Awhile back, I wrote about what happens when your sense of ambition fades away: when your ego, that desperate “TO DO” voice in your head no longer has any influence on you. It’s a common experience for many on the path. It sounds blissful, but in reality it can be uncomfortable when your personal will fades out and there is very little motivation to “do” anything. It’s weird and a little unsteady.
Well, today I had an inspiring conversation with a friend. He is in a deep egoless place, and yet is profoundly affected by something deep inside, passionately wanting expression.
He was sharing with me that when he hangs out in the non-dual/spiritual crowd, everyone seems to summarize this drive, or “purpose”, as something purely egoic, and they kind of shut the conversation down there. I think a lot of non-dual teachers disengage from the conversation around purpose in order to drive home the very delicate and necessary teaching of no separate self. I understand the need for this, because separate self or ego can be so subtle, and seeking purpose from there will always come to a dead end. Ego’s drive is never going to lead one to peace, so these teachers tend to keep the message about purpose simple. And from this reference point, it’s not something that needs a lot of focus; it just fades out and then kind of finds a more natural expression.
However, my friend went on to tell me what happens when connects to “purpose people”, a totally different reference place: those teachers and communities that are all about your personal mission in the world, and really help people to amplify and explore this drive. In those rooms, the non-dual perspective tends to be very misinterpreted and badly appropriated. Which is super funny to me, because I can be really naïve about this. I’ll walk into one of these rooms and suddenly smell this kind of over-grandiose spiritual stuff: a room filled with mala beads, man buns, deep eye gazes that last 10 minutes, big sincere-ish nods, and always, always space for feminine wisdom, which is mainly expressed via boldly designed yoga pants and a vegan diet.
All of this might be described as “ego central”, although it’s a very “spiritual” ego. The thing is, these communities believe that they represent an international sign of “no ego”. Between you and me, I am the odd person out in that room. My truth, my access to silence, my non-compromise spirit makes me a total asshole in that environment. To them, *I* am ego central. Their reaction to my presence: “Throw that devil of a woman out of here! We are all talking about sincerity and peace and being really nice to everyone, and softening our opinions so we can have world peace, and she is upsetting this process with her self-centered delicious yes shit!” I always walk out feeling like, “Oh, right… Jesus got thrown out of temple, and Rumi was a really freaky dude to the community elders…”
So when we’re talking about motivation coming spontaneously from within, passionately wanting expression? From the non-dual house, it’s all ego. From the purpose house, it’s all ego. It’s a catch 22.
Where is this strange passion arising? Where is this desire to be fully utilized coming from? And how do you understand it? Or is everyone right, and it’s purely ego?
Let’s not dismiss it out of hand. Instead, let’s explore a few really obvious things.
Purpose has a lot to do with our human incarnation. It can be defined as a drive to fully utilize all your natural talents and gifts. So we can say that the first purpose is your very incarnation. Each moment, this creation of your personhood emerges out of the vast spaciousness, and that is driven by a divine expression. It is originally energy, light and pure space, yet there is a personhood expressing itself, materializing into form. That in and of itself is a huge purpose: you simply BEING, before all the conditioning and fear that create ego even begin.
Also, that very personhood comes with a unique wiring—a built-in software package that we might call a “calling”. Although it’s hard to describe, we can smell it in people. Some people are just natural teachers, wired just perfectly for it. I would put my friend and mentor Adyashanti in this category; one of the reasons he is so excellent at what he does is because he is wired to teach. I project that he could teach a lot of different things if he wanted. Being Awakened does not incline a person to teach, but his personal wiring does. You can sense this about him because you don’t have to search his words for what they mean, you don’t have to find a way to meet him where he is speaking. His being and his words come and meet you, right where you are. Even if you don’t really get it, it’s so easy to understand anyway. That is how I would define a natural teacher, someone who naturally knows how to meet you where you are.
We all have a unique wiring that gives us a natural fluency, and what is awesome is that it’s usually in a few different areas. For some, it’s a strategic way of seeing everything. For others, it’s a way of approaching adventure. For others, it’s all about movement or music. This natural wiring is a phenomenon that we talk about all the time. Dancers will often tell you that even as children they saw the world through dance. When they closed their eyes and heard music, what they saw, more than heard, was the sounds being danced. They understand the world through this filter—they see things being danced. Painters can easily see the lines and shadows in a person’s face. CFOs and mathematicians have always loved counting. And on and on.
We all have a unique wiring that is actually totally easy and naturally joyous, no matter how quirky. These drives are not separate from the ease and naturalness of purely BEING they are a continuation.
Can you recall those funny little quirks and fluencies you had, those things that you know you came out of the womb with? A signifier is that they really grounded for you around the age of 10-12.
