*Not* a definitive guide to finding purpose

The featured image for this post is a “Little 11” poem I wrote for a writing prompt challenge going around the poetry community on Instagram (SHAMELESS SELF PLUG: you can follow my poetry at @tryingsofter). The poem structure of this particular challenge called for 11 words only, but I found that when I was done I had slightly more than 11 words to say about the topic, so instead of blasting the caption field with this, I thought I’d lay it out nice & neat on my blog. Everything in its right place.

Cost of purpose
breaks the bank
when we spend without intention.

This could apply to money, but mainly I’m talking about time & energy costs. Here is what I have learned over the past couple of years about “finding your purpose”:

1) Invest wisely.

2) Intention is everything. EVERYTHING. E V E R Y T H I N G.

3) Pay attention. Choose your words & actions in alignment.

4) Purpose = alignment = balance = happiness = purpose. See? Easy peasy.

5) The formula is easy peasy but that doesn’t mean it won’t take you years to figure that shit out. The pathway to the answer is surprisingly convoluted for being nothing but a bunch of equal signs. Arriving to it takes huge amounts of patience, faith, and trust.

6) So cultivate patience, faith, and trust.

7) Don’t believe everything you hear about “purpose” looking or feeling a specific way. Purpose is relative. It’s all you, baby, it’s all you. Explore to your heart’s content, and claim what makes it sing.

8) Don’t take my word for it. Everyone finds their purpose in their very own way and this is by no means a definitive guide. I just wanted to throw my perspective out there.


Do you have anything to add to this list?

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In Defense of Ditching Expectations

I have been a lifelong subordinate to my exceedingly high expectations.

The perfectionism runs strong. When I am having a Bad Day, it typically consists of struggling to get anything done because I am either 1) petrified at the possibility of experiencing my own perceived mediocrity, or 2) discouraged & angry from pushing through with something anyway and then being displeased with the results because they were not up to my standards like they were supposed to be (supposed to be, damnit!). This includes basic functions such as tidying up or taking a shower.

But this is not always the case, and I sat here at my little blog tonight to talk about how it feels when this is not the case, because that is important.

When being a victim to expectation is not the case, intuitive living is.

And this is what intuitive living feels like for me:

Getting really clear on my highest values and aligning myself to those values unapologetically.

For me, one of the utmost priorities in my life is writing and creating.

When I allow absolutely everything else in life to revolve around that, releasing expectations feels — effortless.

What it comes down to is that SO MANY of the expectations I hold for myself and my life circumstances are actually ones I picked up from other people. I adopted them from society, from childhood experiences, from previous and current relationships. Their expectations became my story, and separating my own bonafide expectations from the pile was a damn long journey (that I most definitely still am on).

But the most liberating discovery that comes from following MY expectations — the ones that are mine outside of external influence and conditioning, the ones that have held a place in my deep through hell and high tide and whispered their truth to me underneath all the years and the noise — is actually SO. EASY. to do.

Because the only ones I truly have for myself are that I’m

1) kind & happy
and
2) creating.

Knowing this, from here I can make any given decision at any moment to the best of my ability. It really is that easy. It really is. I know you may be skeptical (so am I on the Bad Days), but trust that the ease comes and that it is wondrous and real.

I can make decisions, and I can make them with confidence, and I can stand in the truth and power of them without feeling shaken by judgment.

(Side note: surrounding yourself with people who unconditionally support you and your choices helps, too. Go get you some of those if you don’t already have them.)

Of course responsibilities still loom and adulting is still so overwhelming sometimes, but recognizing that I can disown the expectations I’ve been carrying around that do not serve me (which in turn do not serve others) is a pretty damn big deal.

•••

What expectation can you let go of right now, as you read this? There are so many choices, friend. Do you hear those incessant cries of “you should be this, you should do that, your life should look a certain way”? Do you hear whose voices they are? Do they sound like yours? Are they loving? Are they wise? Do they reflect your heart and your soul and your spirit?

If they are not your own (and they very well may be, but you really need to listen to know for sure):

Take the echoes, hold them for a moment in your strong and gentle hands, and then drop them in the ether. Watch them tumble away into the fog. Tell me how it feels.

If you don’t miss them, you probably listened very hard, and for that you should celebrate.


Header image: “Westerly” by Freya Cumming

Do I want to be good or do I want to be free?

This morning one of my favorite humans on the planet, Elizabeth Gilbert, posted something on Facebook:

good-free

and it was so good and so timely.

