Big spiritual quests often 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 and 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.
In my past experience of coaching people, I used to help people explore and clarify the question – what do you want to cultivate in life?
What I found 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 life is hard. We have limited resources and so we are often fighting for our share of them first and foremost; however, if we can create a place where people have the acceptance, recognition and resources they need I have found that people naturally become more altruistic.
This desire for shared purpose and connection comes from our hearts and we don’t get to choose what our hearts want. Sometimes we are given a wound to heal or a burden to carry that needs a huge amount of change and shaking up of society to take it home – this is what changes the world.
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.