I mentioned last week what I think I’m doing with my life and now I come to think about it, it’s a question I hear a lot when I’m doing readings:
What’s my purpose in life? How do I find it? And how will I know when I’ve got it right?
I refer to this as finding our ‘purpose string’, just because the phrase has a nice ring to it. I was talking to a friend the other day who says that when you’re doing ‘the right thing’, it feels right, whether it’s your job, volunteer work, or a hobby. You lose yourself in it and time seems to disappear. So how come we don’t all feel that way?
I’ve struggled with it too. Sometimes I try to march myself up a path that isn’t the right one. I can report that when I do that, it’s always a hard slog. But I have to admit that doing what feels ‘right’ isn’t always easy either. It’s just that when it’s ‘right’, I feel it’s worth the hard work. It seems to be a ‘gut feel’ sort of thing.
How do I describe a ‘gut feel’? Sometimes it’s easier to describe what DOESN’T feel right. Then we can compare it to how it has felt in the past when we were doing something that felt good. And if our heads don’t recognize the difference, our bodies usually object pretty loudly to the ‘wrong’ thing. One person I know said that he had ulcers. Another said it was migraines. Still another described insomnia.
My body doesn’t usually get as confused as my head – my gut, in particular, has never steered me wrong. It reports loud and clear on what it thinks of the situations into which I place myself. I’ve learned that I ignore these votes at my peril. I’ve noticed that some of my physical reactions can be instantaneous, such as: yawns; temperature changes; ringing in my ears; sudden, stabbing headaches; nausea; tears; fumbling or clumsiness; muscle cramps; and even sneezes.
If I ignore these sudden changes, then my body symptoms can intensify and stick around for longer. I’ve had my back go out, skin reactions, allergies and chronic problems that affect digestion or circulation.
Actually, what I’ve learned most of all is that my body is a democracy and I have to listen to myself as I would to a constituent in my community. If I don’t listen, the requests become more persistent and affect more of me – just like in a community. Pain or illness can be both a protest and a teacher. If I don’t understand the initial message, it comes in more ways and/or gets louder, until I pay attention. Body and spirit need our attention and if we ignore either of them, we’ll hear about it, eventually.
So, my answer to the question posed to me so often is this: pay attention. I have thought that our bodies might be like a scientific experiment. We try a little of this job search and see what happens to our body symptoms. Then we try a little of something else and see what happens then. Sometimes trial and error is a good way to learn in life. It might be the closest thing we have to a User’s Manual.