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Archive for the ‘purpose/meaning in life’ Category

You know the value of every article of merchandise,

but if you don’t know the value of your own soul it’s all foolishness.

You’ve come to know the fortunate and the inauspicious stars,

but you don’t know whether you yourself are fortunate or unlucky.

This, this is the essence of all sciences—

that you should know who you will be when the Day of Reckoning arrives.

            —Rumi

Is this the greatest challenge of our lives? How many of us, as Jung has asked, are really prepared for the second half of life, for old age, death, and eternity? For Rumi, this is all a very practical matter, as much so as knowing the true value of anything in the marketplace. This is a lifelong process that begins as early as we become aware of our own soul – that unique part of us that is with us throughout our entire existence, before we were born and after we die. What happens is we tend to confuse our identity with the multiple facets of our physical form that we know for only maybe eight or nine decades, a mere fleeting moment of our soul’s eternal journey.

As we gain this deeper consciousness, we become increasingly reflective on what it all means to us. Could it be that it is not the I that looks back to review our life, but the soul? Why wouldn’t who we are at our essence be in control when it matters most?

A 47th way to explore your soul’s story – Memory is that soulful part of us that wants us to remember as much as we can before we leave this plane. Could it be the intention of the soul to re-member those eternal images, those soul qualities and virtues, most needed for the rest of our eternal journey? Think back to that time in your life when you first recognized that there was an eternal, changeless, ever-present part to who you are. What was this archetypal moment like for you? How did your own awareness of your soul change how you saw yourself? How did this knowledge of your soul give you a clearer vision of how you want to live your life? What was the greatest lesson that knowing the value of your own soul gave you? Write down this story of coming to know your eternal self.

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As winter turns into spring, as nascent flower buds begin to push their way up from sleeping leaves of life, we too can remember that it is our time to emerge afresh with renewed energy for the things we are most deeply committed to. This renewal is as much a part of our perennial process as it is part of nature’s cycle. We also can – and do – arise from the ashes of our own exertion to become even more than we were.

The Phoenix, the mythical bird rising from its own ashes, is but one expression of a universal archetype of renewal and rebirth, one of the most powerful symbols known to us. It pervades many of the world’s myths and sacred texts. The classic journey of the hero is another timeless expression of this archetype of spiritual transformation, which we also witness every time we observe the inner rhythm of nature unfolding all around us. What appears to be decay, even death, is but a moment in an ever-evolving process of evolution. This is our season to arise, to realize our potential for rebirth.

A 46th way to explore your soul’s story – Like the mythic Phoenix, we carry light and hope within us, as well as the keys to renewal. Change, being the perennial constant it is, need not faze us, for it is a womb preparing us for rebirth. Think about a time in your life when you knew you could see all there was to see ahead of you, and there was nothing that gave you any hope beyond that. Then, suddenly something new opened before your eyes and everything became more promising. What was it that buoyed you beyond the despair of that moment, that gave you the hope to push on, and that allowed you to accept and embrace the inevitable change coming into your life? What was the catalyst that guided you out of your dead end, showed you the continuity of your own perennial process, gave you renewed energy, and got you back in the flow of your own natural cycle? After you’ve had enough time to reflect on these questions, write the story of this spiritual renewal in your life.

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Light and shadow are two halves of a whole, twin forces that direct our lives; they are essential to maintaining the balance of life. Light, an ancient symbol central to many sacred traditions, is represented by the qualities of radiance, sanctity, love, justice, and every spiritual attribute that emanates from divinity; light is even thought to be eternal, boundless, and changeless. It’s opposite, shadow, or darkness, is most characterized by temporality, limitations, and continual change. It is even said that the entire physical world is a shadow of the world of light, a temporary dust heap, or an illusion that can vanish in a moment, ultimately a deception meant to distract our attention from the light it is reflecting.

