A story told by Tom Brown Jr. about his teacher Stalking Wolf, an Apache elder, succinctly expresses the feeling. Tom was constantly amazed that Stalking Wolf had a wise answer to every question Tom had ever asked him. Tom decided to try to stump “Grandfather” by asking him an unanswerable question. “Grandfather,” Tom asked with a grin, “What is the meaning of life?” Grandfather, sensing that Tom was trying to test him, paused for a moment to give the question some thought before answering, “To the man whose life has meaning, life has meaning, and to the man whose life has no meaning, life has no meaning.” www.trackerschool.com
How we see life as a whole is merely a projection of how we feel about our own life. Stalking Wolf’s brilliant statement sums up the challenge that so many on the spiritual path run into — purposelessness. Lack of purpose is a terrible form of suffering that consumes you one depressing day and one anxious night at a time. Individuals who tend toward depression are drained of all inspiration, which causes life to appear dull and heavy. Impotence permeates mind leaving the individual unable make even the slightest impact in the world, despite the desire to do so. The individual whose tendency is toward anxiety will become increasingly tense and nervous, unable to relax and enjoy the inherent beauty of all that is. In either case the individual is effectively blocked from inspiration.
We all want inspired direction in life, but many of us live lives of duty and obligation void of inspiration. Lack of inspiration causes our lives feel hollow and uninspired. This feeling is even more pronounced in individuals who are walking the spiritual path, because they are typically more sensitive than individuals not consciously awakening. So how do we find our direction, our purpose?
Most individuals who walk the path of awakening also hunger for a grand vision to discover their life direction, without realizing the price one pays for such a vision. Grand visions tend to torture your soul until you act on them. And there are few individuals who have had such visions who were in a place in life where they could immediately act upon their vision. As a result those individuals suffer from their own expectations and feelings of impotence until they have the capacity to fulfill the vision. This is exactly what happened in my life, and I would not wish it on anyone, although it was right for me. From my vantage point now, I see that visions are just one vehicle through which inspiration and direction may come. There are kinder and more enjoyable means, and fortunately for most people these are the right vehicles for them.
The path of spiritual awakening is a razor’s edge. If we fail to move when inspiration comes, then no matter how much we meditate, no matter how much we pray, no matter how kind and compassionate we appear to be to others, there will be a feeling of meaninglessness that will permeate our lives and pull us toward depression and/or anxiety.
If we acknowledge that inspiration comes through consciousness to be shared with the world, then a very simple solution emerges, which is to take some sort of immediate action to birth that inspiration into the world. If we fail to act upon inspiration quickly it begins to fade in short order. As we turn away from inspiration the flow dwindles, and once we’ve made a habit of not acting upon inspiration it may cease to flow entirely. So how do we get the flow to start again? Typically individuals not walking the path of awakening have so filled their lives with duty and obligation that they have made no time for inspiration, to do what they are passionate about. But societal tendencies which value obligation over passion affect the masses as well as those people walking the path if they are not careful.
One student of mine was so focused on obligation-based productivity that she cut herself off from inspiration. The effect on her was a strong tendency towards willfulness in daily life and in her unfoldment process. Willfulness runs counter to the unfoldment process, so she was struggling quite a bit. I asked her what she was truly passionate about. She said she loved making pottery, but she had stopped doing it because she could see no profitability in it, and it was just a hobby. In her mind, she did not want to waste time doing something that did not enhance her financial or social bottom line. She had judged making pottery as being a trivial hobby. As a result she had nearly cut off her source of inspiration. This is a big deal because inspiration is a highway of spiritual awakening.
I advised her to take up pottery again with passion, to set aside all thoughts about practicality with regard to her pottery making time. The next time we spoke she was on fire with passion. Her voice was uplifted and she said she felt like her spirit was alive again. Inspiration was bubbling over, and as a result opportunities began to open for her. She met new people thanks to her hobby, and that changed the atmosphere of her life and her mindset. She began observing how she had unconsciously prioritized her life according to the values of society. As a result she began consciously dedicating more time to activities that she was passionate about. Creativity and inspiration became a torrent!
For individuals who feel completely uninspired, we will need to take a slightly different approach. First, go and buy a pocket-sized notepad and a small pen. Keep them in your pocket at all times. Whenever any interesting idea comes through, write it down immediately and date it. As I said earlier, inspiration comes through to be acted upon. People who feel no inspiration are people who have a habit of not acting on inspiration when it comes, so they are suffering from inspiration constipation. To give inspiration birth into the world make sure to write down any feelings and ideas within five minutes of receiving inspiration. This will help to get the flow started again. Thus begins a virtuous cycle that ultimately leads to the realization of a greater purpose for your life.
Inspiration is of consciousness and therefore it is not inherently limited by practicality. Inspiration could be a hobby or it could be starting a business. It could be writing a book, or raising your children with love and integrity. Really, it could be almost anything. Take a small step back from duty and obligation, embrace what inspires and watch what happens. You’ll feel inspired, and before you know it your spiritual unfoldment process is back on track and steaming forth full throttle. Life has meaning, and you are alive!
Now go get that notepad!