A seeker goes to Nepal and climbs into the Himalayas to find a teacher, a guru he’s heard about. After months of searching and struggle, he finds the famous man, and asks his burning question: “What is the meaning of life?”

“The meaning of life is a bridge,” replies the wise man.

The seeker is incensed. “Wait a minute, what kind of dumb answer is that? I struggled and fought to get here, and that’s all you have to say? A bridge? That’s the stupidest thing I ever heard!”

The guru blinked, looked at him and said, “You’s not a bridge?”

Most of my clients come to me, not searching for the meaning of life, but focused on some crisis in their lives: a relationship disaster, marriage or family problems, lack of direction and motivation, some huge loss for which they’re grieving, an emotional problem such as anxiety or depression, or perhaps even for help in recovering from an addiction. The first thing we do is sort through the crisis, handle immediate problems, and get everything settled down, then we embark on an extended process of figuring out how the problem happened and what must change to keep it from happening again. Once those things are handled, there's a period of bliss or euphoria, when life is working for the first time, they feel successful, calmer, more in charge. Most clients leave at this time.

Then, frequently, they come back asking "Now that I'm in charge of myself, and have a lot of extra energy, because life is a lot easier and my relationships are working, it feels like I'm missing something—what am I doing here?”

This begins a spiritual search for meaning, which I've written about in a couple of books—The Real 13th Step, and The Ten Smartest Decisions a Woman Can Make After Forty.

People for whom the basics of life are already established need more: they need a sense of meaning and a higher purpose than just survival. Once self-confidence and self-esteem are established, you’ll need a challenge to feel satisfied, a way to express your uniqueness and individuality to yourself, to friends, and to the world.

But if your life's purpose is not evident to you already, how do you find out what it is? Where does a sense of purpose come from? It comes from within you, and is not imposed or chosen from outside. Your purpose may be your livelihood, or it may have nothing to do with how you make a living. Your purpose may be a simple one, like making a good, healthy life for yourself and your children, or it may be more dramatic, and based on what you learned by healing your own childhood experience. Many people know that inner purpose has the power to transform anxiety, anger, fear and rage into powerful, life-affirming action:

Dr. Bernie Siegel, a cancer specialist, was discouraged and frustrated about the lack of success of medicine against cancer. He challenged the focus of the medical establishment by looking at patients who had experienced "miracle cures" and "spontaneous remissions." Although he was ridiculed by his peers, he persevered, and out of it he developed a new way of enlisting the patient’s own healing capability, outlined in his book, Love, Medicine and Miracles.

Cleve Jones turned his rage, bitterness and grief about AIDS into the Names Project Memorial Quilt, which has helped people throughout the world express, heal and understand the grief resulting from this tragic epidemic.

After her thirteen-year-old daughter was killed by a drunken driver, Candy Lightner used the power of her grief and rage to found Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), to combat the problem and prevent the senseless deaths of other children.

Sojourner Truth, an African-American and former slave, was instrumental in developing the Underground Railway to guide slaves to freedom before and during the American Civil War.

Ron Kovic, paralyzed from the waist down as a soldier in Vietnam, turned first to alcoholism, but then recovered and channeled his resentment and rage into anti-war protest, and later wrote the best selling book and Oscar-winning movie script, Born on the Fourth of July.

A life purpose gives you the means to control your destiny, no matter what the force of the hardships you have incurred. Most of the world’s spiritual thinkers have said that the wisdom guiding each of us is available if we just listen and trust what we hear. You may already be having many ideas but not be trusting them or taking them seriously. Perhaps when you get an idea what your "job on earth", or life's purpose is, you are too distrustful of yourself, (I can’t do that) or too hopeless and helpless to believe it or act on it. Your purpose may make itself clear to you in one instant flash, or gradually, as if you are following clues, one at a time. Whether you get it all at once or a piece at a time, it will still take work and experience to bring it about. Inner wisdom is not rational or practical in nature, but more intuitive and spiritual. It can provide a way to see the big picture, or a more detached and objective viewpoint of the issues and problems of life. Each new idea must be tested through practical use, to see how it works. Step by step, using both intuitive wisdom and clear thinking, you can bring your inner motivation to the surface and use it to create what you want. Your combination of inspiration expressed through action becomes the bridge to the meaning of your own life. — From It Ends with You

© 2005 Tina B. Tessina
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