Meaning and Purpose

Posted on December 19, 2010

Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, what is the purpose of life? For some this question provides a springboard to uncovering deeper significance and meaning in life. Others may strive relentlessly to ‘find their purpose’ – which may feel like chasing a rainbow. And yet many who experience life to be a never ending stream of problems might raise the question, “What’s the point anyway?”

To ask this question is rather like asking, what is the purpose of watching a movie when we know it is going to end? Or sleeping, when we know we will need to wake up again! Or the purpose of eating a meal when we know it will soon be over (and the hunger pangs will eventually begin again)? The question seems to assume that nothing has a point, as it will only ultimately end. But we know that premise is not true and we carry on doing these things as they serve a purpose of enjoyment, comfort, fulfilment and satisfaction.

As soon as we start to see life as a journey and not a destination, the answer becomes clear. Life is like a river. Rain gathers to give birth to a stream: the stream grows to become a river, the river passes through many stages, things added to it and taken away from it. It meets obstacles and yet keeps on flowing. The journey is the purpose of the river… of life.

Like the river, finding ones meaning and purpose does not mean to arrive at the destination… it is the pleasure and adventure of the journey – of being and not simply becoming. In a spiritual context it means to simply BE and to enjoy the moment with full awareness. With an awakened spirit we can start to put greater significance back into every second of our life. Every moment is precious, valuable, important and purposeful, as this moment will give birth to the next and the next and next…

The seasons also teach us many lessons. For one, they show us that we will definitely get through whatever we are enduring in the moment. During the winter months, the trees are so dry and naked, that it seems unlikely they will bear any fruit. Yet as we tolerate the harsh, stormy weather, we understand that winter will indeed pass, spring will come and when the climate is appropriate, the first green shoot will emerge. With every end there is a new beginning – we cannot resist change.

We can see these cycles as part of the necessary order of things. Everything has its time to flourish, and it’s time to rest and rejuvenate. ‘Life’ in the wider sense is ultimately about balance. The old energy needs to change into new energy. Everything will decline, degenerate, deteriorate, disintegrate … but only so that renewal, rejuvenation, ‘rebirth’, repair and restoration can take place. The Chinese principle of Ying and Yang exemplifies these forces, and tells us there are two sides to everything, but at the same time there is ultimate balance.

In the same way if I am passing through some personal turmoil and turbulence, though it may be destabilizing, and involves loss of the familiar, nevertheless, let me keep the faith that it will surely pass and keep myself available for the next opportunity. Be like the surfer who although missed the last wave, doesn’t waste his time sulking, and walking away from the beach… he is eager to catch the next wave coming any moment!

Life becomes meaningful because things are temporary and changing. Life has value because we are always experiencing something new. If they were permanent, we would not learn, grow, enjoy and adventure. We would be like a stagnant pond.

In fact, there is meaning and purpose to everything. Just look around you for a moment, there is nothing that does not have purpose: the clock, the armchair, the lamp, the book, the table etc. Everything was created for a purpose and it is ‘living’ its purpose. In the same way human life has a purpose to express and experience: expressing one’s innate qualities and experiencing the rewards of those expressions (hopefully in the form of happiness).

We simply have to embody virtues and powers: when we are tolerant, kind, caring, and patient for example, we are our purpose. When we are at peace, we are being purposeful. Thus at every second, every moment, we are indeed fulfilling our purpose! There is no destination to meet or anywhere I need to ‘get to’, it’s here, right now, in this moment!
There is a saying by Gautum Buddha: “Don’t just do something – stand there.” This simple phrase can teach us some of the deepest secrets of life. We can strive persistently towards an ‘end result’, thereby losing each precious moment to the promise of something better in the future or breathe in the moment right now!

It’s time… to stop resisting the flow, to focus on enjoying the moment for what it is and fulfil our real purpose of being, expressing and sharing our innate god-given gifts and virtues. This is what creates our character, nurtures our soul, enriches out relationships and generates a life of value, purpose and meaning. Then, whatever we are meant to ‘do’ or ‘fulfil’ in this life will automatically emerge, as easily as the sun will rise tomorrow – was there ever a doubt?

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Very beautiful article. Really explain the purpose of life well.