For most of my life, I’ve asked myself “what’s the point?”
Along the way, I’ve explored and designed all sorts of questions and answers. It wasn’t until last year that I reached an answer that seemed complete in and of itself. After a year of testing it, talking about it, and running it by those who I trust most to challenge it, I feel it’s a valuable and useful concept to present to others…which also includes: you.
The first realization I made on this question was in 2007. After several months of heavy meditation on this topic, I saw that there was no singular answer. There is no meaning or purpose of life that fits everyone.
This includes things like “the meaning of life is to love” or “love is all you need.” Sorry, Beatles.
And in that realization, I saw that there was choice. Or, at least, fluidity or flexibility in the matter.
I went for several years, carrying along the realization that “the meaning of life is a choice.” With my newfound freedom to choose, I consciously decided on things to choose as “the most important things to me.”
And, quickly, I found myself dissatisfied again and again. I worked with myself and friends on it; we’d decide on a purpose, decide to commit to it, then…not much would happen. Something was missing.
Over time and after many conversations with many people, I found that what was meaningful to someone was different for each person. And these things that were meaningful, while some could be explained through psychology or spirituality, for the most part, it didn’t matter why these things were meaningful to the person.
They just were. And simply by the fact that it was meaningful, I saw people arranging their lives…their feelings, their thoughts, and their actions. And I saw this in myself, too. When I looked at what was most meaningful in my life, it just was. And, despite being able to unravel why things were meaningful to me and where it started in my lifetime, it didn’t actually matter. And I didn’t care to change it.
Two Parts, Not One
I soon realized this critical piece – meaning – had been left out of “the purpose of life” question. Purpose is based on acting and doing, not being. I’d been trying to figure out what to do, not how to be.
But simply resting in something that is meaningful – e.g. deeply feeling the pain of animals being senselessly tortured for human consumption – wasn’t enough. Simply resting in the fact that something is meaningful to me isn’t enough. There had to be a complimentary action.
The answer to “what is the meaning of life?” wasn’t the only question. It was “What gives me the most meaning in my life? And how do I serve that meaning through purposeful action?”
In other words, it’s not just “what is the meaning of life?” OR “what is the purpose of life?”
It is both.
Meaning and Purpose, Masculine and Feminine
As you might know, I find the Masculine/Feminine model highly useful. I don’t find it to be the end all, be all, but in terms of understanding how to move through life, I find it useful.
What I found when I saw that meaning and purpose were both separate and equally valuable is that it also fit into the Masculine/Feminine model.
The Feminine is a master of being. The Masculine is a master of doing.
The Feminine is a master of being Love. The Masculine is a master of serving Love.
It would then make sense that what we find most meaningful within us is a window to the fullness of our Feminine. That whatever moves us most deeply – in ecstatic joy or deep pain – comes from the nature and capacity of our Loving. That we feel that joy or we feel that pain because we are Love. If we weren’t, we would be apathetic and not care, let alone experience joy or pain around something.
It would also make sense that we find our desire to serve that meaning – to serve that Love – as a window to the depth of our Masculine. That however deeply we allow ourselves to be moved by what’s most meaningful to us into thorough and complete action comes from our ability and openness to serving Love. Without moving from a place of meaning, we’re cast about in existential despair, whether we recognize it or not.
When Meaning and Purpose are Not Served
This is why many men (most of whom have a Masculine essence) are often very good at doing, but are often disconnected from the recognition of the Love that they are. The way they have singularly cultivated their Masculine has disconnected them from their Feminine. Through that, we see the despair – often acknowledged through a “mid-life crisis” of men who have led very successful, but meaningless, lives.
On the flip side, we also see this with many women (most of whom have a Feminine essence) who are often very good at being, but are often disconnected from the doing necessary to serve that meaning. I want to note that we see this far less now in our cultural evolution – a hugely greater percentage of women have developed their Masculine than men have developed their Feminine. And the women that have chosen to singularly develop their Feminine often find themselves in positions where they are not in control or directing their lives…they are cast about like a small boat in a hurricane, while also feeling a deep pain and ecstatic joy and without the capacity for how to change the world with it.
(How this dynamic plays out, men with under- or over- developed Feminine sides and women with under- or over- developed Masculine sides, is never as straightforward as the two previous paragraphs. This is my disclaimer that I understand I have somewhat over-simplified the situation. I also assert that this is the most common pattern and that evolved women and men go through this process of discovering their complimentary nature at some point in their life.)
Discovering Meaning, Choosing Purpose
Over and over, I’ve found with myself and others that what is most meaningful is closer within reach than we know. Here are some ways to find what is most meaningful to you, and some indicators you might be on the right track:
- It brings you to tears. For me, where I find the most meaning my life right now is the only thing that regularly and consistently moves me to tears. I’ve also spoken with people who feel so deeply about something that they actually have to avoid it – physically or psychologically – because they are moved almost to non-function.
- It comes from a source of deep pain. “Meaning” isn’t always pretty, but it is significant. For many people, it is through our pain that we connect most deeply with ourselves and others.
- It brings you ecstatic joy. I use the word “ecstatic” to differentiate the quality of this kind of joy from the joy you feel on, say, your religious holiday or your birthday.
- You are moved further to tears when you imagine relieving others of this pain or bringing to others this same sort of joy. To feel the pain or joy is one thing. To be in service of the world from this place of pain or joy is another.
- You see this pain and joy very clearly out in the world. Often, when you look out into the world, it will feel as though the world is screaming in agony or ecstasy.
Only after you have connected with what is most meaningful to you, then you may discover best how to serve that meaning. If you’re ever confused as to which comes first, always remember that She comes first. While loaded with sexual innuendo, it is also a spiritual axiom…the Feminine always comes first. That may be counter to what our culture projects and may not make sense now (e.g. If the Feminine comes first, why do men sacrifice their relationships for their careers?), but I’ll write more about that another time.
I’ve found that an individual’s Purpose is always in service of what is most meaningful to them. The way that this meaning is served is through a combination of your strengths, talents, passions, and what is most fulfilling.
I’ve left happiness out of that list, but left fulfilling in there. A great example of why I’ve done this is Mother Theresa, who suffered from severe depression. She may have been fulfilled in her work, but happiness was very much secondary.
Find what kind of work fulfills you – and where I’ve found the greatest fulfillment is in using my strengths, talents, and passions to serve others. Sure, it’s a great weekend when I get out and camp and rock climb. But it’s a fulfilling weekend when I make someone’s life better by relieving them of their pain or bringing them joy.
Your Meaning and Purpose Will Change
What is most meaningful to you may never change. How you serve what is most meaningful may change. Likewise, as you connect more deeply with yourself, you may find more profound meaning beneath what you currently recognize as what is most meaningful to you now. And, often, you can’t get beneath what’s there now without first serving what’s there now.
It is a Process
It took me years to really connect with what is most meaningful to me. Even after I found it, it took almost another year with heavy pushing from close and respected friends to design my purpose around it. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t know what is most meaningful to you right now. But do keep at it. Dedicate time to it every day. Sit in silence. Ask your friends. Keep awareness about your day when something feels a little more significant than average. When you find that, feel into it and see how far the feeling goes.
And, even after you’ve found what’s most meaningful and are serving that, keep looking deeper. Keep serving more fully.
Until your last breath.
Image Credit: marriedbachelor18