Let Your Light Shine!

Print This Post Print This Post July 21, 2012 on 10:16 am | In Purpose, Spiritual | Comments Off on Let Your Light Shine!

Shine Your Light!

You are the light of the world.  A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.  Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  Even so let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

– Matthew 5:14-16

One of the things that I have often struggled with is the concept of life purpose.  There is fairly prevalent assumption that each of us has a life purpose – a mission or task that we are here on the Earth to fulfill – and that a crucial part of our life work is to discover and fulfill that purpose.  Certainly, many of the people that I admire – Jesus of Nazareth, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa – all seemed to have a sense of purpose, of a higher calling that underpinned and informed all of their thoughts and deeds.  Indeed, their ability to both challenge and inspire us seems to flow from their passionate commitment to that purpose.  And yet, I must admit that most of the time I really do not feel such a sense of purpose or higher calling.  And I must also admit, at times this feels like a failing on my part: that I am somehow not applying myself, not exerting enough effort to discover and fulfill that purpose, whatever it may be.

Upon reflection, however, the truth is that at times when I am really involved with my life, really in the flow and absorbed in the task at hand, my life feels very purposeful – despite the fact that I may not be able to articulate that purpose or relate it to a “higher calling.”  And it is equally true that there are times when I feel dissociated from my life, somehow disconnected not only from the world around me but even from my “self” – times when I am just “going through the motions” without any real sense of involvement or commitment.  What a curious combination!

Take a moment to consider the concept of purpose.  The dictionary definition is that purpose is the reason for which something exists or is done, made, or used.  This meaning of the word is fairly straightforward when applied to something that is man-made: for example, a chair.  The (typical) purpose of a chair is provide a steady platform that you can sit on.  Of course, there are other uses for a chair – for example, you can stand on a chair in order to reach something that is beyond your grasp – but generally speaking the person creating the chair has designed it to be sat upon.

Another definition of purpose is an intended or desired result; end; aim; or goal.  As in the previous definition, there is a sense of reason or explanation, in this case the reason why something is done.  For example, the purpose of this entry is to stimulate your thinking about your own life purpose.

When you think about the concept of “life purpose” – which invariably means thinking about your life purpose – the meaning of purpose becomes much less clear.  What is the intended purpose or goal of human life in general, and for my life in particular?  With a man-made entity, the concept of purpose is fairly clear, but for a “naturally” occurring entity the entire notion of purpose becomes confusing.  Never mind the purpose of my life, or even human life – what is the purpose of a tree?  a cloud?  a frog?  an ocean?

Some philosopher’s have argued that the very question of life purpose is misguided – a sort of semantic illusion that seems to be a legitimate question, but in reality is just a non-sensical construct.  For them asking “what is the purpose of my life?” is akin to asking “what color is the number 3?”.  Without wanting to argue the point from a philosophical standpoint, and acknowledging that purpose and life are not the same category of concept, I do believe that asking questions such as “what is my life purpose?” and “why am I here?” is both legitimate and meaningful, even if it is both problematic and confusing.

Since we are not self-created, man-made entities, one avenue of inquiry that makes eminent sense is to explore what our Creator might have had in mind in creating us.  And a powerful key to understanding what our Creator had “in mind” is understanding what we have “in mind” when we create something.  We have already seen one example where the concept of purpose is fairly clear – a chair.  But even in the man-made realm, there are created entities where the purpose is not as cut and dried.  For example, what is the purpose of painting?  a symphony?  a novel?  In a trivial sense we can say that the purpose of a painting is to provide us with something to look at, the purpose of a symphony is to provide us with something to listen to, and so on, but I don’t think the artist would agree that the purpose of their painting is just to provide us with something to look at.  For that matter, a wood craftsman that is creating a chair would probably take issue with the concept that the sole purpose of a chair is to provide a platform for us to sit on.  From the craftman’s viewpoint, the chair is also something to look at, to touch and feel – indeed, something to develop a relationship with.  So perhaps the distinction between man-made and “natural” entities is not as clear cut as it first appeared.