And so, we are caught in the middle of the dual forces of light and shadow. Yet each can only exist because of the other. Without light there would be no shadow. For each to be understood, shadow needs light, as light needs shadow. Together, their opposition represents a two-fold process designed to bring about the spiritual evolution of humanity, and the transformation of individual lives. Both parts of the whole are needed for progress and transformation. Contrast and opposition create structure. They are necessary to make us who we can become. This is why Baha’u’llah assures us that our share of the Light is already within us: “Thou art my lamp and My light is in thee… within thee I have placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else.”

A 45th way to explore your soul’s story – Would a rose still be a rose without its thorns? Would the story of Christ be the same without Judas? Would poverty be an injustice without wealth? A conscious life finds meaning in these contrasts, meaning that impacts and punctuates, and that can even transform us. How has your life been transformed by the presence and interaction of light and shadow moments? How have they helped to maintain an essential balance in your life, given it a meaningful pattern, and given you a conscious awareness of wholeness? Write down this story of the contrasts in your life, and how you found the light within you to balance them all out.

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One of the many things we all share, as members of the human family, is our recurring experience of what we perceive as the clash of opposing forces, whether we see these forces as positive and negative, good and bad, or light and shadow. They are all parts of the whole of reality that are not only necessary but also extremely purposeful. Light and shadow represent the core opposition we face in this life. And their purpose is nothing less than to bring about transformation in our lives.

When we can see the entire picture of reality in its wholeness, rather than get lost in or overwhelmed by any of its parts, we are much better able to appreciate both the light and the shadow that does come into our life. These essential opposing forces in our lives not only create growth opportunities for us, they facilitate our progress toward reestablishing the original unity we were born with.

The intermingling of light and shadow in our lives is actually a blueprint for transforming our lives. Knowing that there is a blueprint to our growth (physical, psychological, and spiritual), allows us to see and understand both the detail and the whole while keeping us focused on the whole.

A 44th way to explore your soul’s story – What is it that has brought light to your life? What is it that you are most thankful for in your life? How has the light in your life made you a better person, or more of who you really are? Would you have really known the value or benefit of this light if it hadn’t also been for the shadows in your life, those things that greatly challenged you, created tension, or made things really difficult for you? Think of those times when you have been most aware of the forces of light and shadow in your life, and reflect on how they were at odds in your life, as well as the greater purpose they represent, and how either would not have the meaning they do for you without the other. Write your thoughts down, and tell this story of light and shadow in your life.


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What was C. G. Jung really saying when he reflected in his autobiography, “In the end the only events in my life worth telling are those when the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one.” He actually compared our lives to the life of a plant that lives on its invisible, hidden rhizome. The visible part appears above ground and lasts only a single summer. His point is he “never lost a sense of something that lives and endures beneath the eternal flux. What we see is the blossom, which passes. The rhizome remains.”

Following this intriguing analogy, what is most important in our lives, as well as longest lasting, are our inner experiences, the dreams, visions, goals, and values that carry us onward toward our becoming who we are inside us, that “splinter of the infinite deity,” as Jung puts it. Everything else withers in comparison.

Our lives are “so fleeting, so insignificant, that it is literally a miracle that anything can exist and develop at all,” Jung also says. So what do we do with what we have, before it all passes so quickly away? How do we address the mysteries of our lives, of life itself, and how do we fit into this wondrous grand mystery? Is the story we would tell of our lives that of the blossom or the rhizome? (Or, is it at least some of both?)

The story of human development, and the life story we would tell about our life as a whole, is incomplete without the recognition of the soul and what its existence signifies – not only spiritual development but eternal life as well. Mystics and poets the world over have long described how consciousness continues on, in the eternal human soul, after death. And now some scientists are saying the same thing.