This very summer, I finally figured out my calling.  It’s the thing that I get out of bed in the mornings for, it’s the thing that everything else in my life revolves around, and it’s the thing that I have been pulled towards all my life.  Funny how for all of these blatantly obvious signs it took me years to arrive at.  But of course, there were obstacles.  There are always obstacles.  There are obstacles now.

But what matters is that I found it: my calling.  My purpose.  My passion.  My thing.
My freedom.
I’ve distilled it down to its pure essence and bottled up an infinite supply.  And I have been deeply and joyfully immersed in it.

But I find that the high of following my freedom dwindles the most when I am in front of other people who may not agree with my path.

I get fearful, nervous, defensive.  I have trouble standing in my truth without immediately taking on the tone of a defiant teenage girl (aka my former self).

What I want the most is to be kind and firm simultaneously, but insecurity keeps me from achieving this.

I worry that in not knowing how to properly externally express my reasons why I’m doing what I’m doing, it somehow lessens its validation.  My mind, always the eager saboteur, says, “If you can’t explain it to others, do you really understand it yourself?”

(The answer, of course, says my spirit, is yes.  Not everything that is understood can be understood through words.  Words are only one form of language.  Any music fan will tell you that.)

But though spiritually I know this, layers of mental and emotional conditioning refuse to budge.  And it’s not only that, but it’s the idea that I somehow owe others an explanation. That it’s the “right thing to do” to make sure people properly understand.

And I guess that’s where being “good” comes in.
Because in reality, bestowing understanding upon others is not my responsibility.
Because there is no “proper” way to externally express one’s deepest, most heart-centered truth — but the “good” in me is determined to try anyway.  And the “good” in me is often synonymous with “perfection” and/or “outside approval”. See also: people- pleasing.  Hesitant.  Non-confrontational.  Overly self-conscious. A bit of a martyr.

And you know what?  I am not entirely pooh-poohing any of those things.  Though I definitely used some phrases there that typically come with bad connotations, there is a light side to everything.  Being the “positive version” of these things means I am aware of others’ feelings; I am sensitive; I am empathetic; I am flexible and adaptable.  Tactful, considerate, amiable.

And yet.

Everything in moderation.

There it is again: the “good”.  I am a good person because I care about others’ feelings.

But am I a free person?

When I am doing things with my life that I have been called to do: Yes, I am.
When I am loving others even when they don’t love my choices: Yes, I am.
When I am releasing the need to prove my own choices worthy: Yes, I am.

But you know, easier said than done.

I dream of one day being able to look my loving skeptics right in the eye and say softly and happily, “I know you are coming from a place of love and concern, but I am so happy, and the choices I’m making right now feel so amazing and empowering, and I trust myself.”

But until then, I’ll just continue to walk my path, honor my intuition, and constantly remind myself that even if it never makes sense to others, that is not the goal anyway.  The goal is, has been, and always will be to make sense to myself. And what I’m doing now makes the most sense anything has made to me in all my 28 years of living. I’d say that’s doing myself a “good” one.

And in time, when my happiness is evident — when it shines out through my face and the air is positively glowing with it — I think that will make all the sense to anyone.

•••

Further exploring?

 


Header image via Mara Hoffman

Advice on creating from Now Me to Past Me (not that she’d listen anyway)

Once upon a time, I wrote angsty heartbroken poetry and felt offended if it didn’t move people. I’ve done a lot of growing as a writer and as a human since then and I feel very differently now about life & creative pursuits.

If I could grant my past self a bit of perspective regarding writing, I would say: Try to connect. Try to relate. Try to grow.

Working through your feelings with words is wonderful and I highly condone it and I am proud of you for doing it. By all means, work with where you are and what you know, but keep in mind that from the moment you decide to share your writing rather than keep it to yourself, there is another element to consider: your audience. Honor the power and influence behind your words. Use them for good. Be wary of turning your work into a weapon. Don’t be petty. Don’t be vengeful. Be observant; be wise; be humble (oh, this one most of all). Don’t worry so much about trying to teach others something. Try to teach yourself something.

Write because you are connecting the dots. Let compassion drive your work. Think and feel things outside of your own bubble and then write to encompass more than just yourself. Looking into the mirror is only the first step. Afterwards you must try to be the mirror.

Don’t expect everyone to cry rivers over your work or to receive something profound; instead, trust people to take from your art what resonates and leave the rest. Your story is not for everyone. Some are living other frequencies; let them. The music doesn’t sound as good without all of the notes.

