Saturday, April 12, 2014

We All Have Purpose Even When We Think We Don’t

Whether it’s the Blue Zones’ Power Nine,  or the latest research on happiness, having and knowing your purpose-why you get up every morning- is a top property for a satisfying, if not longer life. 

How you are affected by a chronic condition can greatly impact your sense of purpose. While the caregiver may believe their role is to care for their charge, they can be at a loss once that task ends. Those who are compromised by illness may wonder what possible purpose they could now serve.

Purpose is often viewed by what we do or how we fit within a family or group-medical provider, volunteer, parent, spouse, caregiver and so forth. However, like many things in our culture, we have turned “knowing our purpose” into a problem when it’s actually something that is an integral part of our being.

Quantum physics is using scientific methods to confirm what the Buddhists have been teaching for centuries- we are all connected. "All things, mutually supportive and related, form a living cosmos, a single living whole."  From the smallest atom, what happens to one, impacts everything else.

I was reminded of our connectivity when watching the 16 minute documentary “Slomo.” 
"Slomo" Jon Kitchin

Jon Kitchin, a.k.a. Slomo, was a neurologist trained in psychiatry who dropped out 15 years ago to spend his days skating. Miserable as a doctor, a chronic condition helped him decide to retire and move to a studio apartment a half-block from the boardwalk. His slow-motion gliding to music became a portal to happiness.

There are those who would think that Kitchin lost his purpose when he gave up medicine for skating.  The looks of joy, cheers and hand slaps of the people interacting with Slomo as he glides along would say otherwise. He has found his “bliss,” which in turn he shares in a very public way.

Many of the things we identify as our purpose are transient. Parent, spouse, caregiver, worker etc. evaporate as kids grow up, marriages and jobs end, patients heal and so forth. However, the fundamental aspect of our belonging to something large and vast never changes.

If you think about it, since we all impact and contribute to the larger picture all the time, shouldn’t our primary purpose involve being as positive and mindful as possible? This may be a difficult concept to understand or accept, but it serves as an important reminder particularly when we feel “purposeless.” Ultimately, no matter how compromised or lost we may believe ourselves to be, we still can achieve our primary purpose by being mindful of how we interact with each other and the world around us.

To take this just one step farther, I think of Joseph Campbell’s comments about finding your bliss, which Slomo seems to have found.  Kitchin is operating at the deepest sense of being, going where his mind and body want to go versus what society may deem is most appropriate for a doctor, let alone one who is almost 70. Interestingly, it was because of a chronic condition that Kitchin was able to embrace who he was, letting go of the life he thought society expected of him.

Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor
In closing this post, I’m reminded of Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, the famous neuroanatomist, who suffered a life-altering stroke at 37 years of age. She ended her now famous TED Talk with the following comments,   .... we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are -- I am -- the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the "we" inside of me.

Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be.

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