The search for purpose drives many spiritual seekers as well as many non-spiritual people.
It may have driven you to me today.
What is purpose?
Why do people want it?
Let’s explore this together.
I don’t want there to be any expectation that I’m going to unveil an ultimate purpose, tell you what your purpose is, or tell you how to get it.
Being is its own purpose, and being is no purpose at all.
Consider a rock. It exists. It has no purpose. It simply is. We are no different except we’re aware that we exist. Sure, maybe a rock has some kind of conscious awareness that we have not yet discovered, but let’s not assume that yet. Instead, let’s just continue with the understanding that our beingness has no requirements for purpose. In those moments that some of you have had where you feel at one with life, you may recall that there was no seeking for purpose. There was nothing to do.
You were fully alive in that moment and purposeless.
Then, the ego comes back and starts seeking again, and for those with those powerful spiritual experiences, they may start to seek a spiritual purpose in hopes of getting those experiences back.
Vague Terms and Getting Spiritually Lost
I’m sure some people are struggling with the “being is its own purpose and no purpose at all” statement, but that’s what cultural conditioning does to us. Cultural conditioning has taught us that we need to seek purpose; we need to pursue happiness. So needing to go nowhere to be makes no sense to the average Westerner.
If you are struggling with these ideas, I would recommend checking out these blog posts to help you understanding being and realizing freedom:
Let me return to the idea of purpose. It’s pretty vague. That tends to lead to vague questions and ambiguous answers, and people can get in quite a muddle along the way. At the heart of the matter, purpose is a means to happiness or safety. It also seems to be deeply intertwined with doing, and Western Culture loves to tell people to do things.
Doing is a way to gain social value and resources. Consider how much this culture regularly talks about people’s accomplishments–what they have done. We talk about what athletes have done. We talk about what laws public servants have passed. We talk about what discoveries scientists have made. We talk about what we did on vacation. We talk about what our children have done.
The list of things people do is extensive, and since this modern society highly values doing things, it’s not surprising that purpose is really about doing things for most Westerners.
Wanting a Role in Society
Additionally, purpose seems to be about knowing what to do to get social approval. People want to fit in with society because society gives people stuff when the culture values what someone does.
Never forget that living truly on one’s own is hard. You’d have to do everything for yourself. You’d have to prepare all your own food, grow and gather food, protect yourself from attacks, do all your surgeries on yourself, and so forth.
That last one would be quite a trick.
So yes, living in a society is helpful and having a role is useful. However, it shouldn’t become more than an act of taking care of oneself and one’s family, as the case may be. It should not become an identity. Once this role becomes an identity, you’re in trouble because that role may need to change, which is happening a lot in with the changing job markets around the world.
Furthermore, if your purpose is combined with this social role/identity, now there’s even more attachment. The more attachment there is, the more suffering someone will go through.
Losing Your Purpose
Let’s say that someone is an athlete. Athletics has consumed them, and it very much is their purpose for living.
Then they have a career ending injury.
They’ve lost their identity as an athlete and their purpose along with it. This typically sends the ego into despair. It sends the ego into a crisis of faith. People react in all kinds of ways. Some try to find a new identity and purpose. Others may spiral down into addictions, depression, and other things.
Truly if purpose was so innate, it could not be lost. Purpose is essentially the ego mind saying you should do something, be valued in some way, and value others and life in certain ways. All of that is made up. Because it is illusion, it is always on the verge of being lost.
Protecting Your Purpose
I think a lot of people feel the fragility of purpose. It makes them uneasy. It forces them to keep doing things to reinforce this illusion.
The woman who feels motherhood is her purpose has to keep having children or keep mothering her children well into their adulthood.
The man who feels that championing women’s rights is his purpose can’t even stop and rest. There’s always another fight, and he never feels like he can win enough.
The woman who feels that surfing is her purpose is never happy when she isn’t surfing.
The man who thinks his purpose is spiritual teaching needs to teach. If he can’t teach, then he feels lost.
The list can go on and on, but whenever we create ideas and beliefs like purpose, they’re always in jeopardy of being shown to be illusions and being taken from us.
Purpose as a Temporary Coping Mechanism
With all that said, I’m a pragmatism. Or rather, I practice practicality; my beingness is not attached to pragmatism–a belief. 🙂
That means, I am aware that people use a sense of purpose to help themselves cope with self-worth issues, scarcity fears, abandonment issues, and so much more. For those early on their spiritual paths, it can be a life-saver to feel like you have found something that you should do and which can give your meaning. If this is you, then continue. But think of your purpose as a temporary helping hand.
My ebook can also be a temporary helping hand if you are early on your path:
For those who are serious about spiritual freedom and are further along on the path, it’s time to drop the pursuit of purpose and/or whatever purpose you have assigned yourself. See what ego issues come up because the purpose you have sought/have has probably been masking quite a bundle of ego issues.
If purpose is about doing something, something in life will change and you will not be able to do it anymore. Your purpose will be lost.
If your purpose is about feeling happy and/or safe all the time, something in life will change, and you will feel like your purpose is lost along with your happiness and safety.
If your purpose is about some kind of Divine connection or something that is particularly vague and ambiguous, then you may never feel like you achieve that purpose. You may find yourself lost in craving for purpose and suffering for it.
The only sane choice becomes surrendering purpose.
We surrender purpose because purpose is only an idea and a vague one at that. We surrender purpose because action is a means to something, and anything we achieve and any moment we have can and will end. We surrender purpose to simply be as we are in the present moment.
Freedom Is No Purpose
Ultimately, purpose is typically a way that people try to achieve some kind of healing, safety, or happiness (and sometimes all three). The idea of purpose gets used in multiple ways and has different goals for different people. Some people feel it is their purpose to be a healer, but what does that really mean? How does the person think that job will be? Do they think the job will make them happy all the time? Do they think it’ll make others feel happy all the time? No on both accounts. The ideas people have about what purpose is almost invariably lead back to some kind of healing, safety, and happiness, but those never last.
Instead, the path to freedom offers us a way out of the trap of the idea of needing purpose. We find that while we can take on social roles to support our basic needs, those roles and any social purpose we have do not define us. Our beingness is beyond definition. In that space of being, no purpose is needed. All is as it is, and we are as we are.