Are you one of many experiencing a renewed concern about the value of having purpose and meaning in your life?
Curiously, this renaissance of “contributing to the whole” as the way to fulfill yourself and your destiny has created an unintended consequence. This drive to find purpose and meaning has nearly doubled the amount of time and energy we focus on accomplishing this goal.
Perhaps you too have embraced the idea that 80 hours of work a week (whether at the office or at home) will cause you to find and manifest your purpose. After all, isn’t hard work the answer? Maybe you figure working hard will harness the deep meaning for your existence and force it to emerge into your awareness with greater speed and effectiveness.
Working the traditional 40-hour work week with the other 40 hours devoted to resting and reflecting has almost become equal to a statement of not caring about the larger world, or just being a slacker.
Today, stopping to rest and reflect is often accompanied by a sense of being useless, wasting time, or being non-productive, resulting in self-descriptions such as lazy, ineffectual, inadequate, worthless, valueless, incompetent, inept, selfish, and even narcissistic.
When we decide to stop our “purposeful action” for a minute with the intention of taking time for rest and reflection, an unconscious aversion and uncomfortableness with the idea of “doing nothing” usually arises. This results in feeling as if you’ve become a lazy, idle, indolent, lethargic person without significance or importance – an incredibly difficult feeling to tolerate and accept. So we pop up and immediately get back to work!
The need to contribute and have an impact on our world has somehow grown into an unconscious command to “be engaged in action” all the time, and, if you don’t, you should be questioning your commitment to creating a better world.
So what to do? Feel purposeful or feel useless? A no-brainer? Not really, because you intuitively know that rest and reflection are as necessary to a purposeful life as taking action and achieving your destiny.
We often think of purposeful action as being helpful, constructive, positive, valuable, or keeping on target. When we’re contributing, we feel effective, on target, and good about our actions. Finding a satisfying way to fill an inner void often makes us believe we have discovered our reason for being and the point to our journey.
Yet, paradoxically, rest and reflection are the most powerful ways to “know” what is yours to do –
and to have the clarity to do it from your heart, with awareness and compassion.
Managing The Dilemma
As a culture, we are entranced by the notion that action is the avenue to finding purpose & meaning. Attached to this is the unstated notion that rest and relaxation is a dead-end road and should be avoided. To remedy this too often unconscious polarization, we must once again turn to the notion of interdependent polar pairs and the nature of duality.
Purposeful and useless are an interdependent polar pair by virtue of the fact that they define each other. Thus, you cannot have one without its accompanying defining partner. In our rush to find purpose and meaning, we have neglected our mystical heritage that guides us to directly, “Look within!” To navigate the outer world successfully, mystical wisdom dictates navigating the inner world first. It is here we find the key to understanding and accepting our destiny and purpose, and its role in the larger scheme of things.
When you find yourself screaming on the inside, “Stop the world! I want to get off!” it is a clear sign that rest and reflection are being requested. But the edict to ‘keep on moving’ is in the very air you breath. How can you “stop and reflect” when the world is falling apart and “going to hell in a hand basket”? “You should be doing, doing, doing! Action is the answer!” “Don’t just sit there! Do something!” The results are feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and confused, leading to less than wise decisions for the whole and for the individual.
To open to the gifts and guidance of rest and reflection, I invite you to explore, if even for just awhile, the experience of being useless – just sitting for even 5 minutes at the beginning or the end of your day. Not thinking, but just sitting and listening to the world around you, or feeling the presence of your body with all of its sensations, or watching with your mystical eyes the diversity of beauty surrounding you.
If you can then extend that 5 minutes to 7 minutes and then to 9 minutes and then to 12 minutes and then to 15 minutes, you will increase the probability of becoming clear and precise about your purpose in this journey and the deeper meaning of your life. Being present to the spaces between your thoughts at any time, brings the reprieve of rest, and openings for reflection and insight to arise.
I invite you to take a moment and assess the degree of imbalance currently unfolding in your life around purposeful action and just being useless for awhile. It’s incredibly refreshing to be able to just sit and do nothing and discover how the energy of life simply arises and gives you all that you need to move on to your next purposeful step.