Your life has many purposes. Many are fulfilled in your day-to-day life and you do not think of them as purposes. Yet you could say meaning and purpose motivated each choice, each experience, and each role you have played that taught you lessons about yourself, your relationships, people, organizations, and how life works. The learning and growth that has or is taking place from each experience moves you forward to greater awareness and can be seen as a purpose in your life. Some of you may choose to look broader and see the major theme or spiritual reason for your life. Knowing your spiritual purpose is a motivating and exciting force in one's life. Do you know your spiritual purpose or are you ready to take on another assignment?
Destiny calls some people in a direct, clear fashion and others in a general nonspecific way. Some people are very aware of their mission while others are not. Some people seek their spiritual purpose actively and others simply allow life to direct them not giving it much thought. Some do not have the need to define what they do as a spiritual purpose and other people do. If you have reached mid life or later life, it is common to seek deeper meaning and purpose for your life, beyond involvement with your family or work. To self-actualize further some of you may feel the urge to make a contribution to society, to help humanity and the world by using the wisdom gleaned from your life experiences and by using your gifts and talents. We will look at different ways people discover deeper meaning and purpose with some real life examples. I will also share some of my process of discovering my spiritual purpose. If you want to know your spiritual purpose or move on to another one there is a Life-Purpose Inventory at the end of this article to help you get started with this process. Those of you already on your path may use this information for clarity and to celebrate how you are already fulfilling your spiritual mission.
Some of you do not recognize that your spiritual Self, soul, or God (substitute the right word for you) has called you to express your life in a certain direction. Without defining it as a spiritual purpose, you may have had a lot of inner drive to accomplish certain goals or to develop and use certain talents many times as an avocation. If you were to turn around and review your life, you might see some important patterns that point in the direction of seeing your purpose. Maybe you had a strong desire to build or refinish furniture, to raise orchids, to know the names of local trees and birds, to write letters to the editor in your local paper, or to start your own business. I will tell you about two people that I believe are expressing their spiritual purpose in this way, yet might not describe it such terms. The desire to develop and enjoy one's interests and talents can be viewed as actualizing a spiritual purpose. If it happens to benefit others that is great; however, the fact is, if it brings more joy, peace, and love into your life, it benefits the world.
How do you reach deeper to find spiritual meaning and purpose that will motivate, stimulate, and enrich your life at any age? Let us look at two processes. There is a yin, or gentle, passive, or flowing approach, which allows your spiritual purpose to find you. Then there is the yang, directive, active, or seeking approach to finding your spiritual purpose. Many of you have experienced a combination of both processes.
Let me illustrate how the yin approach worked for two of my friends where for each their spiritual purpose found them. Friend number one had been on the journey to wholeness and self-awareness for a long time and had done a lot of inner healing before this purpose appeared. My friend and her husband adopted their granddaughter as a two-year-old. This was a total surprise and if you had asked my friend earlier if this was in the cards, she would have been the loudest person to protest. It evolved gradually and one day during a family crisis she just knew what she needed to do. Parenting this child with all the awareness that she now has is her spiritual mission and she is very conscious of the fact.
Breast cancer catapulted friend number two into her spiritual purpose which is healing her consciousness. This required her early on to review her life, looking at possible causes for the illness and healing the broken relationships with her husband and children. Nothing goes ignored by this woman and it has been over 15 years now. She uses her wake-up call as a path to wholeness, always going directly into the next issue that surfaces to be healed. For example, she has learned to feel and work with her emotions, the unhappy ones, as well as learning what joy and love are really about. Her daily spiritual practice time is a deeply ingrained pattern now. She uses art, journal writing, reading, and therapy to help her process years of pain and grief. She is actively involved helping, instead of avoiding, her mentally ill grown son and building honest communication with her husband.
Both of these women are aware of the spiritual purpose active in their lives. Some of you may have had similar experiences where Life handed you your spiritual purpose.
On the other hand, I am the example for the more yang approach in discovering one's spiritual purpose. The statement "taking heaven by storm" fit me well for many years. I actively went seeking the meaning of my life and dug deep to know my purpose. Answers were given to me; however, it was not until I was older that the information made much sense to me and it was then I felt the passion to actualize them. Timing is so important in living your life and fulfilling your missions. You can get answers when you ask, yet the time to actualize them depends on so many things: your maturity level, your ability to assimilate and integrate your experiences, and your degree of understanding the language of the soul, which is intuition and inner knowing.
