I am a collector of few material things. In many ways, I'm a minimalist. I only buy what I need and I let go of material things quickly. One thing I do collect, and rarely let go of, are poems and quotes. I find comfort, meaning, joy, inspiration and reflection in the words of many inspiring people. I want to share with you a poem that has been dear to my heart for many years. It is special because it says everything I want to say about my life. It's called 'Otherwise the Darkness' by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).
have a cause.
We need those, don't we?
Otherwise the darkness and the cold gets in
and everything starts to ache.
My soul has a purpose, it is
do not fulfill
my heart's vocation,
Yes, my purpose is to love. LOVE - a very small word with many, many infinite meanings! I believe it's endless how many forms love can take. In my lifetime I have experienced a myriad of love expressions; parental love from my parents and towards my own child, love for my animals, love for nature, in love with another person, heartbroken by love, love for my fellow mankind, love for science, love for nature, love for my favorite chocolates, love for wine, love for being alive, love for my garden, love in sharing a smile with a stranger, love for music, love for sleep, love for blessings, love for sunshine, love for friendships, love for travel, love for a sweet memory and love for an intimate kiss. Without love, I do suffer. When I have suffered, it almost sucked the life out of me.
Sometimes we may lose our way towards love. It can feel very far away from our hearts. It can feel as if nothing is going our way, the pain is too great and the suffering unbearable. In these moments I remind myself that love is not just a feeling, it is also an expression. It's a sort of language we use to convey deep feelings towards others and about things. In this sense we are communicating one part of our soul with something else. However, when things seem bleak and dark, love can get shut out. The door is closed and there we sit, alone, wondering maybe how, maybe why, maybe when this will pass. The loss of love can cause real suffering. Depression often lingers here, which can overpower the feelings of having purpose.
In the last several decades studies have shown that a lack of love, physical and emotional expression, affection and/or positive regard can actually cause physical changes in a person. Neglect, in particular, is an action that can cause extreme emotional and mental damage. Part of the brain will literally shut down because a person has not received the necessary stimuli for proper functioning. Although I used it as a metaphor above, it can have dire consequences. The lack of love is no laughing matter. What happens in the body can also happen to our figurative heart, the healing place, the soft place that doesn't feel safe to connect anymore. A person can become withdrawn or afraid, protective or restricted, muted or violent.
During dark times I always find it helpful to return back to my purpose. I have to step way from everyone else's advice, input, comments, ideas and expectations of me, to return to my true self. It takes work, but when I can reach the core of who I am, my real authentic self that resides in my physical body, then I can get in touch with my purpose. Everyone's purpose is different. There is no right or wrong. In fact, we need the diversity in purpose to create the beautiful world we live in. In order for us to be complete, we can't let go of our purpose. If we repress it, quiet it down, try to toss it aside, it will not go away. Don't be fooled into thinking you can get rid of it. Somehow it always finds its way back. The subconscious won't let go so easily.
I encourage you to take some time with yourself and ask, "What is my purpose?" There may be obstacles to getting the answer, or things to overcome to make it a reality, but I think we all would be happier people if we could at least articulate it. What makes you REALLY happy? How long are you willing to sacrifice your true nature for something less meaningful? Will you stay in that love-less relationship forever? Will you work at the job you've hated for years until you can't work anymore? Will you start reading all those novels collecting dust? Will you listen to the music that moves your soul? Today, what will you do to bring you closer to your purpose?
Let's explore! A simple exercise is to quickly write down 5 things that are meaningful to you. QUICKLY. Yes, free association. This means you are letting the subconscious have a voice and not overthinking it. Don't hesitate, don't stop yourself and say this is dumb or stupid. Do allow yourself the freedom to write the first things that come to mind. Now write the first feeling that comes to mind for each word, next to the word. Again, you are allowing yourself uncensored freedom. (We all are censored enough day to day). Great! There's one more step, for each meaningful thing that now has a feeling attached to it, put a yes or no next to it. YES: I realize this about myself and am working towards this, Yes I have known this about myself and it's not new information. NO: I don't connect with it, I've tried to ignore this, I don't allow myself this experience. Your process will give you a little glimpse into your path to purpose. This is a fun exercise to get you thinking. All the answers will not be revealed, but hopefully I've inspired you to dig a little deeper about what is meaningful to you.
I wish you well on your life journey and may you embrace your purpose with compassion and fire.