All spiritual quests seem to have a big question behind them.
I’m not sure exactly where mine started out but I was in a lot of pain in life and so I think my question was: can I get to the bottom of all suffering?
I had periods of success, where I would stay in bliss states for weeks at a time, but they never lasted.
So I kept digging. I dug so far into my pysche I went legitimately psychotic. My body was put through so much intense deconstruction/healing (imagine an Ayahuasca trip day in day out) that I couldn’t get out of bed for weeks. The further I dug, the weirder things got.
It became apparent that you could strip yourself of all your fears, all your conditioning, all your craving and aversion, just like the Buddha said.
But by the time I’d really done that, and there was nothing left of me, I didn’t want to be alive anymore. There was nothing. And there was nothing worth living for.
So the question shifted. It became what in life is worth living for? And how can humans cultivate just that and get rid of everything that isn’t that?
The answer I discovered is that humans are wired for connection and shared purpose.
In this way we are a reflection of the Universe – if the laws of physics, sprinkled with a bit of magic, didn’t converge towards connection and purpose, there’s no way we could exist on this beautiful planet in the perfect position of our solar system. Life is continually creating connections and moving towards more beautiful systems. We are an expression of these forces.
And when I had removed everything from my experience, the only things that grew back were these desires for connection and shared purpose – manifested in my love for other people, my desire to be loved and my desire to contribute to society in a way that I believed in.
Letting that stuff grow back necessitates a need to let some of the weeds grow back as well. We cannot maintain a perfect state of stability when we are interacting with people. Unless you are in control and keeping people at arm’s length, relationships are messy. This is part of the magic of them. You never know what you’re going to get.
My past experience of coaching people, helping them to explore the question of what they want to cultivate in life is that when you get someone to boil it right down, all anyone wants is to find a place where they belong and where they can contribute in a way that feels rewarding and that helps other people.
What feels rewarding may be more or less directly people focused – perhaps someone wants to engineer solutions to problems that will help people, perhaps someone else wants to care directly for people – but as far as I have found, it is always about people at the end of the day.
The thing that makes this difficult is that this desire for shared purpose and connection comes from our hearts and we don’t get to choose what our hearts want. They often want the things that are inconvenient or painful to admit or difficult to find or achieve.
This is the challenge that you are given in life. This is the story you are here to tell and if you can find the courage to follow this path, along with some people to share the journey with, this is exactly what makes life worth living. Everything else is table dressing.
You don’t get to choose
Who or what or how you truly love
You only get to decide
Whether you open to what is already there