February 20, 2017

Spirituality and Purposefulness

“One should not give up, neglect or forget his inner life for a moment, but he must learn to work in it, with it and out of it, so that the unity of his soul may break out into his activities.” – Meister Eckhart

Does your view of spirituality impact on your perception of purposefulness in life?  I think so, but in order to understand how it does, it’s important to reflect on how to define both spirituality and purposefulness.

Spirituality is not a thing.  Rather, it is a dimension of human experience that possesses no boundaries.  Spirituality is about attitudes, values and practices, what motivates you at the deepest level, influencing how you think and behave, helping you to find a true and useful place in the community.  Entwined in this definition of spirituality, there is often a belief in an intelligent life force, perhaps a sense of interconnectedness with all living creatures.  In a sense, spirituality can be a way to find meaning, hope, comfort and inner peace in life.

I like to spend time browsing the Internet.  One day, I came across a site that defined purposefulness in a way that resonated with me.  I can’t say it any better myself:  Purposefulness is being aware that each of us is here for a reason. We value our lives by discovering the part we are uniquely meant to play. We discern our intention and focus on it mindfully. We visualize it happening. We set goals and achieve them step by step, resisting distractions. We give each task single-minded concentration and excellence…Purposefulness is trusting the journey. (http://www.virtuestraining.com)

Your view on spirituality can contribute to your sense of purposefulness.  Spirituality is a journey that not only unfolds over time but maybe even beyond time.  In other words, you continue to evolve.  What a comforting thought to know that maybe we don’t have to get it all right in this lifetime.  You likely can’t be everything you might want to be nor can you do everything you think you might like to do.  But that’s ok.  If you are open to thinking in terms of eternity, there’s lots of time.  But whether you want to think in terms of eternity or not, for now, try focusing on life, discerning and living your purpose in the here and now.  Although we’re often driven to accomplish, it’s good to sit back, relax and smell the roses.  That in itself is very purposeful.

Spirituality is about asking the question “Why am I here?” and turning inward to listen for the answer.  If you can determine why you’re here, then you’re in a better position to manifest your reason for being.  For example, if you determine that you’re in this life to help others, you may choose to do so by being a teacher, sharing your passion for the written word with high school English students; a counsellor, providing bereavement support to grieving families; a foster parent, providing emergency care and shelter to scared and confused children who have been taken away from their families; a volunteer, working to build schools in third world countries; or an entrepreneur, providing many people with necessary employment.

How do you determine why you’re here?  Meditation is one way.  So is contemplation and prayer.  For others it may be journaling, reading or exploring various interests.  Different things will work for different people, and the important thing to keep in mind is that there are usually no quick answers.

Spirituality is also about action.  It’s about stretching, about being a bit uncomfortable.  It’s about surrendering to who you really are, going deeper into your awareness and embracing the mystic within.  I once heard a saying along the lines that God first speaks in whispers and if you don’t listen, resorts to throwing bricks.  We’ve all had a few bricks thrown at us in our lifetime, and often they lead us to ask the questions:  “Who am I?” “Why am I here?” “What is my purpose in life?”  As such, these bricks are a call to action, a challenge to live our lives more purposefully.

My own interpretation of this led me to study for a Bachelor of Arts, a Bachelor of Education, a Certificate of Applied Spiritual Counselling, a Certificate in Thanatology, and a Certificate in Introductory Nutrition.  Now, I’m trying to put all of what I’ve learned to good use through writing, the lifestyle choices I make, and the causes I support.  For you, the call to action may be different, but if you’re willing to explore your spirituality, I think you’ll hear the call.

Finally, spirituality is about opening yourself to the mystery.  Regardless of the lesson, you’re in this life to learn.  Personally, I’ve reached an age where I’m getting a better sense of the major lessons I’m here to learn, most of which revolve around peacefulness and courage.  I’ve learned a lot thus far, but the journey isn’t over.  And if I’ve learned anything, it’s that in the grand scheme of things, I may not know a lot, but I know enough for the moment, and life has many lessons left to teach me.

I believe that George Bernard Shaw was speaking about spirituality and purposefulness when he said:  This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one…the being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

Spirituality provides a context within which you can, like Shaw says, “recognize yourself.”  And having come to this recognition, your expression of purposefulness, if you allow it, follows naturally in its manifest forms.