Finding Purpose and Meaning:
Creating the Life We Want to Live

Winter is a good time for reflection. If we look to nature as a guide we see that as the pleasant days of fall shorten into the chill of winter everything seems to slow down. My animal companions sleep more and except for the evergreens, the trees and shrubs outside have shed their leaves and retreated like the bears into hibernation. In spite of the busyness of life, it is a time when I like to reflect on the year that has passed and envision the year/s to come. Am I focused on the direction I want to be going?

We wield, each one of us, much more power and influence than we realize. Every thought we think, every action we take, adds to the collective pool of harmony or chaos. We are constantly influencing that balance and most often without any idea of the power we bring to bear, or of how we effect the balance of our own well being—our bodies, minds and spirits.

The process of healing our wounds and finding our own unique path is a noble undertaking that enriches not only ourselves, but the world around us. We see many difficulties in the world—violence, inhumanity, greed—that can lead to apathy and inaction in a time that calls for action. What we see around us is a reflection of the collective inner situation. As we begin to heal on a personal level, as we take responsibility for our thoughts and actions, as we practice forgiveness and compassion, we are adding to the healing of the world. We have the ability to tap into incredible inner potential and strength that in any situation can help us rise above our fears, heal the past, and move in a meaningful and personally fulfilling direction or calling.

All healthy human beings have an inner drive to seek meaning and purpose. When we are able to let go of barriers and allow for the possibility that we have a calling, that we're here to fulfill some unique purpose, we begin to tap into our higher potential—a collective calling to add to the balance and harmony of life around us.

There are so many things that can be done to make a positive difference, little things that don't have to feel big or overwhelming. The smallest gesture of reaching out can have a big impact on the recipient and in return, although that isn't the motive, have a healing effect on one's immune systems and sense of well-being. The universe is designed to reward compassion and good deeds that are offered unconditionally, without a desire for something in return. Give freely, the universe beckons, and you cannot help but receive the real treasures in return—health, happiness, and inner peace.

Early in life (at age 41) I was given an opportunity to put my priorities into a more meaningful perspective when I received a diagnosis of advanced cancer, with perhaps only months left to live. I discovered that writing or journaling was a great tool for focusing and expanding my self-awareness and insight. The journaling process, along with meditation, taught me that by asking the right questions I was able to connect to my intuition and inner guidance—always, to me, the best possible guidance. The circumstances added an urgency to my sense of purpose. Why was I here and what could I do in whatever time remained? A good question for all of us, no matter where we are on the journey, to get us focused on creating the life we really want to be living. The question helped guide me back to a path that was authentically mine rather than reflecting expectations imposed from outside or from my own projections of what others might think.

Painful or catastrophic situations sometimes serve to break down barriers and open us to question the deeper verities and realities of life. A book called Thank God for My Heart Attack addresses how a life-threatening event can pose a challenge: how to redesign your life so that it fits you, rather than you attempting to fit into it. Supreme joy and happiness can do the same. However we come to it, when we are ready certain questions seem to bubble up from that deep place within and can be the catalyst that redirects us to a core of inner wisdom. They are spiritual questions having to do with why we are here and what unique gifts we might have to develop and share. When we begin to seek answers to these questions, we embark on a sacred journey—the finding of a sense of purpose and direction.

As I gained health and strength in the years following my diagnosis I seriously considered what I might do with my life. Illness had forced me into retirement, I had divested myself of material possessions, and I was living in a studio apartment. I was uncertain how much of a future I would have but I was aware of the preciousness of time and the gift of each day. In my meditations and in my journaling I began to ponder the question: If my life were ideal, what would it look like? What would I be doing for my livelihood? What kind of environment would I want to live in? What kind of relationships would I want to develop? How would I stay inspired and in balance?

In 1993 I wrote my first journaling on envisioning my ideal life. First I wrote out all of the areas that I could think of to explore. My first list included relationships, livelihood, finances, inspiration, family, recreation, home environment, physical health, emotional balance, mental stimulation, spiritual serenity, and a path of service.

After envisioning in mediation what my ideal would look like in each of those areas I got out my journal and wrote a vivid description. Then I released it and let it go. Early each year I meditate on and envision my ideals for the year to come—not looking back on previous years until I've meditated on and envisioned my ideals for the year to come. The direction and impact has been so powerful that the process has become an enriching yearly ritual.

I’ve learned that every day we can do something—take one step—in one or more areas of our lives to move closer to our visions, and as we do so we grow confidence. What we focus on we tend to manifest, and as we resolve to move toward the things we love the universe begins to move with us—and may even add magical dimensions to our vision of what can be.