First appeared in Conscious Life, 5/99
Living On Purpose
The philosopher Kierkegaard said, "Life must be understood backward. But...it must be lived forward." Another way of putting this is, "Hindsight is 20-20." So often we live looking to the past for guidance. We're comfortable with the weight of the known, oozing like oatmeal over our brains, leaving us slightly muddled and hazy, safe from choice.
It is scary to step off the well-worn path and dip our toes into the lifestream of all possibility. Most of us, upon hearing that faint whisper to wake up and claim our true heritage, to begin to live the gift that is uniquely ours, react initially like the Starship Enterprise encountering a menacing space alien. The Captain (our mind) says, "Shields up!"
Faced with the invitation to follow our bliss, we R.S.V.P. with our version of that old tune, "It Ain't Me Babe," which goes, "I said no, no, no, it ain't me Lord, it ain't me you're lookin' for, Lord." Letting go of our cherished illusions is tough. We sense that consciousness can definitely be painful, because once we're aware of our patterns, we'll see where we're still stuck.
And here, if we choose to claim it, is the essence of opportunity. The Chinese character for crisis and opportunity is the same. It contains an element of dangernot necessarily signifying an "attack" from outside, but the need to change from within. Our resistance to change is the monster in the closetnot change itself. How can we let go of our resistance without being devoured by our fear?
We can start by shifting our perception, by breaking out of the box of linear thinking. For instance, if life can only be understood backward, why not begin at the ending? Have you ever participated in a computerized age-progression, where you're electronically aged to perhaps 70 or 80, and you get a view of yourself from "The Far Side"? Why not try that now?
Go to a quiet place, breathe deeply into your belly, and begin to image yourself advancing in years. Experience what you'll look like, sound like, act like, at 40, 50, 60, 70, 80, and beyond. Now you're at the close of this life. You're looking back at the pages of who you've been, recalling the highlights. What do you want people to remember about you?
Write your eulogy from the vantage point of the life you want to have lived. Paste it on your bathroom mirror. Each morning ask yourself, how can I live my life today in order to become this person? Each night read the eulogy (which is really a statement of the truth of who you are), and ask yourself before you slip off to slumber, "Did I live what I believe?"
Another way to befriend the monster is to become comfortable with a both/and way of being, rather than the either/or choices we've been taught to accept. By embracing paradox, we learn to live as easily in clarity as in chaos, to expand our sense of who and what we are.
The poet David Whyte describes it as being able to contain both our "ah! of discovery and revelation, and also the Agh! of driving to work through slow traffic on a gray Monday morning." He's saying that creative possibilityand our true powerexist in both the grief and the joy, in the rapture of an exotic vacation and in the angst of the Visa bill that arrives the following month.
One of the best ways to live your life on purpose is to take a tip from improvisational comedy. The core tenets of improv are: Begin with what is. Don't manipulate the action, discover it. Never stop the action by saying 'but' or 'no'; instead, say, 'yes, and', and add on to what's come before.
This is how an improv troupe is able to create high comedy: by being totally present in the moment, alert and alive to possibility, embracing the fear alongside the wonder. Improv tickles our funny bone because it's so immediate. Creativity tickles. Humor is essence. Life lived by intention rather than by accident is funny.
So live as if you're already dead. Live improvisationally. Dip your toes into the lifestream and shout if the water's cold. Most of all, celebrate your courage in embracing the Mystery of you.
As a "midwife for the soul" Amara Rose offers life purpose coaching, talks, CDs, e-courses, playshops, and an inspirational monthly newsletter, "What Shines." Please visit LiveYourLight.com to learn more. Contact Amara at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call: 1-800-862-0157 within the USA.
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