Creating in private is a noble, fruitful endeavor. But creating for public consumption is rather different, and its differences deserve to be acknowledged. When you share your work, creating is only one half of the equation; connection is the other half. You are entitled to create behind closed curtains, and to keep the results that way too. But if you opt to participate in the act of sharing, remember the purpose: to connect.

So, try to connect. Try to relate. Try to grow.


Header image via Unsplash
Typography courtesy of Over

Watering the seed

Number one on my list of New Year goals for 2016 was:

Honor my intuition. Embrace trust.

Easy to write down, not so easy to figure out how to do, it turns out. Especially when you’re a perfectionist/closet control freak/me – operating on years of learned self-doubt, inferiority complexes, overthinking, and anxiety. When you’re in the process of breaking through these molds, questions like these arise: Intuition? What does that even sound like? How do I recognize my “inner voice” when I have about a thousand of those going off all at once at any given moment of my existence?

But learning to listen to my intuition has been a lot simpler than I thought it would be, especially once I realized that intuition is often synonymous with curiosity. In fact, let’s just, for a blog post’s moment, take the word intuition off the table entirely and replace it with curiosity.

Curiosity, I’m learning, is quite possibly the most powerful seed that we can water. When I feed my curiosity, all of the things that are most important to me bloom: Knowledge. Creativity. Compassion. Similarly, when I deny my curiosity, joy + illumination seem much farther away. My walls go up and my world gets smaller.

Choosing what to focus on cultivating within ourselves can be a tough process sometimes. I’m learning to always go where the curiosity goes, to give it water and sunlight and allow it to thrive. It’s something I can always trust to be there to guide me, should I ever get lost (and let’s be real, directions were never my strong suit).

If you feel led astray, I suggest following the curiosity. It wanders far and wide, and it knows the way back home.

***

Further exploring?

Here are my recommendations:

0625-sail
Illustration by Mike Medaglia/One Year Wiser 

The Seeker and the Mystic: Permission

Dear Seeker,

I see you’re feeling skeptical about something again. Cast that aside, friend. It has never served you.

Let me remind you, skepticism never felt right. When you were a child, you were aware of the fact that skepticism was being taught to you. You didn’t have the words to articulate it at the time, but you realized it was being integrated into your upbringing. It appeared in school as “critical thinking” lessons. It appeared at home in the form of your mother’s constant admonitions: Be careful. Watch out.

You knew that, while well-intentioned, these things didn’t always fit. That they were meant to keep you from danger, but sometimes the only threat perceived was that of a differing belief. That sometimes these were fear-based projections being passed down, disguised as wisdom. As responsibility. As self-preservation.

But doubt never worked for you. Doubt never sat right in your soul. You knew there was more; there was always more.

As you grew older, you absorbed those lessons in skepticism, and it created a rift in your personality. You let it govern many of the choices you made throughout the years, but you were never able to truly accept this quality as a natural part of your personal reality. It just never quite belonged.

You have always rejected it in your heart. You have believed in magic from the start.

So take heed now: It will fail to serve you now more than it ever has. Let it go.

This is not to say that you shall henceforth throw yourself devoutly at the feet of all knowledge. It is only to remind you that I am here – your inner wisdom, your higher self, your intuitive guide – and I want to help you own your truth.

I see you thoughtfully considering all angles, all possibilities, all perspectives (and oh, there are so many…). I see you cradling some doubt in your arms, tensely, as if you are ready to drop it on the ground to free yourself but aren’t quite sure that’s allowed.

Go on – I give you permission. Return to your trusting roots. Embrace everything with an open mind, just as you have always done, and do so proudly. Truly own what you have always believed: There is no such thing as healthy skepticism. (Oooh, doesn’t that feel good? Doesn’t that burn bright with the fire of truth in your gut?)

Lovingly and mindfully tuck away into your heart what resonates as truth, and leave the rest. Allow all else to be as it is, in all its light and all its darkness. All things will find their own way. We are all just looking for the way home.

Allow yourself to continually recognize skepticism for what it really is: fear. Walk with it, but do not let it block your way. Take down those walls. Trust your instinct. There is magic beyond.

In love and light,
The Mystic

Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth.
— Adyashanti


Header image by ElenaLight on DeviantArt

On Orlando + consequences

Today I’m thinking about how upset we are about the tragedy in Orlando. We should be, we absolutely should be.

