Our sense of purpose isn’t a fixed point, it’s dynamic and alive. In fact, considering what is most alive for you right now helps you define your purpose. This is a mindfulness practice on “Aliveness.”
Hello, I’m rich Fernandez, CEO of the non-profit Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute (SIYLI). We focus on bringing mindfulness and emotional intelligence worldwide to communities and organizations. I’m really happy to offer you this module on defining purpose. It’s part of a continued series that I’ve been offering: meditations on living with meaning, purpose and resilience.
Purpose, for me at least, is an interesting thing because although it’s helpful to have a clearly defined sense of purpose, I also see it as something that’s really dynamic and really alive. In fact, I invite you to consider what is most alive for you in your life right now. Let me explain a little bit: In order to further support our journey toward living with meaning, purpose and resilience, it’s helpful for us to articulate a vision for our lives—in a statement.
I’ve found it very helpful for me, over the past couple decades, to have a statement that I can really use as my North Star. But here’s the thing: Those statements change over time. In fact, they can change frequently, so the important thing is to attune to what is most alive for you and then, based on what’s most dynamic, derive this guiding statement, this sense of clarity for yourself. That statement can then be used to help us define our purpose.
Here’s a little about my own statement: As I’ve mentioned, I lead an institute that focuses on bringing secular and science-based mindfulness and emotional intelligence tools to communities and organizations around the world. Mindfulness has been a part of my life for at least the past 30 years. It started as a personal practice and then more and more became part of my work. So, when I reflect on what’s alive for me, mindfulness is it. It’s a daily practice and something I treasure and truly enjoy. It also brings a great many benefits to my life. The important thing, though, is it’s alive for me. And it informs my purpose, my North Star. So let me just share that with you: My North Star is the full integration of mindfulness in every domain of my life. So I aspire to be a mindful parent, a mindful spouse, a mindful colleague, a mindful friend. And I say aspire because I’m human, as we all are, and there are times when I’m certainly not mindful, and that’s OK. The thing is I have this North Star, I have this aspiration, I have this purpose that’s really defined. And I really want to call attention to the fact that that purpose also derives from my intention.
So, in the earlier modules we talked about what’s your intention. What are the values that you hold dear? What is the ideal or hoped-for life you want to be living? All of that comes to bear when I think about my purpose because the purpose doesn’t exist alone, independently of intention and meaning.
Meaning—your values, the things that are important to you, the things you aspire to—all inform your purpose. And so I would encourage you, if you’re just joining us for this module, to really consider how your values, the things that are meaningful to you, and the things you hope for in your best life could all come together in terms of your purpose. Again, just to use myself as an example, mindfulness is deeply meaningful to me. It’s something that’s been a part of my life since I was a teenager, and it will be part of the future life I wish to live. In fact, I wish to have more of it in my life. And so all of that comes together: my values, the meaningful things, the intentions come together in my purpose, which is the full integration of mindfulness in all domains of my life.
So that’s how I view the process of defining purpose. But it really has to do with what is alive for you in your life. So what I’d like to do is offer a practice, a meditation, on aliveness, on what’s alive for you now.
A Mindfulness Practice for Defining Your Purpose
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Defining Your Purpose
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1. So if you would join me, and if you’re comfortable, close your eyes or simply direct your gaze downward and soften the visual field so that we can gather our attention.
2. Bring awareness to your body, where you find yourself seated or lying down or standing. Bring awareness to this felt experience of your own body and to the very quality of your awareness. How might you cultivate a quality of alertness, of brightness, and yet at the same time, easefulness? This is about being alert and yet relaxed at the same time. Allow your awareness to make contact with the felt sense of your own body, your posture, the places where your body makes contact with the surface of your chair, the floor.
3. Then begin directing the attention gently but firmly to the breath: the in breaths the out breaths, the full cycle of the breath of air as it moves in and out of your body.
4. I invite you now to consider what’s most alive for you in this moment. Where is your attention? What are you noticing most prominently? What do you feel? Take note of whatever is arising. Name it. Is this a familiar feeling, what is most alive for you now? And what has been alive for you over this period of time? What has had your attention? What questions have you been asking? What have you been wondering about? What has been returning frequently? And what is alive now? These can be things that are both very positive and encouraging. They can also be very challenging things. Without judgment, simply notice what is alive. What has been alive for you in your experience?
5. And finally, I invite you to consider one other very important thing: Whatever has been arising for you in your life and in this moment hasn’t happened in isolation. There are causes and conditions and people who have all contributed to this thing that is very alive for you. So I invite you to consider what support you need to nurture or to work with whatever it is that’s alive for you. What support do you need to work with this? We’re not alone. We’re never really alone in the sense that a whole set of causes and conditions allow us to live our lives each and every moment of each and every day. So in that sense, what causes and conditions or people do you need in terms of support, to work with what’s alive for you?
6. As you relate to what is most alive for you, and as we close this meditation, let’s take a few last deep breaths. And, if you like, you’re welcome to write down anything that arose for you regarding what’s alive. What questions do you have? What support do you need?
As a way to conclude this module and really weave together that meditation with the theme of defining purpose, I’d like to invite you to consider that what is alive for you defines your purpose. And that whatever support you can bring to work with or relate to what is alive will support your purpose, will help you define more clearly your purpose, will help strengthen your sense of purpose.
Earlier I said that for me mindfulness is something that is very alive in my life. I have support around it because I have teachers and I have a community where I practice these skills and they really help me in my purpose of integrating mindfulness into my life. So, similarly, I invite you to consider what is alive for you, what support you need, and come with those qualities to this process of really defining purpose. It can be a sentence; it could be a word. Do the exercise and take the time to write that out for yourself, or at least to get some real clarity on what is that word for you, what is that sentence, what is that purpose that I would use to describe this life that I am. Thanks so much. Hope to see you again.