“There is a relationship between what we need to learn, and what we do in the world. I said, “It’s interesting when you stop thinking of spiritual practice as what you do on your meditation cushion, and realize that your karma is your dharma.” In other words, what we do in the world — our dharma — is our spiritual practice.”
— Ram Dass (Still Here)
Living your life with purpose
I grew up with a sister who was profoundly disabled. She had cerebral palsy and could neither walk nor talk. There was no school for my sister, so she stayed at home all her life. When I went to college, I majored in Special Education, and went on to work with people with disabilities and their families for four decades. I used to think there was a cause and effect relationship to this scenario. Missy’s presence in my life caused me to choose a profession working with people like her. Now, I understand that it was probably the other way around. I was destined to work with this population and Missy was my training ground. She taught me that what seems impossible, is not, and gave me sensitivity to differences in people. I learned to be comfortable in the presence of people with severe limitations, which is no small thing.
Our lives do have purpose. That purpose is not necessarily what we do to make a living. It may be simply being who we are; bringing our particular brand of humanity into being and relating from that place. Whatever it is, it is to be exercised in the world. We may have a spiritual practice, such as prayer or meditation, that supports us, but unless we bring it into the world, it is of little use.
Example of a life with purpose: Ram Dass
Ram Dass is a case in point. Back in the 1960’s, when he was on the faculty at Harvard, he taught courses in career counselling, and helped students to tailor their college careers to work that best suited their values and capacities. Then he met the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and learned Transcendental Meditation. When he left his position at Harvard to follow the Yogi, people thought he’d lost his mind. He had a promising career and he blew it. But, as a radical Transcendental Meditation teacher and student, he began in earnest to lead young people to find their place in the world through spiritual practice. Teaching and leading was his destiny. He would have done it wherever he was, but where he really found himself was in Transcendental Meditation. He has spent a lifetime writing and teaching and leading groups. He is a practitioner of Transcendental Meditation, but his work is in the world.
When you lead a purpose driven life, you feel livelier, juicier and more robust. When you share your passion with the world, others are given a gift and a role model. It may not make you money, but it will make you joyful. And isn’t that what life is all about?
In the spirit,
The article was originally published on the blog Spiritually Speaking