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9 Feb 2018

Our true purpose is not personal

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Facebook’s vice-president for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Nicola Mendelsohn, this week stated that she has incurable cancer. Revealing her diagnosis for the first time, she wrote on social network: “I often talk about how people can seize their own destiny, so it’s tough to be reminded that there are things you can’t control”.

There is much talk and writing about finding your purpose, but the dialogue is born out of our western thinking and is often missing in dimensionality. When something happens that is out of our control we, as Nicola, realise that our paradigms are flawed. We realise that on one hand there is how we perceive the world, and on the other things that occur outside our control; two different domains. It is within the first domain that our True Purpose is seated.

That we create our own reality is true, in that we create our experience of what occurs. Anyone who has a dear one with an illness or disability knows that we are not completely in control. There are some things we have to bow to, death being one of them!

So, what is the purpose of life? Who knows! We know that material wealth only gives you the kind of misery you can live with, so the new car or ring is not going to do it. Buddhist and author, Joseph Campbell, give us a wider perspective.

Victor Borge also said: “A smile is the shortest distance between two people”. In a smile we connect, and in a brief moment our desires and fears melt away and we get a glimpse of our true nature, our true nature of oneness. We experience a similar thing with any feeling of love, generosity, gratitude, compassion or joy. We sense something that is bigger than us, something that always is, always has been, and that is without a beginning or an end.

For a long time I have been thinking why it is called our ‘true’ nature. Isn’t all our doing, wanting, anger, fear and greed also our true nature? The difference is that all of those states will die with us, all of them impermanent. The experience of oneness on the other hand connects us to the universe, connects us to something we can’t fathom and the wonderful thing is that it exists between us and within us, it is all around.

Joseph Campbell invited us to ‘follow our bliss’, Buddhism invites us to get to know the mind so we can reduce suffering. Suffering being stress, frustration, anger, fear, greed, jealousy, resentment and discontent. All of these states take us away from the universal connectedness, the state of deep knowing, of a grand perspective and in that a muting of the self and its desires and fears.

From Campbell’s and the Buddhist perspective, true purpose is not about what we get done, it is about an ongoing practice of shifting our attention, our awareness to Oneness, to love. From here good doing will follow and it may be small, it may be big, you may be remembered or not, it doesn’t matter.

In this journey towards love, towards experiencing and knowing Oneness we have to learn to manage our stress, frustration, impatience, anger and greed as they become obstacles for peace and obstacles for being connected. This journey is not one that ignores the body, in fact the spiritual journey is based on a healthy care for body, a healthy mental state and an evolved emotional intelligence. Without this, whatever in your life is not going well will easily bring you back to ‘suffering’. If the body is constantly in pain or discomfort it tends to highjack our attention. If we easily get frustrated with those around us we are easily high jacked by rumination and projection and if we can’t think clearly, nor maintain focus we can’t hold the ‘shutter lens’ of bigger dimensions open for long enough. We need healthy ‘human-ness’ to experience ‘being’.

We are all like a little uncut diamond, our purpose is to have it shine and it shines when we are in connection, when we radiate in goodness.

The planet needs us to sense Oneness, to know its existence and to not have our true purpose be ‘doing’, not for it to be an individual quest, but to uncover what prevents us from knowing our true nature, our shared nature.

It is our unmanaged nature that is contributing to the ongoing decimation of this planet; so our true purpose is to manage ourselves, to kerb our greed, to commit to policies that protect us from ourselves, to expand our perspective and to be grander than ‘my need, my want, my fear, my purpose’.

So, what to do?

  1. Look after your dear body, not for what it looks like but for how well it is in health.
  2. Work on not getting caught in unhealthy emotional events, when they arise see if you can drop them, let go. Instead cultivate healthy ones, kindness, generosity, joy, gratitude etc.
  3. Practice mindfulness to stabilise your attention and to enhance your ability to catch yourself out and to manage yourself.
  4. Invite in the experience of oneness by just sitting in nature, practice muting the self being without a story, surrender to just being.
  5. Be curious about some of the things you pay attention to and what direction they take you. Drop what brings you out of healthy mind states and invite in more of what brings you to ‘wholesomeness’, like giving.