Wednesday, July 16, 2014

When will we know we have accomplished our Purpose?

So you may read this differently, as your age may so imply for you. I was asked recently by a young employee of a bubbling start-up, “So when will I know I have met my ‘purpose’?” Significant yearning. How does one respond, for the journey is the experience remembered and not the destination?

In spiritual traditions, there is a notion of explanatory power that I will attempt to essay from. It is about Love. The question on Love is, where does it come from? The contemplative response is, “We do not know. But it is known in the moment of receiving”.  So, what about giving? Love is the decision to give of oneself fully in the moment of giving. We give to each other as we give to ourselves. If we love ourselves, we have the opportunity to be compassionate with others.

So, does one receive love if one loves oneself? Is it possible that we deceive ourselves? Yes, we may deceive ourselves, if awareness is absent. The inward journey is the more sacred journey than the outward movement. Loving oneself is realizing that one stands for one’s awareness, and thereby taking responsibility for self, trusting the unborn future and integrating the irretrievable past.  

When such giving is a connectedness with self, love awakens as a spirit of eternal nature. We were born with it. In bodily form may stray from it due to distractions our existence provides through our senses. It is giving to oneself that people confuse with selfishness, where the balance is tipped unashamedly towards self without reverence or concern for others.  Returning to self, is in large part the way out of a mid-life crisis as well. With compassion for self , loving others transforms in experience as an extended expression of inner awareness.

OK, so what does loving the self require? First and foremost, awareness as distinct from introspection. Introspection judges. Awareness is non-judgmental. So is this a prescription as in a to do list? Hardly. Like the grass is thankful for the rain, it needs the earth as medium for expression. But, the awareness is evident in the acknowledgement.  What happens inward, language can confuse for its vocabulary may not be in spoken form per se.

Secondly awareness can be robbed of wholesomeness, if one does not accept with vulnerability. Avoiding pain or discomfort from willingness to be aware is to avoid growth as well.  This is the place from which creativity soars, joy and grief is experienced, and time is lived in. Avoiding the anxiety of transformation is when rigidity takes over, fear is emboldened and time is merely lived through. Meaning and purpose is the insight from awareness. Meaningfulness is the joy of the engaging presence of purpose.

Thirdly, multiple intelligence faculties are involved in awareness. With experience, mastery enhances discriminatory intellect or what Indian language terms vivekabuddhi. A sculptor knows hardness of stone from softness of water. A mason knows brick-laying from the kiln process but will not master the architect’s interpretive art of structural stability of multi-tiered, multiple material infrastructure. A digital media artist, will play with font, lighting, contrast and resolution display; whereas the data scientist will creatively toggle at series theories, computational efficacy of algorithms and outputs from machine learning varieties.

So, to the original question – when is purpose realised? In my experience, Purpose is related most to life themes, that hang together in relatively stable ways. But like love, perhaps Purpose is known when you arrive in the moment from a journey that sustains the commitment to the themes of one’s life. Vocabulary may distort reality and affect the content of the experience itself. E.g. youth motivated by the term ‘social service’ may confuse ‘cause-motivation’ with deterministic activism, and destroy the core value of the cause in the course of the experience.  Getting others to accept one’s point of view from a 'social service angle, may be twisted as an art of selling; and in unconscious error end up antagonizing others' values on the same dimension. A lack of congruence between one’s own awareness and statement of purpose will signal a lack of synchrony. The cause may be related to upholding a sense of justice, or it may be to do with merely pleasing others from a pliable norm that one got exposed to as social rituals in community.

After all changing others is Radicalism. Changing oneself is Idealism. Accepting oneself is Realism. Becoming oneself is the Essence of Being. Doing from the state of Being is an expression of one’s Greater Purpose Statement.

What is interesting to note is that what was once considered as mid-life crises was associated to the biological age of 45 or so. It is my perception that even in middle-class Indian milieu, the average middle-age is now down to 35 or so. The purpose question is preceded normally by fundamental ones – Who am I? What am I doing now?

Life in its fullness begins with answers to these questions. That is when the essential crises happen before Purpose reveals itself to the mindful aware self. And now, am not asking you for your age; would you ask that of yourself? What else goes with your response?