Purposeful mindfulness or mindful purpose?

The more I grow and expand, the more I open myself of two truths:

  1. The more that I can find purpose in life, a mission to live and build over my lifetime, the more fulfilled I become and the more I serve my communities
  2. The more that I detach myself from the need to accomplish, to strive, to achieve, and instead become present to this very moment, the more peaceful I become, the more I honor this incredible gift of life I’ve been given

As I sit with these truths longer, I find myself wondering: Are these truths at odds with one another? Which do I prioritize? Which is the “higher” truth?

Do we focus on building our purpose in the external world, and in doing so live a life of service and action? Or do we focus on becoming present in the now, on our internal world, letting the realities and desires of this external world wash away so that we can simply experience the wonders of being alive?



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I often judge that people who are too wrapped up in meditation, mindfulness, etc. to the point of being detached from reality, do so at the expense of others. There are billions of people suffering out there and they need our attention. Yes, we should cultivate mindfulness, but we must also stay present to the suffering of the world and serve those less fortunate than us. Life is hard work. It’s about serving those less fortunate, not floating up in the clouds.

I also often judge that people who are too wrapped up in their purpose work, also do so at the expense of themselves and thus, others. Yes, they are doing good work in their communities, but they fill themselves with stress, anxiety, and tension in the process. And then they bring that negative energy home to their loved ones. Yes, they are doing “good” work, but it seems motivated mostly by ego and the desire to accomplish and to be recognized. This is not the message to send to our children. We should show them that they are good and worthy beyond their actions and accomplishments. They don’t need to be constantly striving just so they can feel good enough and worthy.

Perhaps there is no “higher truth”. Perhaps what we need is mindfulness geared toward serving the greater good and change work rooted in mindfulness and awareness. We need purposeful mindfulness and mindful purpose. Both, at the same time.

And perhaps is even a key frame from which we can orient our practice of conscious leadership. How do we take care of ourselves such that we are most able to take care of others? How do serve our communities in such a way that feeds our souls and fills us up to the brim?

I don’t yet have a good answer to these questions. But it’s the direction I’m aiming my focus.

 

3 Comments
  1. One of my teachers, Carol Sanford, tells us that people do not have a purpose. Organizations and groups have purpose, people have roles to play that can contribute toward a purpose. Just semantics? Perhaps, but I think that there is a subtle mindset shift in the distinction that orients us away from individualistic thinking toward thinking as part of a group.

    1. Yeah I think we are on the same page! I would think of an individual’s purpose as inherently geared toward some sort of service/contribution to greater wholes, and in almost all cases as part of a system of many purposes needed to work together toward change/end goal. You are right though. The word “role” is a bit more humbling/grounding, which helps move us away individualistic thinking and action. At the same time, I also like “purpose” because in my mind it helps people place themselves as the hero in their own life, which perhaps can help activate them to their higher levels?

  2. Ours is such a polarizing culture – one of positionality and extremes, where we zealously adhere to our little branch of conformity (or non-conformity conformity) and what is lost is that which we are working to gain: perspective and acceptance.

    My journey has left me with the distinct impression that we are here to SEE, to decide (for ourselves ALONE) if what we see is what we like and to ACT accordingly with the understanding that our way of seeing, deciding and doing may be different from others – and that’s magically beautiful.

    Your discussing of purposeful mindfulness and mindful purpose is just this.

    Keep it up!

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