In this post, I’d like to invite you to check out a different aspect of finding your purpose with me, and for that, I’ll cite an excerpt of an article written by Jeremy Adam Smith, editor of Berkeley’s online magazine, the Greater Good.
Why this article was so interesting to me is partly because what the author says can also be translated to the language of our chakras, and partly because it correlates with my experiences as a Karma Killer Yoga instructor both through my life and through those that I’ve been working with over the years.
It’s also nice to see how different approaches of the same question can exist next to each other without crashing, and it’s always refreshing to learn about the points of view of others.
Let’s start learning together, then by checking out how the author begins with connecting the sense of purpose with overcoming isolation and being a part of a community.
Do you have a sense of purpose?
For decades, psychologists have studied how long-term, meaningful goals develop over the span of our lives. The goals that foster a sense of purpose are ones that can potentially change the lives of other people, like launching an organization, researching disease, or teaching kids to read.
Indeed, a sense of purpose appears to have evolved in humans so that we can accomplish big things together—which may be why it’s associated with better physical and mental health. Purpose is adaptive, in an evolutionary sense. It helps both individuals and the species to survive.
Many seem to believe that purpose arises from your special gifts and sets you apart from other people—but that’s only part of the truth. It also grows from our connection to others, which is why a crisis of purpose is often a symptom of isolation. Once you find your path, you’ll almost certainly find others traveling along with you, hoping to reach the same destination—a community.
Here are six ways to overcome isolation and discover your purpose in life.
Smith points out that having a sense of purpose has its benefits both individually (better physical and mental health) and collectively (referring to the survival of our species). And he mentions a very important and maybe somewhat underrated or overlooked point of view: that the lack of purpose can be a symptom of isolation, and along that way of thinking, he recommends these six methods to overcome it.
So let’s see his suggestions one by one below.
Reading connects us to people we’ll never know, across time and space—an experience that research says is linked to a sense of meaning and purpose. (Note: “Meaning” and “purpose” are related but separate social-scientific constructs. Purpose is a part of meaning; meaning is a much broader concept that usually also includes value, efficacy, and self-worth.
So Smith interprets reading as a means of connection. He begins his list with an element which can be helpful even to those who are suffering the most from isolation whether because of an illness, an overwhelming life situation, a mental state or even financial difficulties (as reading is a relatively cheap option compared to a therapist, for instance).
People who struggle with similar situations or conditions seek each other’s company through support groups (either in person or on Facebook, let’s say) or forums to find solace in knowing that they are not alone. This is quite similar to how tribal healers and shamans used the power of connection either with the community or with the divine source during the process of healing.
In addition to providing a link, reading may also serve as a sign or as an inspiration to many. Reading may give us a boost of energy we wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere. It may be the last piece of information or a trigger we need to set out on a new path.
Everything is energy. Words on the pages convey energy. And far beyond the effects of words woven together in a certain sequence, their energetic component and message may have the power either to evoke fear and hatred or to evoke love and compassion and unity in us.
To demonstrate, I brought you a short fragment of the book Karma Killer by Anamé Valéria Balázs. Try to read it slowly, and let the words sink in, making their effect.
[…] I realize that I received many opportunities in my life. I got the opportunity to get to repeat some situations that had previously left an imprint of hate in me. So that I could turn hate into love. I would like nothing more than to progress, and to reveal reality even better. Even the smallest deposit of hatred hinders me in the achievement of my goal, in a way similar to a bolted iron door.
I accepted all this of my own free will, out of love. There is absolutely no chance that this be considered a punishment.
If you feel like, you can try this with different types of texts (maybe not with texts about let’s say the role of RNA in human development and cognition or such as a first choice ;)), and see how they can make their effects in many layers.
And back to Smith’s tips, the next one encourages us to step out of the receiving side, and to reach out to others.
2. Turn hurts into healing for others
Kezia Willingham was raised in poverty in Corvallis, Oregon, her family riven by domestic violence. “No one at school intervened or helped or supported my mother, myself, or my brother when I was growing up poor, ashamed, and sure that my existence was a mistake,” she says. “I was running the streets, skipping school, having sex with strangers, and abusing every drug I could get my hands on.”
When she was 16, Kezia enrolled at an alternative high school that “led me to believe I had options and a path out of poverty.” She made her way to college and was especially “drawn to the kids with ‘issues’”—kids like the one she had once been. She says:
I want the kids out there who grew up like me, to know they have futures ahead of them. I want them to know they are smart, even if they may not meet state academic standards. I want them to know that they are just as good and valuable as any other human who happens to be born into more privileged circumstances. Because they are. And there are so damn many messages telling them otherwise.
Sometimes, another person’s pain can lead us to purpose.
Kezia’s story is a typical way of finding our life’s purpose: a hardship that we’ve had to endure can become something valuable. On the one hand, it can give us comfort that the suffering was not pointless, and on the other hand, we can help others by having been in their shoes and by being able to show them a way out not through some smart words but through our whole being. And finding such a life purpose will become healing to all parties.
It all makes sense already in itself. But if we want to put it in a higher perspective, again, the concept of karma and the evolution of a soul become unavoidable factors. To show that, here’s another part of Karma Killer by Anamé.
