I notice that whenever I attend a lecture in person or online, the lecturer always asks if there are any questions. Teachers love it when students ask questions. It shows that they are listening and interested. What is it about us human beings that propel us to ask so many questions? We are truly curious creatures. All my life I have been asking questions about why I am here, what is my purpose and how can I best fulfill my purpose. I am still asking questions but so far after 91 years of existence, I still don’t have many answers. There is nothing wrong with asking questions. It comes very naturally to us. I doubt if animals and plants question their existence. Probably most people ask these existential questions about why they are here and what they are here to do. It often begins in childhood as they wonder how they fit into the world. The world tends to condition us to fit into the collective mold of society. Most of us find this fit too tight and we want to squirm out of it.
So if questions don’t yield answers, then why do we ask them? I think they encourage us to make up our own answers. We often find our purpose lies in the gifts that we discover in ourselves or in doing things that we are passionate about. These can change over the course of a lifetime. They can also shift on a daily basis as we face challenges in the course of a day. I used to believe that we each had an overriding purpose to our lives and all we had to do was discover it. Well, I am no longer as big on that idea because we are living in a dynamic, alive universe which is never static.
When I was young, I discovered that I had a gift for active, empathic listening and so I became a social worker and I did counselling for 25 years. I still use this skill as new situations and challenges come my way. I also discovered a gift for writing when I was 70 and so I began writing, at first poetry and then spiritual non-fiction. I never really know how these gifts will play out in my everyday life as an old person with limited mobility. Yet opportunities do come my way and I try to be ready for them.
Having said all this, I think it is good to have some kind of overall plan for our lives, in such areas as career, education, marriage and children. It is a bit like having a map or putting a GPS in our car when we are going on a road trip. It gives us directions toward our destination but we can’t know what the trip will be like until we are actually on the road and discover the road blocks, detours and traffic and weather conditions along the way. The same is true in other aspects of our lives. We could take a certain career path and then get sick or fall in love or discover new possibilities that change everything. The poet, Robbie Burns got it right when he said “The best laid schemes of mice and men gan aft aglay.” Another way of saying it is: Life happens when you are making other plans
My two granddaughters are on the cusp of adulthood. Madeline, age 19, has just completed her first year at Guelph University in animal biology. Her ultimate goal is to be a vet for exotic and wild animals. This summer she is working at an animal rehab center as an intern. Each day she lovingly cares for different wild animals or she is asked to supervise the other interns working there. She loves what she is doing.
Samantha, age 17, has just completed Grade 11. Her great passion is music. She is an excellent drummer. She also sings as she strums her ukulele. Recently I saw the video of her first paid gig and she was amazing. She is interested in learning different aspects of the music business through working at a music store where she teaches drumming and other instruments to the students who come for lessons. This summer she will be a counsellor at a music camp.
Both girls are focused and very passionate about what they do but their purpose is continually evolving. They are both open to the many delights and opportunities that life brings them. I admit to being a biased and proud Granma who is always interested and curious about where life takes them.
Questions are okay but they tend to come from the head, rather than the heart. One of the best guides to making choices is to learn to listen to our heart. Closely allied with this heart knowledge is our intuition or inner teacher. Most of us have not been taught about that. I know I certainly wasn’t and I was certainly not encouraged to trust my intuition. I made “mistakes” because of that but then mistakes are part of our journey too. We often learn more from our mistakes than our successes
One thing I know is that life is unpredictable. I could never have predicted that I would divorce my husband. In a million years, I could never have imagined myself going into the ministry. I never dreamed that I would move to St Marys and become a writer. No way! It is as if life is like a river and I am carried along on the current.
Does that mean that we have no control over our lives? I would say that we are co-creators with life. It is a little like swimming in a river with the current rather than against it. None of us really know what’s going to happen. Life is an unknown and the more we can accept that fact, the more we can just enjoy the ride. We still keep swimming but at the same time we can also simply go with the flow of the current which is carrying us along.
It may sound like not knowing is a good thing. I would not have wanted to know ahead of time some of the roads I travelled. Yet one thing I do know is that all of life comes from an infinite Mystery that directs this process. If we trust this Source, then life becomes less of a struggle and more of a joyful adventure. We have many names for this source, but whatever we call it, we can ask it for assistance and we will receive an answer. It may not always be the answer we are looking for but it is usually what we most need at the time. The answer can come in the form of words, visions, dreams or from other humans or from the natural world. If we spend even a little time each day in stillness, we can start asking this Source, which is really the voice of our own soul, what it is we need to know for this day.
Actually we often begin to make an exciting discovery, that we are part of this source and so the answers we seek are already within us. We are the love and joy and peace we seek. Spending even a little time each day being quiet helps us to rest in the awareness of the divine beings that we already are. I make it sound so easy but actually it doesn’t have to be a big deal as long as you do it each day. If you do not already have a daily spiritual practice, I invite you to simply spend 15 minutes a day in stillness and then ask your soul or Source what you need to know for today and then write it down. It will transform your days. And then I like to end with the most powerful prayer of all which is THANK YOU. That prayer helps me to realize what a blessing life is and when I truly know that, how can I help but feel immense joy. Woo-Hoo!