One thing I have learned over the past several years as a creator of things both trivial and significant, is that the primary motivation for creating anything is . . . love.  The reason we create something is that we love the image or sense we have about the thing we want to create so much that we want to bring it into being.  In that sense, the purpose of the created entity is simply to be, and to be loved by the creator.  Indeed, the entity is loved by the creator even before it exists, and it is precisely that love the fuels the creative process that brings the entity into being.

What about our Creator, whoever or whatever you conceive him/her/it to be?  One of the central tenets of Christianity, as well as many other religions and spiritual traditions, is that we are created in God’s image – that in some way we mirror the attributes of the Divine Spirit that created us.  And nowhere is this premise more true than when we assume the role of creators ourselves.  It is in our nature to create – and insofar as we fully participate in the dance of creation we are part of the flow of love that brings all of creation into being.  So perhaps the most direct avenue to understanding our purpose as “creations” of the Divine Spirit is to examine our relationship to those things that we create.  And that relationship between the creator and the thing being created is always one of love, even when (and perhaps most especially) when it seems otherwise.  What besides love would impel us to continue our creative efforts in the face of confusion, setbacks, and other challenges that inevitably accompany the creation of anything meaningful?

So for those of you who, like me, sometimes struggle with the idea of life purpose, let me close with a little gem from the Westminster Shorter Catechism, one of the central documents of doctrine and faith to come out of the English Reformation:

Question 1: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.

There you have it – your purpose is to glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.  And how, precisely, are we to glorify God?  In the opening passage, Jesus of Nazareth gave us clear instructions: let your light shine.

Go forth and shine!

 

Seasons of Change

Print This Post Print This Post January 14, 2012 on 12:55 pm | In Integrity, Intent, Physical, Purpose | Comments Off on Seasons of Change

Over the past week I have be sitting with my 2012 intent, which I have distilled down to a single word: Integrity.  As a result of those ruminations I have decided to take a seasonal approach the the life changes I intend to implement, with each season bringing a new focus.  Not coincidentally, this seasonal focus has been a part of my path for the past several years, despite the fact that I have never explicitly brought it to the forefront of my focus.  This year each season will have its own distinctive focus area so that my annual goals will essentially be divided into more manageable quarterly goals.  The specific seasons and the corresponding months that I have decided to assign to them are:

  • Winter       January through March
  • Spring       April through June
  • Summer    July through September
  • Fall           October through December

In my studies with various mentors, but most especially with HeatherAsh Amara and Raven Smith (see, for example, their books The Four Elements of Change and Stop Seeking, Start Being!), these seasons have the following associations and correspondences:

 

 

 

 

So for the first three months of this year my focus will be on honing my Physical Integrity, with specific emphasis on nourishing my physical being – that is, my body – in terms of overall health, vibrancy, strength, stamina, flexibility, and energy.  This focus resonates well with my immediate goals following various indulgences over the holidays, and will also serve as an excellent foundation for my personal growth efforts going forward.

In terms of spiritual practices to support this focus, grounding will be at the forefront as a tool to keep me connected with my physical dimension while still striving to integrate this aspect of my life into the whole of who I am.  It has been quite some time since I have consciously set aside time to connect with Earth and Sky – indeed, this morning was the first time I have done so for many, many months.  Boy did it feel good!  Why I ever dropped this practice is beyond me (laziness, too busy, lack of focus?), but whatever the reason I am very glad that I have picked it back up as I am certain it will serve me well as I move forward with the intent to embody the best that I have to offer in terms of Physical Integrity.

During the coming week I am going to start planning and implementing specific strategies that will support achieving my health and fitness goals for the year, with the aim of making this my primary focus over the next three months:

  • Achieve 12% total body fat
  • Improve upper body strength
  • Improve flexibility, especially lower body (legs and hips)
  • Improve structural alignment of my body, thereby improving both posture and range of motion

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