Because I was so determined and so yang in my exploration of self and my inner healing, I found out a general overview of my life purpose early, at the age of thirty. The theme of my life I discovered is so simple that I almost did not get it. How did I find out? Part of my self-discovery process was to take workshops. In one exercise at a workshop, the participants were regressed backward in time before birth to meet their spiritual essence or soul. In the guided meditation we were asked many questions; such as, why did we choose our specific country, family, and time period to be born into, etc. We were asked why we chose our particular sex, race, and characteristics. One of the questions the facilitator asked was "What is your spiritual purpose?"
After the meditation we were to write down the information given to us. What was I given as my spiritual purpose? It was simply to teach what I know. I was not impressed and I put the paper away for many years thinking that it was not much of a purpose. When the time was right I found that paper again and by this time I had a much better grasp of its meaning. By that point in time I had given talks, facilitated groups and workshops, been in private practice as a therapist, and written several self-help books on topics relating to inner healing and understanding oneself. I smiled when I read this early glimpse of my purpose because that is exactly what I was doing. I was teaching others what I know based upon my own experiences and those things that have helped me on my journey to inner healing. In my presentations I had been prefacing most of my talks with, "I share with you what works for me and what I know is true for me from my experiences." As I journeyed, I received other insights relating to this general theme of my life or my spiritual purpose.
About six years later I had a powerful dream that spoke to me with a specific way to actualize this purpose. A few of my friends were going to a weekend intensive (workshop) with a spiritual teacher. I wanted to go; however, the timing was not right for me to attend. My purpose as a wife and mother were pulling me stronger at that time. A weekend away was not in the cards.
To my pleasant surprise I had a powerful dream that night that showed me that I really did not have to go to the workshop to receive a blessing from this guru. I remember in the dream humbly walking up to the guru (spiritual teacher) and asking her what my purpose was. She smiled, bowed her head, looked up and said, "It is writing."
I remember distinctly my reaction, which was similar to the reaction I had to the meditation six years previously. "Writing? I don't want that to be my purpose," I thought to myself as I watched myself dreaming. At that time I had written maybe two articles for a local metaphysical paper and felt very incompetent as a writer. It was a lot of work for me to do those two articles. I could not believe at the time that writing could possibly by on my spiritual agenda.
Again, I smile now as I look back. It makes perfect sense to me now; yet, it sure did not then. I am aware now I had the grace to find my spiritual purpose early, so it would be in the back of my mind as I was building my confidence, my self-esteem, my awareness, my patience, and raising my children. Even though I did not have the maturity to understand either experience fully, I pondered them many times and remembered them when I needed the courage to step forward on my path.
Now look at your own life. If you are not yet sure of what your spiritual purpose is, do you want to explore your consciousness to find out? Maybe you have a sense of completing a lot of lessons and are ready to take another step to find your spiritual purpose or another one? Do you know yourself pretty well and have you done much inner healing? Have you been asking yourself "Who Am I? Why am I here? What is my spiritual contribution to the world? How do I tune into divine guidance to direct my life?" These and many more questions will be surfacing when you are ready. Those of you just getting started on the spiritual journey, remember it is not a race and we do not compare ourselves with anyone else. We open when our timing is right. Many people discover their life purpose while they are in a process of self-discovery and inner healing. Others do not consciously know it for a long while.
Those of you who are on the yang side of the equation can take the Life-Purpose Inventory to help you start the deeper process. Get your journal out so you will have a record of your answers and insights for further study. Ignore any negative self-talk that wants to sabotage your spiritual blossoming. Fear and doubt may try to stop the inner guidance coming to you by telling you that you are not capable, evolved enough, or worthy enough to participate in life in a larger way. Remember it is your spiritual essence you want to tap into that is beyond all the negative conditioning. Allow the process to unfold as you weave together the tapestry of your higher purpose. Honor the proper timing for you. During your process pay attention to your dreams and jot down any messages, ideas, desires, visions, suggestions, hunches, or feelings you receive. Some people receive their messages in a silent voice that speaks to them, others see in pictures, and others just have a "feeling" sense of the answers.
After you have taken the Life-Purpose Inventory, mediate on your answers and journal write daily until you feel a sense of direction or clarity. You may sense the part you are to play and the arena in which you will play in the big picture of life or you may just see the next step or two for you. Write down all your impressions; they are important even if some appear to be mundane. For example, take it seriously if you feel you need to get your house, closets, drawers, and files in order. By eliminating what you do not need, you open the door for what you do need to come to you.
