Finding Purpose in Life

Understanding my role in life and my place in the universe is essential to finding serenity and the happiness it brings. Having a purpose, a goal in life, provides direction and motivation to my everyday thoughts and actions. A well-defined purpose makes life easier and more fulfilling. Without a purpose, I bounce around from crisis to crisis and my day is spent putting out fires.

Purpose comes from how I relate to the universe and how I behave in this world based on that relationship. This is what is meant by walking a spiritual path. If I see the world as cruel and uncaring, grabbing for all the material wealth I can, makes perfect sense. But, if I believe that the universe is not just benign, but loving and sustaining, my behavior will be quite different.

I remember a speaker at an AA meeting saying that she didn’t want to be one with God, assuming that would mean giving up all the pleasures and joys of her life. At the time, my thought was, “Darling, whether you like it or not, you are one with the universe.” When I realize that I am one with God, my goals change, my life changes, and I find far more joy and far less suffering.

The idea that a Higher Power is the underlying ground of all existence is as old as mankind. How can anything exist outside God? The universe as we know it must then be contained within the mind of God, within the Supreme Intelligence of the Universe, as an atheist friend of mine put it. Which makes me, the person who I think I am, an individualized point of consciousness within the mind of God.

As I struggled to find my place in life, Larry, a friend at rehab, pulled me aside and said, “You are a child of God, and your job is to bring God’s love into the world.” The idea that I was a child of God was introduced early in my recovery. It fit with the notion that somewhere within me was a spark of divinity, the goodness of who I really was. My goal and purpose in life, then, was to bring the Love of the universe into my life and the lives of those around me.

This Love, Larry went on, enters into me through this spark of divinity and flows out into the world. This tide of Love carries kindness, compassion, creativity, health, and more. My purpose then is to foster and encourage this flow of love.

Joseph Campbell wrote, “The goal of life is to make your heartbeat match the beat of the universe, to match your nature with Nature.” This concept has been said in many ways. Follow the dharma, cultivate the Tao, and practice the presence of God are just a few, but they all mean the same thing.

My old ways of thinking and behaving inhibit this flow. Anger, hatred, prejudice, and negativity do so. Most importantly for us as alcoholics and addicts, the blackness and horror of our using slams the door shut. But far and away, the most important factor is my ego. The larger my ego, the less the Love can flow. Ego deflation is necessary for finding recovery, and for opening me to the Love of the universe. This is what is meant by “Let go and let God.”

Having a purpose, living in harmony with the unity of life, brings peace and removes sorrow. I no longer have to fight anything. Instead of swimming against the current of life, now I can float along the river in joy and harmony. It determines the thoughts in my head, the words I speak, and my actions toward the world and my fellow man. It guides all my decisions.

This road to serenity is the so-called the “straight and narrow path,” but, in reality, it is a broad and inclusive highway accessible to all who seek it. And even a little progress along the path brings freedom from fear.

First and third photographs courtesy of NASA.

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