I recently had an illuminating session with a couple who have strongly opposing views of the world. Or so it seemed...
The question of the meaning of life comes up at least 3 times a day in my coaching work with clients these days. Maybe it's the current spate of natural disasters and global tragedies and seeming randomness and injustice of it all, but the question keeps coming - Why?
Far be it for me to be the authority on such matters, but I do believe that part of my role as coach and voice of reason is to help others make sense of the world around them. To that end, the matter of life's purpose must be readily accessible to all of us, rather than remain a perpetually ambiguous existential dilemma.
One Good Reason
We all need a good reason to leap out of bed in the morning...
A reason to smile,
Someone to serve,
A cause to fight for,
An object for our affection,
A task to strive for,
A purpose to fulfill,
A gift to bring to the world.
Let's go back to my couple and their heated debate. Like many of us, they are struggling with a common dispute of the existence of God, a Higher Source behind all creation.
He is an atheist and she is extremely spiritual.
Her argument: Spirituality is not about God or religion.
His stance: There is no God and we are hurtling towards chaos... You get the picture?
In listening to their passionate debate, I realized that she just wanted to feel closer to him and share her 'embracing' view of life. Yet, he stood firm so as not to be 'smothered' by her religious dogma, rituals and ceremonies. Their challenge... how could they love each other and establish a deeper commitment with such opposing views of reality?
In approaching this tricky impasse, I cut to the core of where they were really struggling as a couple. She felt he was limiting their intimacy with his spiritual resistance. He envied her grounded, peaceful demeanor and grace, while fretting with relentless anxiety over the minutiae of his day-to-day pressures.
It seemed clear to me that this apparent chasm of purpose between them was really not so wide. After all, he acknowledged she was happy and purposeful in her spiritual approach to life, yet he was miserably angst-ridden in his God-less existence! He longed for the joy and zest she exuded and confessed to feeling trapped in his awkward agnostic ambivalence.
My assessment: Like all struggling couples, they both want to feel calm, centered and close; both yearning for joy and limitless revelry. They just want to feel that there is a purpose for their being together and for their love to flow.
It seems he is a spiritual fellow after all! He understood that spirituality is actually inside us. It's our awareness, presence, and the meaning we bring to every moment. A spiritual atheist... I like that!
One could assert there is no need for rituals or ceremonies in order to feel joy and passion. Often times, a ritual is a daily discipline to practice self-control, containment or compassion. It has its purpose in our lives to keep us focused and on track.
We could look at a workout at the gym as a ritual to build stamina, increase muscle mass and decrease body fat. The treadmill as our altar, the gym our Temple and the members, our congregation. We no more 'worship' the treadmill through ritualistic cardio-training than sitting quietly meditating to clear our minds in a quiet patio.
The assertion that these practices make us strangely religious is of course ludicrous. It's a little like assuming a 'couch potato' an agnostic!
Our Essential Task
The need for meaning and purpose, therefore, exists in all of us and manifests uniquely. Our essential task is to find our gift. But, without meaning and direction, the expression of one's gift is stifled.
It's a bit like having a talent that you never get to express. Does it really even exist if there is no one to share it with? We've been given gifted talents for the sole purpose of their expression.
If you write, express it with purpose; if you sing, belt it from the roof tops; if you're an athlete, knock it out of the park and if your gift is to connect with people, then give them all you've got!
It has been said that true power is the gift of being fully present.
Now that's a cause worth fighting for!
God And A Treadmill by Jamie Greene is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.