I receive many questions from people who want to know how to experience more fulfillment, happiness, and meaning in life. They often express frustration that bubbles over from a variety of sources, including not knowing what they really want, confusion about which direction to go in, and worry about the obstacles that rise up as they pursue their dreams.
At the root of all these frustrations is a misunderstanding about who we really are and the nature of true fulfillment.
Who Am I?
Let’s begin with the question of who is the “I” that is seeking to create your life. Take a moment right now and ask yourself Who am I? Jot down your answers on a piece of paper. Many people will begin this exercise by identifying their external roles in life, I’m a mother, a doctor, a daughter, a Harvard graduate, a CEO, a triathlete, an artist, and so on. However, as they continue to ask themselves this question, the responses will begin to go beyond the ego level to the deeper realm of the soul. I am love. I am joy. I am spirit . . .
When you ask yourself What do I want?, it’s important to know if you are listening to the voice of your ego or the voice of your soul, because they have two very different visions of fulfillment:
While we have all been conditioned to believe that the ego’s vision is practical and more realistic, what the ego promises is an illusion – a will-o-the wisp that you can chase all your life without ever coming close. The ego’s vision of fulfillment is unattainable because it is dependent on external conditions that it ultimately can’t control.
The ego can’t compete with the soul’s vision of fulfillment, which is based on your inner awareness. The soul holds out a kind of happiness and fulfillment that doesn’t depend on whether outside conditions are favorable or bad. This vision of fulfillment may seem more difficult, yet it unfolds automatically when you live from the level of the soul. Your inner intelligence comes into alignment with the creative intelligence of the universe, guiding you unerringly in exactly the way you need.
Of course, you can manifest your ego desires using sheer willpower, but it takes lots of effort and you may not feel as fulfilled when you attain it as you imagined you would. It’s like rowing a sailboat against high winds and a strong current: you can do it with enough effort, but if you harness the forces of the wind and current, then the journey is more comfortable and enjoyable.
Ego or Soul Desires?
Most desires are straight forward ego wishes. The natural impulse toward action that flows from our true self will also express itself as desire, but it will be an easy, gentle preference that does not come from a sense of lack or neediness.
The easiest way to evaluate whether your desire to create something is coming from your real self or your ego is to tune in to your body and ask yourself Does this desire feel relaxed and loving? Is it coming from a place that already feels good about itself? Do I want this for others as well as for myself?
Keep in mind that creative drive isn’t facilitated by feeling like you “should” create something, or that you ought to start a project or you’ll regret it. When your inner dialogue is dominated by feelings of frustration, self-judgment, or fear, your ego is trying to take charge. When your desire to create something comes from a feeling of enthusiasm, inspiration, joy, and fullness within, then you are in touch with your true nature and the guidance that will help you create and experience fulfillment.
Tuning into Your Soul’s Desires and Purpose
As we have seen, it is important to learn how to think and desire from your authentic self beyond your ego. From there, desire without expectation is easy and automatic. And as your experience of the soul deepens, you will spontaneously find that you will desire from that level of innocence and fulfillment.
There are a variety of practices that can help you connect to your soul’s desires and purpose. Here are a few of the most powerful techniques you can use:
When you meditate, you go beyond the mind’s restless, confused state into a higher state that is clear and steady. This expanded awareness is the birthplace of all your inspiration, creativity, and insights.
When you meditate on a regular basis, you cultivate inner calm and peace – not just during your meditation sessions but as you go about your daily activities. From this place of centered awareness, you will be in the best position to access the intuition and creativity to manifest your dreams.
Here is a simple meditation practice you can try right now:
Meditation on the Heart
Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Now gently place your attention on the area of your heart. As you breathe in and out naturally, keep your attention there. Allow any feelings and sensations to arise and pass. If your attention drifts away, gently bring it back to your heart. Try this meditation for a few minutes and notice how you feel before and after the experience.
Clarity means being awake to yourself and your true desires. Instead of being overshadowed by external situations or events, in clarity your awareness is always open to itself. You’re able to tell the true from the false so that you can identify what you want to nurture and what you want to release in your life.
1. Think back on those situations and projects where you excelled and had fun at the same time. What were you doing and why did it make you feel good? What gifts do you have that can serve others?
2. Keep a daily journal for ten days, asking yourself the questions above after meditation and then writing down everything that comes to you. Your passion is the force of evolution that drives your life energy, so don’t suppress it by telling yourself that you can’t do it or that it is impractical.
3. After ten days you will have some good ideas to work with. Now list one or two action steps that you can immediately take for each idea. Start with the smallest manageable step, such as making a phone call, signing up for a course, or getting the name of a mentor or someone who may be able to help you. The important thing is to identify that current of energy in you and then give it an outlet. Once it starts to flow, it builds its own momentum and creates its own path forward.
The more clarity you achieve, the more you will find that the universe is on your side, supporting your thoughts and intentions. Therefore, focus on clarity, not on getting results. The results will come according to their own rhythm and timing.
Practice One-Pointed Awareness
This is a mindfulness practice that will help you create more clarity and present moment awareness. Choose one simple activity that you do every day, such as brushing your teeth, making the bed, or washing the dishes. Instead of rushing, put your complete attention on this task. If your mind is impatient or prods you to move on to more “important” business, ignore it. This simple daily practice of focusing your awareness on one small activity can create a powerful ripple effect that will expand your experience of one-pointed awareness throughout the day.
As you become more aware, you will begin to notice many opportunities that in the past you would have overlooked in your hurry. This is the phenomenon I describe as synchrodestiny– the ability to use your attention, intention, and awareness to awaken to all the possibilities that always surround you.
Connect to Nature
Your body, mind, spirit, and the environment all arise from the infinite field of pure potentiality. By spending some time in nature each day, you can awaken to the inspiration, creativity, and intelligence that flow through everything.
- Walk barefoot on the earth for a few minutes. Feel the nourishing energy of the earth flowing into your body through the soles of your feet.
- Take a walk along the ocean or another natural body of water. Let the cooling influence of the water permeate you.
- Stand in the sunshine, allowing the light and warmth to infuse your being. Acknowledge the life-giving energy of the sun.
- Walk in a beautiful park, forest or other area with lush vegetation and breathe in the life force of the plants. The best times to do this are right before dawn and right after sunset.
- Go to a park, a forest or even your backyard and listen to the healing sounds of the natural world―the buzzing of bees, the wind blowing through the leaves and the calls of wild birds. If you live in a city where you can’t regularly hear natural sounds, try listening to recordings of rain forests, ocean waves or waterfalls.
- Gaze up at the moon and stars at night, allowing your awareness to expand into the heavens and beyond.
SOURCE: CHOPRA CENTER