Leo Tolstoy said, “Without knowing what I am and why I’m here, life is impossible.” Your purpose has nothing whatsoever to do with career or calling. Virtually everyone looks for it in such things because our culture is wired this way. However, most people who believe this spend the greater part of their lives searching for their purpose but seldom finding it. The real truth is, you and I show up for one purpose—to know oneness with the Divine. To know God or, as is described of Enoch in Genesis 5:24, to “walk with God.” I talk about this at length in The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God .
Question What You Hear and What You Think
Why? Most of what we think is not accurate anyway, which is why Byron Katie counsels people in whatever situation they’re in to do “the work,” as she calls it. The “work” is a series of questions you should ask yourself: “Is what I’m thinking true?” “Can I be absolutely certain it’s true?” If you’re honest, you’ll admit to yourself that you cannot be absolutely certain about much of anything. Then, given that reality, there’s the question, “What do I feel or think, or how do I react, whenever I believe this thought is absolutely true?” And, finally, “Who would I be, or how would I feel, if I gave up this thought?” Euripides said, “Question everything; learn something; answer nothing.”
When Saint Paul said, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thess. 4:13-17), he was not suggesting that we kneel continually or lock ourselves in some synagogue, temple or church and recite prayers all day. He’s talking about a way of living, a kind of meditative practice…what easterners would describe as “mindfulness.” Meditate more than you medicate. The former is foreign to most westerners; the latter isn’t. What’s the point of mediation? Pema Chodron answers: “We sit in meditation, not to become good meditators, but to become more awake in our lives.”
Let Go of Your Regrets
“For all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been’,” or so wrote the abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier. So, let go of regrets. When asked if they’d change anything were they to have the opportunity to live their lives over, those who say, “No, I would change nothing,” are not telling the truth. Everyone has regrets. They’re normal. But, to carry them around like one would tote a backpack is not normal. Think of regrets as Divine reminders of what’s needed now—some kind of action, as in perhaps, self-forgiveness. Write the letter. Make the phone call. Instead of waiting on their apology, reach out to the person who offended you. Take action and do it now. Then, let things go.
Do Unto Yourself as Your Self Would Do Unto You
Slightly different twist on an old truth. Jesus said, Judge not (Matt. 7:1). Make no mistake. He’s not suggesting you never exercise discernment or make choices about what’s right for you. Instead, Jesus calls for an end the incessant fault-finding, complaining, and finger-pointing. You do to others what you do to yourself. You do to yourself what you do to others. So, do unto yourself what you’d have your self do unto you. Try it and see what happens.
Have No Enemies
There’s something else Jesus said, “Love your enemies” (Matt. 5:43-48), by which he means, have no enemies. The Buddha put it like this: “My enemy is really my friend.” These are radical teachings, which is why they’re almost universally ignored. Even by Christians. To live like this, however, is to live a transformed and transformational life.
Choose Being Kind over Being Right
I cannot remember where I heard this phrase, but I’ve never forgotten it. It’s the key to avoiding needless arguments and debates and the resulting division that too frequently occurs between people. Words are like arrows. Once released, they can never be reclaimed. Their harm can be almost irreparable, too. Kindness is, however, always a choice and always the best one.
Know That There are No Accidents
Saint Paul said, “All things work together for your good…” (Rom. 8:28). Know that everything in your life is not a coincidence or mistake, but a Divine-cident. This is why, in A Course in Miracles, the question is asked, “How would you live if you but knew that everything that happens to you is planned by One who has nothing but your best interest at heart?” I love the words of Pema Chodron, “Nothing you are experiencing disappears until you learn the lesson it was sent to teach you.” When you learn the lesson, the consequence of that kind of knowingness could only ever be tranquility and peace.
Think About Death as Often as You Think About Life
Sound morbid? Woody Allen once quipped, “I’d like to achieve immortality without having to die.” Cute, but the fact is, death is your destiny—your only real destiny. So, work on knowing for yourself what Leonardo de Vinci said. “All my life I’ve thought I was learning how to live; now I realize I’ve really been learning how to die.” Think about death. It is, as the Buddha said, “Your teacher.”
There are two ways to understand this. One is to be on the side of generosity—that is, to be for giving. Why? First, it’s the secret of happiness. Generous people are happy people. Miserable people, however, are often miserly people. Second, to “Be for…giving,” is also to be just that – forgiving. That is to say, it means to practice the art of forgiveness. The deeper your experience of self-forgiveness, the higher your capacity to be forgiving toward others. If you cannot forgive someone else, know that there is very likely something inside of you that you’ve never forgiven.
Dr. Steve McSwain is an author, speaker, thought leader and spiritual teacher. His books and blogs inspire spiritual seekers around the world. He is a devoted follower of Christ but an interfaith activist as well. He is frequently heard to say, in the words of Mother Teresa, "I love all religions; but I'm IN LOVE with my own." Read more from Dr. McSwain on his blog Your Best Life Ever.