As a Shaman, I can honestly say that I have lost count of the number of times a client has asked me, “What is my purpose in life?” It is almost as though people feel that their purpose is somewhat of a task, or a mission, and if they don’t “clue in” to it, they are going to somehow fail in life. Sometimes they want to hear things like, “You are supposed to be a healer,” or, “Your purpose is to solve world hunger.” That sort of thing is actually ego-based and gets a big “fail” from me every time someone starts blathering on about the huge importance of their “purpose here in this life.”
The thing is that, from the time of birth onward, each person has already begun their “purpose.” It is not like they absolutely MUST become a doctor, lawyer, astronaut, priest, healer, shaman, leader of a country etc in order to fulfill their purpose. Those are just the things one does in life. Those are things that put a roof over one’s head and clothes on one’s back. But a person can be any one of these things and still miss the mark on their purpose. This is usually because the person is equating their purpose with what one DOES, instead of with who one IS.
For example, a homeless person asks you if you have any spare change. Do you give them money? Do you instead buy them a sandwich? Do you walk past and ignore their presence altogether? Do you even care that they exist? A person who cares about their existence is a person who is fulfilling their purpose, regardless of what they do for a living.
Fulfilling one’s purpose is about truly connecting with the deep compassionate part of the human existence. It is not about judging others for what they do or do not have. It is about connecting and helping your fellow human being. But to do so one’s focus needs to shift from what they have to who they are. And when that happens, one will discover that their spiritual well-being becomes far more important than having the latest model sports car, iphone, property, clothes or jewels.
One’s spiritual well-being is what connects us to the Source, whatever one wants to call that Source. And as such, one cannot ignore the human condition. Yes, sometimes one will be extremely disappointed in fellow human beings, especially when one sees how our fellow human beings will harm one another on a daily basis. But there becomes no need to get swept up on the turmoil of that. There becomes a greater need to, each and every moment, find ways in which to be present and make things easier.
Although it does not include human interaction, I will give you an simple example of this type of awareness from my very human life. A few weeks back, on one of the hottest days of the year, during a heat wave that we were having, I was out front of my house watering my bedding plants. My dog, Freddy, was inside, watching me through the window. I had been out there for about ten minutes when I saw something move behind me in the reflection of the window. Freddy saw it as well and began to bark his little head off. I turned around and there, on my front lawn, were two rabbits. Our neighbourhood has a LOT of wild rabbits who usually live in the park, a block away, but wonder through the neighbourhood foraging for food as well. Normally the rabbits would bolt away at the first sign of a human. These ones were slowly making their way over to me. I realized that they were wanting water. Of course, with a heat wave, most of the water in the parks and streets had dried up, and here I was watering my plants. So as to not frighten them, I spoke softly to them, saying, “Hello, here is some water for you,” and then slowly, with the water pressure turned down real low, began to inch the water in their direction. Eventually, with them only about five feet away, the water was gathering around a plant in the middle of my yard. They very cautiously began to sip from the puddle. I just held the water steady and slow, allowing the puddle to slowly grow. They drank till they had their fill, even though they could hear Freddy barking on the other side of the front window. Once they had their fill they took off down the street. This simple act was one in which I recognized a need and just responded to it in the moment. It was exciting for me to be able to have that brief interaction with them. They are beautiful little creatures. But I truly felt that in doing this I was, in some small way, fulfilling my purpose in life. After all, we are supposed to be the caretakers of the earth and its inhabitants, and that includes plants and animals. Too many people do not recognize that concept.
A few years back I was walking downtown running errands when a homeless man asked me if I could spare change. I never carry cash on me, but I stopped and told him that I don’t, but that if he is hungry or thirsty I would be willing to buy him food and/or drink. He looked so surprised. He accepted my offer, so we went across the street to a small cafe and I bought him breakfast and a coffee. I think he expected me to just hand it to him and be gone, but instead I also ordered myself a coffee and I sat down with him while he ate and asked him about his life. When he was done, I said that I really had to get on with my business for the day and thanked him for the visit. He told me that I had given him the best start to a day that he has had in at least 2 years. And what made a difference to him was that I did not just treat him like he was invisible. I treated him like he was a human being. After that, for a while, I started to make sure that I had spare change in my pocket. I know that some folks are harsh and think that this would just encourage the homeless to hang around and harass people. I don’t think that way. I wanted to be able to at least hand a person a few cents along the way so that they could be able to get themselves a coffee. And if they chose to spend it on something else, that is their business, not mine.
In a world where there are so many harsh circumstances and jaded people, I truly feel that it is important to extend one’s heart wherever one can. I learned this from watching a friend of mine way back in my 30’s. We had met on the University campus and were walking through campus to a coffee shop. As we did, there were two men approaching us. One of them asked for directions to a particular building. I knew the campus well at that time so was able to give the directions for him, but as I did, my friend asked his friend where they were from, as they were obviously immigrants. My friend had immigrated from Iran, and her entire demeanor was one of hospitality. We spoke with these men for about 20 or 30 minutes, and when we were done, she said to them, “Well, welcome to Canada! Have a great day!” I was so proud of her in her humanitarian approach to life, and I decided then and there that I was going to be even more like that. Every day I have worked on becoming more so.
It is experiences such as these that help us to grow on a spiritual level, but also on a deep heart level. Some folks don’t differentiate between the two, but some certainly do. That is when you will get people who do not practice what they preach; people who will preach love of your fellow man, but also foster hatred to anyone who is not exactly the cookie cutter form that they see as valid. As our hearts open, however, we become more aware of the connectedness that takes place on a daily basis. Although we do not become naive, we do become more sincerely trusting in life. And the reason for that is that we begin to truly trust ourselves. It does not matter what anyone else does in life as long as we trust who we are and what we stand for. When that happens, we no longer worry so much about what others think of us (thus not caring so much about material possessions) and care more about what we think of ourselves. We do what is humanly right, even if it is not the easy thing to do. And we find ourselves speaking out against injustices and bigotry. We don’t have to be a high roller to do that. We just need to be a human being.
So when someone is wondering what their purpose in life is, I will often ask them, “Are you a human being? And do you treat others as though they are also a human being?” If the answer is “yes” then they are already fulfilling their life’s purpose. If the answer is honestly “no” then that is where we begin the work.