A 38th way to review your life story – If our life on Earth is but a fleeting moment, if our soul is the medium for spiritual growth, and if Earth is a platform for the ascent of the soul, what is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your day in this soul school? What inner experiences mean the most to you? Which moments when “the imperishable world irrupted into this transitory one” are the most meaningful to you? How have you learned to “isolate the eternal from the contingent,” as the mystics do, to shift your focus in this life toward eternity, toward the one, and away from the temporal, and the many? Tell this story of your deeper remembrance, and share it here for others to enjoy, as well.

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At the heart of our quest for understanding life are three questions: “Where have I come from?” “What am I doing here?” and “Where am I going?” The mystery of our origin, purpose, and destiny is intricately tied to the nature of the soul. The world’s sacred traditions have always provided answers to these mysteries of life.

Beyond this, it now seems that we are hardwired to remember where we came from and where we are going. Remembrance is a meditation that leads to a deeper reality. It is the conscious effort of reflecting on and listening to our own eternal thoughts that connect us to the heart of the universe. As our remembrance expands, our consciousness, our view of the world and our place in it, leads us to greater action in the world. Remembrance is a stepping-stone to spiritual transformation. As a regular practice, remembrance helps us remain conscious of who we are as sacred beings.

A 37th way to review your life story – Meditate on these sacred writings: “The spirit returns to God who gave it.” “What is unseen is eternal.” “All things proceed from God and unto to Him they return.”

Keeping your focus on the sacred, try to find, as Bede Griffiths did, that “window” in your consciousness where you “can look out into eternity” and “see the world as it really is” where “all is one, united in a single vision of being.”

Be thankful for the ability to remember; to remember who you are, where you came from, where you are going, and most of all for remembering that God’s love brought you into being. Be grateful for the gift of your soul, your link to the Imperishable.

Take a moment to remember all the gifts you’ve ever received as often as you can. Take twenty minutes of focused time out of your busy day, each day, to remember all those things that are most important to you, and to let go of the unimportant, so that you remain in touch with your essence. Remember to honor both your joys and your sorrows in your life, because both are what provide your life with its greatest meaning.

Keep up this practice of remembrance regularly. Ask yourself each day these questions: Am I me? Am I in my everyday life who I am at the core of my being? Am I in the process everyday of fulfilling my own potential? And if you ever find yourself answering no to any of them, then ask yourself: What else do I need to be doing to be fully me? With this regular practice, you won’t have worry about needing to rush to answer these questions at the end of your life.

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Through our various spiritual traditions, we have a variety of practices designed to guide us to, and keep us focused on, an awareness of the pervasiveness of the sacred: yoga, the Eightfold Path, the Ten Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, the Five Pillars, and many other rituals and ceremonies. They all involve regular, even daily, ways to draw our attention to the sacred.

At the heart of most spiritual practice, what is left when we move beyond form, constricting language, and what may be for some the stiffness of the prescriptions, as Wayne Muller has said, is simply remembering. Remember who you are. Remember what you love. Remember what is sacred. Remember what is true. Remember that you will die, and that this day is a gift. Remember how you wish to live, and that you will return to where you came from.

Remembering these things on a regular basis will keep our focus on the sacred, on the spiritual aspect of life. This is where we will find our greatest comfort, the healing of our ills, and the love that we will most cherish. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is finding the practice, simple or otherwise, that will help us remember who we are, what we do know, and what we do not yet remember that we know. It can be meditation, prayer, writing, singing, walking, even the mundane routines of life. Having such a means to keep our focus, a simple act that helps center us into a remembrance of what we already know is sacred and beautiful, is essential to our spiritual growth. Simple acts of remembrance greatly enrich our spiritual life.

A 34th way to review your life story – What draws you to whatever is personally sacred to you? What one practice has most helped you remember who you are? What keeps you on a path that leads you to your spiritual essence? Where do you find your greatest comfort, your deepest love? What keeps you focused on what matters most to you? Reflect on these questions, and put your responses into a flowing narrative that tells the story of how simple acts of remembrance enrich your spiritual life. Share that story here for others to learn from.

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