“Your life is your practice. Your spiritual practice does not occur someplace other than in your life right now, and your life is nowhere other than where you are.
You are looking for answers, insight, and wisdom that you already possess. Live the life in front of you, be the life you are, and see what you find out for yourself.”
Karen Maezen Miller, Momma Zen
As a yoga teacher, I was privileged to study at the feet of the master, Shanti Gowans.One of the very first assignments I received from her was simply entitled ‘The Path to Self’. It had to be so many words (I can’t remember how many now) but it was long – well ‘long’ in thought at least! Little was explained other than to understand one’s ‘purpose’.
OK then, that’ll be easy I told myself. I sat at my computer, typed the title ‘The Path to Self’’, wrote one line that read something innocuous such as ‘My Purpose is’…and six months later I still hadn’t written another word. The journey was arduous, difficult, trying, hard, tough, tiring, severe, painful and exhausting and every other emotion I can think of to define the word. It did my head in!
I was totally miserable that I couldn’t write such a simple paper. Simple???
And then of course, it dawned on me. Why was I here? I really hadn’t a clue.
As one of my students once commented when I asked her to define her purpose, she simply said, “Oh I can’t think about that! Otherwise I might get such a fright that I have been living all these years without doing one single thing about it!”
Of course, there were hints along the way. I had worked hard and long, pushing my way through life, achieving, creating, giving…..but was I truly on ‘purpose’? I expect I was too busy surviving to sort that out.
It took a year or two for me to work out what on earth I was doing here and then nervously I handed the assignment in.
Many months later my teacher arrived in Melbourne, my home town. I hadn’t heard from her and I was surprised that nothing was mentioned. I finally plucked up the courage and asked her what she thought of the paper.
“Oh”, she replied, I didn’t read it”!
That was the lesson of course, only I could find my purpose; no-one was going to find it for me; nor assist me in understanding who I truly am.
And……as I am writing this now and reflecting on ‘Why Am I Here?’, the wonderful poetess Mary Oliver comes to mind with her gorgeous poem ‘The Journey’.
One day you finally knew
what you had to do,
So to truly understand my purpose, I had to first look at who I am. Um…scary!
I had to make change and allow the true being inside of me to rise, flourish, flounder and discover; flounder again; flounder again; flounder again and again; and then be prepared to face the fact that I had, and still was, climbing the wrong mountains. I had to let go, fall and fall, and then climb back up the rock face to do not only what makes me happy but to convert that happiness into a contribution to the earth. For otherwise, my happiness would be short-lived, superficial and forged.
My understanding and personal journey of discovering my purpose is clear…
I had to discover my talents; look under many rocks; polish them and know how to bundle them so that they may benefit others and society, and I believe it is my moral obligation or duty to do so. Otherwise my skills are wasted. But I needed an enormous amount of courage to face this so-called ‘purpose’, and copious quantities of patience to allow it to manifest.
Then the question is, how to do your duty, how to best contribute – or, as the theologian Frederick Buechner put it, your vocation lies “where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet”.
My purpose is to serve. Perhaps I am not on my own here, perhaps it is OUR purpose.
x Annemaree x
I took this photo of a painting hanging in the spa at Shreyas Yoga Retreat in Karnataka. It is beautiful I think, and typical of some of the lovely Indian art one finds whilst travelling throughout the country.