Steps to living a purposeful life
Have you ever looked out over the waves of the sea, or gazed up at a night sky filled with countless stars, and wondered, “Why am I here?”
One can feel so small, it is hard to believe that each of us is a special being created by God for this time and this place – each of us unique, each with our own song to sing as we pass through this world.
Were you one of those kids who never wanted to miss anything? Who didn’t want to go to sleep if the family was doing anything remotely interesting? I was. And now in my elderhood, I haven’t changed. I don’t want to miss a single spiritual assignment the Creator has ordained for me. I don’t want to overlook even one Teachable Moment.
I recently heard a well-respected elder say, rather sadly: “I have lived a long time. I’m about to retire, yet I still don’t know what my purpose is.”
It is not uncommon to wonder about this or to feel lost if we haven’t discerned our purpose at any given season. When Alice was lost in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat said: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” We are told in Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven”.
I remember my Sunday School teacher saying that when she was a child the age I was then – about six years old – she wrote a letter to a spiritual leader of our faith. She wrote, “Beloved Master, why are we here? Love, Ruhiyyih” Soon, she received a letter from him. It said, “Beloved Ruhiyyih, we are here to acquire the virtues of the Kingdom. Love, Abdu’l Baha”
It seems to me that the ability to stay deeply present to our own lives and to recognise whatever task or virtue we are called to in a given day or season, depends on detaching from the distractions that can trip us up or keep us literally out of our minds.
The Holy Bible speaks of two major traps which can keep us from our purpose: being double-minded and being double-hearted. We must trust in God’s guidance and watch out for the dangers of doubt: “...one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind... he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways,” James 1 6-8.
Another dangerous distraction is to leave the holy ground of truthfulness and to speak, as the saying goes, out of both sides of our mouth. “They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak,” Psalm 12:2.
We need to have faith that we can be guided to know our purpose, as long as we stay scrupulously honest. Discerning our purpose at each season of life begins with simply asking, “and it shall be given,” Mathew 7:7.
Once we have a sense of our calling, the key to accomplishing it is to focus our whole mind and heart on it:
“So long as the thoughts of an individual are scattered he will achieve no results, but if his thinking be concentrated on a single point, wonderful will be the fruits thereof…Thus is it necessary to focus one's thinking on a single point so that it will become an effective force.” (Selected Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 111).
Buddhism teaches the power of “single-pointed concentration”. I recently heard a message in meditation which has been very helpful: “Don’t judge what is big or what is small in what you do.” Perhaps one small act of kindness to an intimate or a stranger is more luminous in God’s eyes than completing what appears to us to be a very big job.
Steps to living a truly purposeful life are:
1. Pray and reflect on what your purpose is at this time in your life with faith that the answers will be given to you.
2. Avoid the traps of double-minded doubt and double-hearted deception.
3. Don’t scatter your energies in too many directions. Stay focused and single-minded.
4. Do one thing at a time, whole-heartedly and mindfully.
5. Be aware of the virtues in the way you think, speak, and act.
Yes, this is a tall order. Yet, it holds the keys to the Kingdom.
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The Cook Islands News Team