and their ultimate purpose in life.
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