I see my grandmother’s future greatness, since at a higher energy level, not only the past, but also the future is revealed, and to top it all, both happen simultaneously, at the center of the present. […]
In the distant future, this will be the point when in my grandmother’s energy pattern, the infinitely valuable living code of child abuse committed by her becomes a jewel shining in the light of consciousness. This karmic imprint had been working subconsciously the whole time: at lower energy levels it activated rougher energies, creating physical and spiritual suffering. But at this level of consciousness, karma will no longer mean the suffering of the consequences of one’s actions, but acts of forgiveness. At this higher energy level, as the consequence of the activation of the old karmic imprints, my grandmother will feel a fiery, inner impulse to stand up for the rights of abused children and all circumstances will align to help her.
3. Cultivate awe, gratitude, and altruism
Several studies conducted by the Greater Good Science Center’s Dacher Keltner have shown that the experience of awe makes us feel connected to something larger than ourselves—and so can provide the emotional foundation for a sense of purpose.
Of course, awe all by itself won’t give you a purpose in life. It’s not enough to just feel like you’re a small part of something big; you also need to feel driven to make a positive impact on the world. That’s where gratitude and generosity come into play.
“It may seem counterintuitive to foster purpose by cultivating a grateful mindset, but it works,” writes psychologist Kendall Bronk, a leading expert on purpose. As research by William Damon, Robert Emmons, and others has found, children and adults who are able to count their blessings are much more likely to try to “contribute to the world beyond themselves.” This is probably because, if we can see how others make our world a better place, we’ll be more motivated to give something back.
Here we arrive at altruism. There’s little question, at this point, that helping others is associated with a meaningful, purposeful life. In one study, for example, Daryl Van Tongeren and colleagues found that people who engage in more altruistic behaviors, like volunteering or donating money, tend to have a greater sense of purpose in their lives.
Interestingly, gratitude and altruism seem to work together to generate meaning and purpose. In a second experiment, the researchers randomly assigned some participants to write letters of gratitude—and those people later reported a stronger sense of purpose. More recent work by Christina Karns and colleagues found that altruism and gratitude are neurologically linked, activating the same reward circuits in the brain.
Reading this part of the article, I found it interesting that nothing so far has been said about one’s individual goals. It seems that though we all have goals in our lives that we want to achieve for ourselves (like having family, a good job, health or financial stability), when it comes to discovering our life purpose, we appear to aspire higher.
What could be the reason for that? From an energetic point of view, individual goals belong to the lower chakras or energy centers, which are more about how we can base ourselves in the material world with all its existential, relationship, and career issues.
At the level of the heart, however, our world opens to others, and by the time we reach the level of the throat chakra, which is the area of our true self and true calling, it’ll be already pervaded with that quality of the heart chakra.
As Anamé writes about It in Karma Killer:
The perfect completion of our task is not enough. The day will come when this beautiful soul will look at the oppressors with the same love as she does at the oppressed. On that day, she will forgive herself for the things that she didn’t even think were wrong at the time she did them, and which to top it all, she doesn’t even remember. On that day, the karmic imprint that was responsible not only for her suffering, but also for her enlightenment, will unravel. This is the same code that compelled her towards constant progression and to surpass herself.
There shall be no more need for the code, when there shall be no more need for fear and pain for you to stay on the road towards your true self.
4. Listen to what other people appreciate about you
Giving thanks can help you find your purpose. But you can also find purpose in what people thank you for.
The artists, writers, and musicians I interviewed often described how appreciation from others fueled their work. Dani Burlison never lacked a sense of purpose, and she toiled for years as a writer and social-justice activist in Santa Rosa, California. But when wildfires swept through her community, Dani discovered that her strengths were needed in a new way: “I’ve found that my networking and emergency response skills have been really helpful to my community, my students, and to firefighters!”
Although there is no research that directly explores how being thanked might fuel a sense of purpose, we do know that gratitude strengthens relationships—and those are often the source of our purpose, as many of these stories suggest.
Listening to others with an open heart and mind, that is to say, with a cleansed and energized heart chakra and third eye chakra, is a great compass. Until the final meaning and the final purpose of your life is not yet revealed, other people can help you along the way. And why do I say cleansed and energized? Because the more cleansed and energized your heart is,, the less probable it is that you use the feedback to either bloat your ego or feel aggrieved. Instead, you are free from the imprints that would jump on judgements coming from others, and are able to see the true value in what you hear from them.
5. Find and build community
If you’re having trouble remembering your purpose, take a look at the people around you. What do you have in common with them? What are they trying to be? What impact do you see them having on the world? Is that impact a positive one? Can you join with them in making that impact? What do they need? Can you give it to them?
If the answers to those questions don’t inspire you, then you might need to find a new community—and with that, a new purpose may come.
The heart chakra. Quoting Karma Killer by Anamé again:
Your heart will open up to yourself and others, making condemnation impossible, since you see life in its flow and in intertwining relationships. Viewed from here, even the greatest darkness is transitory and not a final destination.
This level will bring the gift of forgiveness. […] You see that revenge only breeds suffering and we humans are united in suffering, but are also united in that we carry the light within us, that will guide us out of it.
6. Tell your story
Reading can help you find your purpose—but so can writing,
Purpose often arises from curiosity about your own life. What obstacles have you encountered? What strengths helped you to overcome them? How did other people help you? How did your strengths help make life better for others?
Again, from an energetic point of view, we’re talking about the throat chakra here. This is when you show your treasures to the world, your true values, with your whole being and your whole life. Words, written or spoken, are only a means, but their power comes from experience, from having had your way through all the challenges of the path.
So, as I mentioned at the beginning of the post, to me it was really interesting to see how non-energetic approaches to this topic can easily be translated into the language of the chakras. I considered it to be helpful, because it gives us a chance to identify which chakras to work with, should we feel resistance toward a topic or a tip or feel some blocking energies and are unsure how to make them flow.