In today’s world of short attention spans and habituated need for instant gratification, many people struggle to find peace and happiness. I frequently meet clients or friends who find themselves in occupations and lifestyles that are making them unhappy, stressed or frustrated. Often, they have taken on loans or other responsibilities that make them feel they are trapped helplessly in a vicious trap. In order to do justice to their commitments and ambitions, they work harder at work they don’t enjoy, stressing their mind, body, soul and important relationships. All this leaves them with little time and energy to discover a way to reinvent their lives in a way that would honour their deeper values and aspirations.
Because somewhere, in their heart of hearts, they are also seeking answers to questions like ‘Why am I here?’ and ‘What is my life purpose?’. However, these ‘spiritual’ inquiries are often parked for later – ‘when I have the time’, ‘when I retire’, or ‘when I have X amount in the bank’. They are considered idealistic pursuits that can only be indulged after meeting the challenges of daily life.
Instead of parking these questions, what if we were to begin the exploration right here and now? Wouldn’t stepping out of the timeline allow us a larger perspective that would help us make sense of the whole? And having seen the larger picture, wouldn’t it be easier to navigate the daily routine of life with a more satisfied and content attitude?
To explore how relevant these questions are to our daily life, let us consider an analogy:
Let us say that our life is like a journey we have to travel. It begins with birth and ends with the death of this physical form. Along the way, we learn, practise, teach and grow. Each of us has our own lessons mapped out and the relationships, circumstances, challenges, etc… that are most conducive to our growth will be encountered.
Our life purpose is like the compass on this journey. It is the guiding principal that not only keeps us on our learning track, but also the one which helps us to make our unique and special contribution to the wholeness of the world we experience.
On a more micro level – your daily job or chores are like the steering wheel of your vehicle, which keep you moving along.
Now here are the possibilities that open up:
1. You have found your map and compass. You drive with little attention to the road, your eyes being on the map and compass at all times. You live from the future, as all your attention is on this aspiration.
This leaves one with great idealistic aspirations, but little movement on the road of life. The popularity of the Law of Attraction and many other related subjects, if applied inappropriately, include the risk of making one a dreamer without translating them into reality. When you drive a car, don’t you need to pay attention to the traffic, signals, roads, etc…? Without adequate clarity, alignment and attention to the immediate needs such as paying your bills, or taking care of your health, how are you going to move ahead smoothly?
Despite your understanding of your life purpose and the lessons you need to learn, are you likely to feel free and balanced? The sense of optimism and fulfilment may begin to feel hollow as doubts arise because of accidents, road blocks or sheer stagnation. There may be temptation to drop all these ‘lofty ideals’ and jump back towards short term or materialistic gains. This is represented in Option 2.
2. Drive with your eyes on the road ahead, using the steering with little or no sense of direction and purpose.
One will then struggle with the insecurity of not knowing what lies ahead, feel the present moment to be a waste of time, keep looking for something…anything but this and so on… You live anywhere but in the present moment, as all your attention is focused on trying to get somewhere – anywhere but here! Knowingly or unknowingly, you resist the present moment as you inch along, forced to rely on short term signs of ‘having arrived’. These may be in the form of a promotion, a balance sheet, a house, a ‘trophy’ partner, etc…. However, these can never be enough, because the moment you achieve one, your eyes are set on the next target – just beyond you.
Even if you were moving along your life path, you wouldn’t experience this assurance, because you would still be wondering what it is that you are looking for.
3. The third option is to be aware of your map and compass and yet pay complete attention to the minute to minute steering in the present moment.
You would be just as you would be on any ordinary road trip. Enjoy the ride, look around and appreciate the scenery. Know you are headed in the right direction. Even if you have a flat tire or lose your way, you can calmly take appropriate remedial action. Stop and explore if you feel like it, knowing you can resume as soon as you feel ready. You will rest in the knowing that all is well. There will be joy in the journey, because no matter what adventures you encounter – they will be seen in the context of the entire trip. And just like any memorable vacation, you will look at all of it with affection. As it happens. With no resistance to life. Trusting the flow.
Then the present thankless job will be seen with gratitude. It is no longer a trap, but your bridge to a better road. You will be able to remind yourself that every moment serves a purpose. Just like the roads sometimes take winding turns, even when we can’t see where we are headed, we know we are on the right path.
And you can feel all the joy and wonder of being alive and having this wonderful adventure.
All because you have your map and compass to guide your daily steering.
I hope this comparison brings alive at least one person’s search for their compass and map right now. Not tomorrow. Not on the weekend. Not after retirement.
Right here. Right now.
P.S.: Related Poem – ‘The Larger Picture’