But many of us seem preoccupied with this idea of delivering justice – that the gunmen involved in the shooting, as well as every other person who’s gotten lost down a twisted, tangled path and made choices that affected so many people in awful and negative ways, deserve some sort of consequence. A terrible consequence for their terrible actions. Seems fair.

I think this is a completely normal part of the grieving process. In the wake of tragedy and loss, we are hurt. We don’t understand the pain, so we search for someone to blame it on. We need to be able to channel our pain and anger somewhere, and in our devastated state, it makes the most sense to lash out at the people who seemingly most deserve it. (By “seemingly”, I’m not implying that the attackers aren’t free of fault, but that we merely glance at the situation instead of looking deeper, towards a root cause.) It makes sense to demand consequences for this unethical, heartless behavior.

Consequence: That word brings to mind a conversation I had with my best friend just this morning about parenting. We discussed the idea that our actions are our children’s greatest teachers. We can give them consequence after consequence for behavior we don’t approve of. We can tell them to go to their rooms when they’re rude, or take away privileges when they cross boundaries. But in the end, it isn’t the consequences that teach them. It doesn’t provide an explanation for why what they’re doing is wrong. It may instill fear or rebellion (or perhaps a mix of both), but it won’t explain. It merely controls. It keeps an external situation from manifesting (if you’re lucky), but it won’t mesh with their deeper intellect.

Let’s switch the perspective some more. Do you remember a time when you were a kid and received consequences for a bad choice? I do. There were only ever two things that happened afterwards: Either I did it again or I didn’t.

If I did it again, it was because the next time the opportunity showed up, I felt like this time “it was different”. I felt justified in my behavior because this time “wasn’t like the other time”; I had different reasons, different motives and incentives, different expectations. It was on a case-by-case basis that I evaluated my actions, and usually I determined that each circumstance was its own world of reasoning. Sure, something bad happened the last time I did this, but this time – unlike the last time – I’m doing it because of x, y, and z. The consequences shouldn’t apply here, right? Right! thought little me.

If I never did it again, it was because I was scared. Yes, I stopped to consider the consequences. But the consideration inspired fear. Not awareness, not emotional intelligence, not an application of my inner moral compass to guide me to a rational decision coming from a place of respect. It was simply fear of experiencing punishment + my desire to avoid whatever bad thing I had coming.

Actually, I lied. There was a third thing that sometimes happened. I call it the “fuck ’em all” effect.

Sometimes, when I’d had enough, I questioned the rationality of these consequences. I wondered why, if I thought I was truly in the right, I had to be punished. All that was shown to me was that there were certain things I “shouldn’t” do, and that if I was brash enough to try them, bad things would happen. And I thought to myself, So let the bad things happen. I know that what I’m doing is right.

And maybe whatever it was I wanted to do wasn’t right. Maybe I was harming myself or others. Maybe I was limited to my narrow, self-absorbed perspective and was driven by something beyond rationality. I was either never taught why I shouldn’t do this thing, or the lesson hadn’t yet been absorbed into my understanding. But none of that mattered.

What mattered is that I believed I was right. And that belief trumped all consequences, because those did nothing to explain to me why I shouldn’t behave the way I wanted to behave. Fear be damned, I would have my free will! *insert fist slam on table here*

***

So sure, we could focus on consequences. On justice. On vengeance. On ego. On control.

But will it relieve our pain? Has it yet inspired hell-bent murderers and broken-souled perpetrators to reflect and reconsider? Will it in the future? Is “scaring into submission” the tactic we want to handle conflict with? And most importantly, are we creating a long-term solution?

Let’s sit with our pain. Let’s be compassionate with ourselves so that we may learn to be compassionate with others. Compassion doesn’t mean we excuse away bad choices. It just means we soak in this very important concept: Everyone is in pain. But not everyone has been given (or has found) the tools to deal with that pain in healthy ways.

Sometimes it gets out of hand. Sometimes lives are lost, tears are wept, and hearts are shattered into a million agonizing pieces. But reacting in hate won’t put the pieces back together, and it won’t make these horrific acts stop.

I can’t say for certain what will make them stop. I’m not in a position to determine that. All I know is that I believe in the power of love, and in the strength of the human spirit to be bigger and better than simply perpetuating fear. I believe in our abilities as individuals to practice consciousness and acceptance, and to spread it to our circles of community. I believe in our abilities as a community to overcome a fear-based reality and build (or rather uncover) a new one. We are alchemists. We can transmute lead into gold. But we have to practice daily.

/end reflective post
There are my seeds, and I have planted them.


Header image via Hey Eleanor on Facebook