Out of Africa–On Purpose

IMG_4815This is my final post of a series of lingering thoughts from my recent trip to Mozambique, Africa. This post is on finding my life’s purpose.

I don’t know that I’m any closer to figuring out what to do with what’s left of my life, yet perhaps this experience has made things a little clearer. I know I like to help those who need it. I realized that whatever it is I am doing, I have to enjoy it–no more endless, meaningless drudgery with no connection to who I am. I was reminded that I still abhor the bureaucracy and bullshit that gets in the way of progress and putting talents to good use.

I discovered that I really enjoy the consultant or advisor role, and the fact that in a short-term contract, volunteer or otherwise, there is a beginning and an end. I am not entrenched in the organizational culture, and that allows me to approach the issues and situation with fresh eyes.

I enjoyed the structure and challenges of the work, the commitment to a purpose, but without the attachment to that purpose. I realize that once I’m gone it is out of my hands…and that feels good and freeing somehow.

I re-discovered that unfamiliarity brings out the best in me and helps me tune in to my inner voice that has all the answers.

I will close by paraphrasing a few relevant and meaningful thoughts that I heard recently from Deepak Chopra that have been bouncing around in me ever since:

Fear and desire can cloud our intuition. But beyond that is the source of all intuition. The law of detachment helps us embrace the unknown. Uncertainty is essential in our path to freedom….it reinforces our need to trust ourselves. Uncertainty is living from within, able to trust our inner being. No barriers, no limitations. Into the field of all possibilities. The intuitive heart knows. Listen closely. It will always lead you in the direction of your soul’s purpose.

The Fisherman’s Dream

I first heard this story when I was in Nicaragua earlier this year on a volunteer mission. I have often thought about it since, and was reminded of it again when I ran into Sasha and Liz a few days ago–two fellow volunteers who were on that trip with me.

The story reminds me of how often in my life I have been caught up in trying to get or achieve something, but how unfulfilling it usually feels when it finally arrives. By then I am onto the next thing, never really taking the time to appreciate what I have. Thinking somehow that if I get that thing, I will have arrived and I will be happy. But it never turns out that way because happiness is not a destination, and it is certainly not the accumulation of things that leads to peace. The ego has a funny way of distorting the way we view things, and can be insatiable in its quest to justify itself.

My life is changing, and this story describes perfectly where I think it may be headed. I think perhaps I have all I need right now. The grass is already green on my side. And the fog is slowly lifting.

A North American tourist was at the pier of a small coastal Nicaraguan village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked.

Inside the small boat was a lot of large mackeral, tuna, and shrimps. The tourist complimented the Nicaraguan on the quality of his fish and seafood and asked how long it took to catch it all.

The Nicaraguan replied, “Only a little while.”

The tourist then asked, “Why didn’t you stay out longer and catch more fish?”

The Nicaraguan said, “With this I have more than enough to support my family’s needs.”

The tourist then asked, “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”

The Nicaraguan fisherman said, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife Maria, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos, I have a full and busy life.”

The tourist scoffed, “I can help you. You should spend more time fishing. And you should buy a bigger boat. And then buy other people’s boats and own a whole fleet of boats. Then, you can sell directly to restaurants and hotels and fish factories. You would control the whole process. You could leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Managua, then to Los Angeles or Toronto to run your company.”

The Nicaraguan fisherman asked, “But, how long will this all take?”

The tourist replied, “15 to 20 years.”

“But what then?” asked the Nicaraguan.

The tourist laughed and said, “When the time is right you would sell your company and make millions of dollars.”

“Millions?…Then what?” the fisherman asked.

“That’s the best part,” the North American said, “Then you would retire, move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos. You would have an easy life!”

Letting Go (part 2)

Since I posted the piece about my son being out in he world earlier this week, this idea of letting go has been swirling around in my head. Not just letting go of him, but everything that holds me back, that does not serve me.

Letting go of my need to know. Letting go of my need to control. Letting go of my attachment to outcome. Letting go of years of accumulated pain.

Once I really start poking around, I realize that I try to maintain an iron grip on many things. I’ve been doing it all my life, so I’ve become very good at it. And you know what else? It’s really freaking exhausting!

And as so often happens, the wisdom comes, if I am open and paying attention. Here are a few nuggets that have come my way in the last few days. Precisely when I need it.

Eckhart Tolle believes we create and maintain problems because they give us a sense of identity.

Thomas Merton says that we spend our whole life climbing up the ladder of supposed success, and when we get to the top of the  ladder we realize it is leaning against the wrong wall—and there is nothing at the top. To get back to the place of inherent abundance, you have to let go of all of the false agendas, unreal goals, and passing self-images. The spiritual life is more about unlearning than learning, because the deepest you already knows.

Then this from Richard Rohr.

“To let go of something is to admit it. You have to own it. Letting go is different than turning it against yourself; different than projecting it onto others. Letting go means that the denied, repressed, rejected parts of yourself, which are nonetheless true, are seen for what they are; but you refuse to turn them against yourself or against others. You refuse to let any negative storyline or self-serving agenda define your life.

This is a very, very different way of living; it implies that you see your mistakes, your dark side, but you do not identify with either your superiority or your inferiority.

You are a conduit, and your only job is not to stop the flow. What comes around will also go around. The art of letting go is really the secret of happiness and freedom.”

Neil Donald Walsch says you must be willing to lose it all before you can have it all. What does this mean? It means that until you can let go of everything, you will find it hard to hold onto anything. Detachment is the key.

And this meditation mantra from Deepak Chopra: “I forgive; I release; I let go of anything and anyone that keeps me from my highest good.”

And finally this from Lao Tzu…which says so much in very few words: “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”

Thanks for the wisdom and inspiration. Time now to practice. Time to let go and make room for something new.