Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? Meaning and purpose are among life’s biggest questions. The answers are not simple and require self-exploration.
Meaning is what we give to our experiences. How we interpret and relate to life leads to the meaning we give it.
We build meaning in layers. On a micro-level, there is the meaning we give to words and how they’re being used. Then there is the meaning we give to day-to-day experiences. We inform this by past experiences we now associate with current events. Does an experience remind us of a past difficulty or an inspiration?
For example, our partner receives a phone call that makes them angry. What immediate assumptions do we make about the call? How does that make us feel?
This meaning from our past gives us stories the mind brings up repeatedly. The mind likes to feel in control so it has explanations for everything. As in the example, it makes assumptions about others and circumstances. It often applies meaning that isn’t there or that isn’t valid.
On a macro level, our fundamental beliefs about life inform our meaning. We might call these root stories. We compare every experience to these stories to determine how we should respond. Do we see life as a struggle or as rich with opportunity? Do we see the world as an impersonal machine or as Divinely created? Do we have conflicting beliefs? Have we reflected on what we believe?
Our mind favours what is important to us so the meaning we choose perpetuates what we pay attention to and amplifies those things in our experiences.
If we see life as hard, this will amplify our difficulties.
If we take a larger view and recognize our struggles as part of a larger process, we can rise above our challenges more readily. For example, if we see life as a hero’s journey, we can recognize a higher meaning beyond suffering.
However, finding higher meaning in life is not as simple as choosing a better story or belief. Much as the mind likes a good story, that won’t bring deep meaning to our life.
For that we need purpose. Purpose also has layers.
In India, they have the philosophy of dharma. Dharma is often thought to mean purpose but more deeply means “that which sustains.” Dharma is actions which sustain life and the world so we have a platform for experience, growth, and meaning.
This includes micro actions like eating and washing. We can care for the body in a way that brings maximum benefit, that which sustains. This approach extends into our family and social responsibilities and on up into our macro dharma, to support the world.
The important detail about dharma that we may miss in the West is that it’s not about me. Dharma is always in relationship with others. We’re in this together. Dharma is about what we can do for the whole. In supporting the whole, we bring purpose and meaning to our lives.
The first step in purpose is to discover who we are and what we can offer. What gifts do we have? We may be oblivious to our gifts because they’re normal to us or we learned to suppress them when young.
On one level, this is about exploring what we’re good at. Yet personal satisfaction will not bring lasting meaning to life. We need to raise our sights to find what we can contribute to the community. What does the world need? What actions are being supported by the world? This tells us what is needed.
Clearly, this may take some exploring. There may be personal resistances to overcome, like to public speaking. Or we may need to resolve childhood challenges to our gifts. Finding our groove may be a bit of a process. And what the world needed before may not be what it needs now. Our calling can change or evolve.
Knowing what we can offer, we can develop our skills and an occupation. Through this we can sustain ourselves, our family, and support our community. We are fulfilling dharma.
And yet these are just a platform for our central macro purpose, to support the world. We can’t do that as an individual. We need to go beyond personal development and discover our inner nature and return to our universal reality.
Our life is here to support our mutual spiritual journey to return home and integrate that into life. When we can embody our universal nature, we will support the world. Then life will fully support you and you will fully support life. Meaning and purpose will be rich and fulfilling.
~David “Davidya” Buckland is a former IT consultant who lives on Vancouver Island in the temperate rain forest of SW Canada. He began his spiritual journey in the mid-70’s. On a long retreat soon after, he began witnessing full time and refined perception clicked on with a bang. He has now been meditating and exploring consciousness for more than 45 years.
Soon after awakening in 2007, he began writing online under the nickname “Davidya.” The name and related blog (Davidya.ca) soon took on a life of its own.
In 2011, he earned an MA in Vedic Science, studying Vedic literature, Sanskrit, and world religions. He has observed and spoken with many people having shifts in consciousness and has been working to synthesize historical understanding with modern experience.
In 2017, he published the book Our Natural Potential – Beyond Personal Development, The Stages of Enlightenment.
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