I don’t mean those conditioned ones—like because your family was so chaotic and dysfunctional, you had to be responsible and take care of everyone, so today you tend to take on way too much responsibility for everyone’s emotional well being. Or your family were immigrants, so you had to be a doctor or you would bring shame to them and the sacrifices they made for you, and so you always tend to doubt yourself and find it much easier to just please everyone instead, and so your think your quirkiness is how relaxing it feels to please people.
What I mean is, if all that painful conditioning and fear burned out of your system today, there would be a deeper aspect of that same thing just simply expressing itself in you. Maybe it’s really feeling the pain of humans around you—that would still be there, wanting to be utilized. There, under all the ego and pain, is that deeper thing that, when expressed, just feels like pure joy!
If we could all feel those things, I think we would all notice that there is more than just one purpose. We each have an abundance of them. For me, there is a very clear software package for being with children. I just really hear and see kids. In kindergarten, I was putting the other kids to sleep at nap time and helping them with snacks and snuggles. Being with kids brings me immense joy; there is a natural fluency and ease. Today, I don’t work directly with kids, yet if I’m walking on a trail or sitting in a restaurant or standing in line for a movie, I am always softly whispering to nearby parents what their toddler is saying or what their infant is actually asking for. I don’t need certain conditions to be available for my “gift”, it’s just always there, spilling out of me, moving effortlessly, and before I know it I have translated to the parents what their two-month-old infant is saying. It’s just what happens.
However, I also have a purpose to know and access source. I also have a purpose to teach. And teaching oneness, practically, as it functions in our day-to-day ordinary lives, brings me immense joy, and constantly rejuvenates my energy. Somehow, all those purposes come together in my teachings.
My mother was also a teacher. That was very clearly a purpose for her—it always gave her joy she taught in the public school system, and even when the conditions were extremely challenging, it did not deplete her energy very much. Her natural fluency easily overrode the challenges of a very under-funded, under-resourced public school system. And her capacity evolved and the continuum of these natural wirings grew over her career.
On the other hand, there are many teachers that are entirely depleted at day’s end, and challenges of teaching in public school make them sick, drained, and less functional. These folks are not wired to teach children in a school setting, and as a result, are getting sick by the terrible conditions of our school systems.
The same can be said about therapists, environmental engineers, actors, healers, accountants, lawyers, public servants, etc. There are those that are naturally wired to it, and those that are suffering inside the system.
So where does the confusion come in?
Well, let’s take the example of teaching. There is a strange assumption that when a person wakes up to their original nature, they should teach. That there is this one path. You seek, you wake, you teach… as if the world doesn’t need awakened lawyers, accountants, engineers, ranchers, and artists!
Or with therapists, we have the wounded therapist archetype: these are people who need healing, and need to be heard. And the confusion is that this makes them naturally inclined to hearing others, and that they would be rejuvenated to be around healing conversations all day. But the constant depletion and fatigue and conditional availability is proof that it’s otherwise.
I look at chefs and can’t even imagine those conditions being nourishing! On your feet 12-20 hours a day, in a hot kitchen, with all those smells! Chopping onions and garlic? And those are the least of the conditions! Yet, a natural chef thrives in this environment. Their love of food, textures, curiosity, and sense of adventure overrides the stresses of the environment. Instead of getting sick, depleted, and grumpy, their capacity evolves and grows and they innovate, contribute, and thrive in ways that surprise them.
Or take someone who is very judgmental, constantly judging the world around them. This is probably a person with a natural capacity for strategy. Burn all the wounding and painful parts down to the ground, all that fear and righteousness and injustice, and what is left is likely a natural analyst, with a joyous and very natural capacity for seeing the most efficient pathways. That natural strategist is still there… but there is so much self-help 101 that calls shame on judgment and condemns it as purely ego and fear and toots the forgiveness cure-all! “Detox all judgment!” Makes for a whack of confusion, right?!
The confusion comes in when we are not listening to our internal navigation, but are being commandeered by fear and attachment. When fear says, “you don’t matter,” or “you’re not good enough.” And then your culture or family or community says “being an artist is crap, you have to be a dentist to be safe and valuable and that is how you make me proud.” Or, “being an Awakened teacher will make you special.” Or, “you can’t live off a musicians salary, you can’t support a family, you will have to be a professor!” Or, “spiritually evolved people don’t get angry or judge; you should be placid and peaceful if you want people to listen to you.” Or, “your problem is that you should be more happy as a therapist.” Or, “dancing is just a hobby!”
There is huge pressure there, and no understating that fear and attachment are huge and often generationally entrenched.
Nevertheless, everyone has a natural internal wiring, and everyone has a deep drive to be fully utilized, and every one of these deep callings emerges out of the pure silent stillness of being. And every one of these callings serve in miraculous ways. Gardening, cooking, preaching, managing, accounting, teaching, coordinating… they all serve. And perhaps the last piece of the purpose puzzle is this: when you are aligned with your purpose, you innovate, you thrive, and you surprise yourself at what is actually possible.
Need some help figuring this out? We have some new openings in the one-on-one meetings…