So many of us struggle with that age-old question: What’s the purpose of my life? Maybe the most valuable benefit of my spiritual journey these past years is that it has provided me with an answer. And not a crazy one, either. It’s something that actually makes sense to me.
While many teachers I’ve studied have touched on this topic, none of them has done so more directly and clearly than Eckhart Tolle. I’ve heard it from him many times, but just this morning he laid it out again in his usual concise, eloquent way. He said:
“The only real source of meaning and purpose comes from being aligned with the universe. And the purpose of the universe is to bring the light of consciousness into the world.”
So that’s it. The only real purpose we have is to bring consciousness into the world. How do we do that? By being conscious.
Becoming more conscious
How do we become more conscious and therefore bring more consciousness into the world? By doing any number of spiritual practices. I meditate twice a day. I practice letting go of my egoic baggage.
I also practice mindfulness throughout my day. Here’s a quick semi-digression to give you an idea of what that entails for me. I think providing specifics can go a long way in helping others on the mindfulness front. Here are three examples just from the past day:
1. As I brushed my teeth this morning, I took three, extremely long, deep breaths. This 1. Relaxes me, and 2. Prevents my mind from swirling around with thoughts about the day, the crisis in Ukraine, how my son will do on his math test, yada, yada, yada.
2. While driving to the grocery store yesterday, I hit several red lights in a row. Each time that annoying feeling of “Damnit! Another one?!” hit me, I noticed it, then leaned away from the feeling to give it room to loosen and travel up and out of me.
3. While showering yesterday after my workout, I caught myself doing the usual shower thing of thinking a million thoughts (like brushing teeth). I then spotted the yellow Post-it note on my shower wall on which was written “Breathe.” Upon seeing that, I closed my eyes and took three deep breaths.
I do these kinds of things every day. All day. I’m far from being perpetually mindful. Just ask my wife. And my kids. And my dogs.
But all this practice helps me become just a tad bit more conscious. Each day. Which is the purpose of my life.
Consciousness first, everything else second
If that sounds strange, look at it this way. All it means is that working on consciousness comes first. After that, we go about our lives. We choose an area for work that feels right for us or just works for us. Physicist. Yoga teacher. Software engineer. Full-time parent. Walmart cashier. Teacher. Whatever we choose to do, we put at the top of the pyramid becoming more conscious while performing that work.
It’s not just for work, either. It goes for everything. If you’re into golf, use golf to become more conscious (btw, it’ll help your game a ton if you do!). If you’re an avid scrapbooker, use that to become more conscious. In other words, whatever we do in life becomes an avenue for bringing consciousness into the world.
Don’t shoot for the prizes or the billions
It’s worth pointing what we don’t do when our lives focus on strengthening our consciousness. To take the physicist example, we don’t have as the driving motivation for our hard work winning the Nobel Prize in physics. If we’re a teacher we don’t do it to win Teacher of the Year. The software engineer doesn’t go into it solely to make millions. These are all examples of the ego driving our pursuits. The problem with that? We can’t be happy going that route.
So we do all of these things because we’re interested in them. In that way, consciousness can flow into the world through us.
This concept has done wonders for me and my mental well-being. I was concerned for too many decades about the traditional BS American ideal of success. Money. Power. Adulation. Again, it doesn’t work. It doesn’t make people happy.
Making this shift has helped me immeasurably
Now, I focus on my writing work, parenting my kids, being a decent friend and sibling, playing my sports and, of course, working on becoming more conscious through all of those. That’s pretty much it. Importantly, I think I’m markedly better at ALL those things because of my focus on the consciousness angle.
I’ve been blessed to find peace of mind through this path. Why? Probably the biggest reason is that it has simplified my life enormously. All that pointless, detrimental, second-guessing mind chatter around “What am I doing? Is it enough? Am I a big enough deal? Your classmate at Princeton, Jeff Bezos, is the richest guy in the world, what the hell are you doing?” is gone.
I don’t poison my soul by constantly wondering whether I’m a success or a failure. What I do is place my attention on what I’m doing — writing, parenting, etc. Which is just another way of saying I place my attention on being conscious. It simplifies everything. And it really does feel good.
I hope you’ll consider this paradigm shift. It’s a shift from allowing your ego to be in the driver’s seat deciding your overall view of life’s purpose. “Be rich. Be thin. Be pretty. Be married. Be powerful.” To allowing the real, conscious, beautiful you to slide into that driver’s seat. And to become simply a vessel for the Universe/God/The Creator/Nature to express itself.
Living our lives with that as our purpose gives us the best chance at experiencing peace, love and the best that life has to offer.
A heartfelt shout-out to Eckhart Tolle for drilling that into me.