What is your purpose in life? Why are you here? If you don't stop and ask yourself that at least once in a while, then you're probably not living it. Is your purpose to procreate? No, that is your pecker's purpose. And to pee.
Think of yourself as a flower. A delicate rose. What is the rose's reason for being? It depends on whom you ask. The bumble bee and the hummingbird will say the flower exists to provide food. The bee then turns pollen into honey for us, so we turn around and say the bee's purpose is to sweeten our tea. If I were the bee I'd take offense, and the queen bee would beg to differ, saying all bees are made to serve her. The nature-loving bystander would say the flower is to provide beauty, to be a source of admiration and wonder. This is poetic and feel-good, the apple would say, but the flower only exists to be replaced by the fruit, which has the biggest job of all: providing humans and animals alike with nourishment and carrying the seed for the next generation of trees.
Nah-ah, says the leaves, looking down on the flower and the fruit from their breezy perch high atop the tree's crown. You serve no purpose as great as mine, for I clean the air. I may not be pretty or tasty but I recycle the carbon dioxide and supply the atmosphere with oxygen, without which there would be no flower or fruit or for that matter human being or tree.
Clearly, the flower has as many purposes as those you ask. But the flower's true purpose is merely to exist. Its beingness. It is its own purpose. Even if there is no one to admire it or to eat the fruit which it brings forth. And despite what the leaves might say. In this way the flower is divine. Like God. What's God's purpose? To succor the righteous and punish the wicked? Obviously not, since there was a time when humans weren't around. To make the planets circle the sun? No, since before the Big Bang there were neither planets nor stars. When there was just God, just some Divine Being, pure Awareness, the only purpose was what it still is: existence.
It is easy allowing yourself to just be when you don't have so many things to do. Maybe even for God, before there was work to be done in the form of planets, stars, us. Which is why I ask you to simplify your life. Much of what you must do is a product of one thing: desire. The money you make, the kids you bear, the possessions you own, the chores and responsibilities not to mention the pastimes and pleasures. Rather than our motto being "I am" it seems to have become "I want" and then "I do."
Well, don't. Just be. Spend an entire afternoon sitting in silence. No phone or Internet, no TV or light reading. Just make like a tree and BE. Extend this to an entire day. Watch the thoughts that flit in and out of your mind. Of the things you need to do. Of how useless you are just sitting there. This is all society's conditioning. Most of us do what our elders tell us. We get the job society tells us we need, and drive the gas-guzzler and buy the firearm and patronize the restaurants and consume the products that we are supposed to, as manly men or metrosexuals or whatever we may be. I had this conversation with my dad's wife, the owner of a successful line of health food supplements. The long hard daily grind is grinding her down. She suffers many symptoms of exhaustion, including dizziness, fatigue and headaches. But each time she lies down to rest she hears her father's voice in her head saying, "You can rest when you're dead." And she will soon, because so much incessant (and unnecessary) activity is killing her. And isn't it unnecessary? She has more money than she needs and the world clearly has enough energy bars, because I'm not eating them (though they do taste yummy). I say get off the wheel. It goes around without end, it goes nowhere. And as my step-mother can attest, the effects can be quite dizzying, and not in a good way.
I speak from experience. When I look back on my life I wonder at all that unnecessary action. Many years I seemed to scramble through my days like a chicken with its head cut off. The six months in New York at the turn of the millennium, in case the world ended and I could go out with a bang. The stint in Brazil to write a novel that nobody cared about, not even me. The odd jobs, bar-tending, catering, teaching. Even earning a medical degree was so many years of excruciating effort, and for what: a degree I never really used. The relationships, with this girl and with that, knowing full well I'd never get married or have kids. All the struggles, living with messy roommates in cramped quarters on noisy thoroughfares. Why why why? It surely wasn't for enjoyment, because much of it wasn't very fun. Was it for the experience? The growth? Who is growing? The one who is born and ultimately dies? Since there's an end, and it is coming soon, even decades away isn't that far in the future, so what does it all matter anyway? Maybe all the living I did was just to fulfill curiosity and expend energy, so that when I finally decided to simply be I could do so without guilt about all that I was missing because I had played my part.
But guess what: all the living I was supposed to do was just an illusion foisted upon me by society, parents, peers, elders and educators. By what I thought was expected of me. By the evil genius inside telling me to drink deep of the cup of life even if it drives me crazy. When really, your birthright is to be. You don't have to earn peace by struggling until you're exhausted and old and can do nothing but collapse. Remember the infant you once were. Yes we come into this world crying, but the babe is often-times supremely content. I look at pictures of me and know this is true. Be like this me. Not the one devouring life like a greasy cheeseburger and then feeling sick. Learn from my mistakes and forego as many unnecessary experiences as you can by ridding yourself of desire and asking why. Even if you do this, you'll still make mistakes of your own. It's just a part of life, until it no longer is. Until then, I'm proud to say I've managed to give up Q-tips which are really unnecessary and to replace facial soap and body wash and shampoo (three bottles) with a 3-in-1 variety that costs less and takes up a fraction of the space. I have let my phone die, since the only calls I get are telemarketers who drain my balance. This is my way of saying goodbye. But I'm not finished.
Sit with yourself. Start early and make this your mainstay. Commune with your own nature. You can do this in nature, or in the silence of your own room or if you must, on a crowded beach or in a noisy restaurant. Remaining still is one of the hardest things on earth to do. Take it from someone who has often been so restless: it is also the most rewarding.
There are lots of supplements out there and all promise a sip from the cup of eternal youth. But the awareness that is your real nature is always young and ever free. Whether you are a little babe or a decrepit old fogey or running around like me, you can connect with the divine within. It's simpler than bars and powders, and easy on your waistline.
We'll never be able to ask the rose what it feels like to be a flower. To know the rose you must be the rose. It's the same with being human. And maybe in living and learning, in striving and succeeding, and failing too, you get to know what it means to be you. Such is life, without whose adventures, there'd be far fewer memories. And no barefoot running and ocean swimming for a guy like me. So here's to having no regrets.