If you get the impression to simplify your hectic life, it will serve you to reevaluate your activities and prioritize your real needs and values to create a solid foundation for your spiritual mission just around the corner. You may feel the need to go on a special diet, acknowledge and heal one of your addictions, or start an exercise program. Once you complete these mundane steps, you will be given the next step and the next. The key is to follow each step and know you are progressing on your spiritual path. Continue to override doubt and negative self-talk and just keep going. Some day you will turn around and observe where you were two, five, or ten years ago and be pleasantly surprised that, by taking one step at a time, you got so far.
Honor your resistances and the times when you feel no willpower to put into practice what you know you need to do. Listen and you will find you probably need some nurturing or to finish some loose ends in your life, maybe heal one of your relationships, leave a job, or change your negative thinking. You are not backsliding if you go through a period of needing help.
Remember it is just as valuable a spiritual purpose to raise a child, to grow a garden, to uplift friends and family when they need love and encouragement, to develop one of your talents, to get to know your self, or to heal a problem, as it is to be president of your club, a musician, professional athlete, to teach a class, or write a book. The important thing is to be your true Self and actualize your spiritual purpose(s).
Whether you receive one step at a time or are given the big picture as you discover your spiritual purpose, it matters not. Just go with whichever way works for you. Your spiritual Self knows you and how to reach and motivate you. Thank goodness you do not have to be in charge, so relax into the process of discovering your spiritual purpose.
Some people have a specific calling and others have a more general purpose. Each of you has a special purpose that only you can fulfill or you would not be here or given the assignment. Do not underestimate the value of each and every one of you and your missions. The greater whole of humanity needs your particular note in the symphony of life.
1. List your talents, interests, and gifts (you may or may not be using them). Write about one that you would like to nurture.
2. What are things you love to do when you have the time? What do you enjoy?
3. What are things you see others doing or wish you could do if time, education, and money were not an issue? What might be the "perfect" job or career for you?
4. Write about a significant religious or spiritual experience you have had and how it impacts your life.
5. What do you think or feel would make your family, community, or the world a better place? What small part might you play to bring this about?
6. Discuss the major emotional events, traumas, or challenges that have influenced or shaped your life? Write about how they might motivate you to get involved in making changes in the world, in people's awareness, or to help others with similar issues or problems.
7. Write the most exciting future you can think of for yourself.
8. Who do you respect, admire, and wish to emulate? Explain. Write about possibilities where you might do some of the same things that you admire?
9. List the lessons you feel you have learned so far in life. Write about the ones that are still in process. (Clue: Lessons are brought to awareness where you experience conflict or dissatisfaction.)
10. What might you have to teach others who are a step behind you working through similar issues or challenges as yourself?
11. What do others say when they compliment you? Use your imagination and explore how these traits could be used in a greater way.
12. What childhood memories are themes in the patterns that you repeat in your adult life? Explain how some of these may be motivators to help you heal yourself and then model your process to others.
13. Pray or meditate asking God, a spiritual teacher, guide, angel, or wise person to give you insights about your spiritual purpose. See, hear, or feel answers which can come to you in insights, dreams, daydreams, etc. Write them down and discuss.
14. Write about joy and fulfillment.
15. Do you think your purpose is more about doing or being? Write freely what comes to mind.
16. Sit quietly and allow anything else that your unconscious wants to express to flow onto your paper.
Suzanne E. Harrill, M. Ed., LPC empowers individuals to build awareness, heal self-esteem, create satisfying, life-enhancing relationship, and to grow spiritually.
Suzanne’s Counseling and Writing:
•Encourages inner worth and healthy self-esteem
•Facilitates self-discovery, self-awareness, and inner healing
•Builds rich meaningful relationships
•Supports managing life challenges and transitions
•Helps one manage life challenges–divorce, illness or depression (within self or a family member), retirement, caring for elderly parents, dealing with adolescents
•Encourages creativity, confidence, and inner self expression through art and journal writing
Suzanne’s unique and intuitive approach, along with her warmth, combine to provide a personal, loving, and engaging experience which inspires others in their process of self-healing through inner work. Many of her clients see her as their fairy godmother, as in her book, Enlightening Cinderella, providing insights and support for inner healing, awareness, and transformation.
For over 30 years, Suzanne has facilitated the growth and awareness of many people through counseling, writing, teaching, and professional speaking. On a personal note, Suzanne has been married since 1966, has three grown daughters, and is a grandmother. She enjoys watercolor painting and creating original stained glass pieces.