Finding your unique path and having meaning and purpose in life has significant benefits for your health and wellbeing.
The questions who am I, where am I going and what I am meant to be doing are a great source of stress and anxiety for many people.
An article published in Psychology Today in July 2017 shows that having a sense of meaning or purpose increases your health and wellbeing, reduces stress and extends your lifespan.
If you do know who you are, where you are going how to get there, you are part of a lucky minority. Most people find themselves on a treadmill of circumstances, having fallen into or out of situations randomly, and then made them fit. The need to pay bills and survive drives actions and daily choices around work, socialising, spending, exercise and rest. The idea of having purpose or meaning in life is mostly a far off, foreign or elusive luxury.
Several years ago I was caught on the treadmill of doing. As the mother of teenage boys, the main income earner for the family and having just started an innovative and complicated new business, I was overwhelmed by doing and surviving. I was overstressed and distressed. Not a great state for a health practitioner.
Introducing more mindfulness into my life was the first step. It was an uncomfortable experience to realise how unmindful and unendingly critical and judgemental my own thinking often was. I was also shocked by the depth of my physical and emotional fatigue and the lack of any sense of connection with what I needed, or how I could go about changing any of my life and the difficulties I faced. I felt stuck.
So I gathered a small group of friends to sit in silence several mornings each week. We started our practice by choosing a word which would be a point of reflection during our time of silence.
Words like acceptance, faith, love, generosity, forgiveness, abundance, flexibility and connection were not uncommon, although we selected at random from among more than 40 possibilities.
Week after week I would randomly choose the word obedience. Obedience just kept turning up. Obedience didn’t sound like me, I couldn’t relate to the sound or meaning of the word so I would put it back in the basket and choose a different one that made me feel happier and was more inspiring. Finally, after many weeks of rejecting obedience, I thought it was time to pause. Instead of tossing it back, I kept the word obedience and chose to reflect on it more deeply.
That decision was life changing.
As I sat with my own breath, silence and state of mindful presence I realised the obedience that was arising was not obedience to some external authority.
The obedience I needed was to the small inner voice, wise, divine authority that is heard in times of silence and reflection.
During my times of silence, mindfulness, prayer and reflection I would often have an idea arise, a spark of inspiration and feeling for something. Most often by the time I was finished my time of sitting and returned to my mind of doing, I had lost any sense of the idea or spark. It was gone. Sometimes it would recur throughout the day, or in days that followed, and sometimes often enough that I might finally pay attention. But it was usually well and truly forgotten.
I made a decision that morning that from then on, whenever I heard words of inspiration, felt a spark of inspiration or a sense of divine wisdom, I would follow it obediently and immediately without question.
This meant trust, a trust that there was something else available to me, guiding me, informing me and my life other than my rational, thinking, logical mind.
From that moment my life changed for the better.
As a result of listening and trusting change occurred.
I invite you to find the time and opportunity to be silent, create the space and time to connect and listen. Pay attention to what arises for you and allow your trust to grow.
I would love to hear from you if you have your own story to share or would like to follow this conversation further.