Back in April, my guidance gave me a very simple but radical piece of news: you have no purpose. There are no longer any goals or objectives you can rightfully claim as yours. All the purposes your life has held until now are over, and there is no longer any inherent purpose in anything you do.
My resistance to this has been profound. I tried ignoring it altogether and proceeding in my usual purpose-driven way, but each time I would try to imbue a task or project with a sense of purpose, my guidance would remind me of the simple fact that it had none. I became, at varying times, grumpy, bewildered, enraged, and despairing. I wanted to share with you some of the things I have lost in this process, and some sense of what is arising to take their place.
The first casualty of my new sense of purposelessness was a plan of any sort. I like to plan, to make a map, to plot a course, but a plan always serves a goal, an objective. A plan is a means to an end, and I no longer had any ends. So goodbye plans.
The next loss was no less radical but somewhat easier to stomach: my sense of need. Most of the urgency of need I feel is in the purpose-driven projects and goals that I think give meaning to my life. Ironically, the things I actually need—those that ensure my survival and well-being, like eating a healthy lunch and getting a good night’s sleep—I feel very little urgency about at all. And so the things I feel I really need are those things that will give me some future I have imagined for myself, a future I have deemed important, even essential.
And so the future itself seems to slip away. Without a plan, without real need, I look into a future that is suddenly a void, a darkness, unknown even in the most basic sense.
And without a future to project into, I found myself befuddled—‘what should I do right now?’ became my constant question. With no goals to orient to, that question had no answer. Now time as a meaningful structure began to come apart. My way of slicing up time into chunks of purpose-driven activity—the very schedule and routine of my life—became suddenly meaningless. And I became aware that I didn’t need more than the barest awareness of clock time in order to do what was needed to simply live.
With time showing its fundamental meaninglessness, soon everything else followed suit, and meaning itself began slipping away. The meaning I was used to finding in the things I encountered and experienced had been tied to purpose all along, and without that, I could no longer look at anything and understand it the way I had before. No other meanings arose to take the place of all those I had lost, so I was left with just a free-floating, almost constant, sense of meaninglessness.
With each and every loss along the way, I have been struck by an almost unbearable sense of freedom—sometimes it is an ecstasy and other times it is more like pain, but it is a felt, palpable realization each and every time I encounter it. My tolerance for my newfound freedom is growing, and I am starting to feel a rich sense of possibility emerging out of the well of no-purpose. Possibility of what, I have no idea; that will presumably come later. But the sense is there that without ever resurrecting any sense of purpose, something new, something wonderful, is growing.
P.S. Feel free to leave me post on the discussion board if you’d like. I’d love to hear your responses, whatever they may be.
In reflecting on what my personal practice is teaching me, I am brought back, again and again, to the need for my own sovereignty. As I try to navigate my thinking mind, I notice that I only succeed in understanding and dismantling—in fact, in even seeing—my fear-based, compensating thoughts when I am anchored in myself in a way that puts me at a distance from that thinking mind.
It is that sense of being anchored in myself that I call sovereignty. And it is, ironically, a feeling of being radically separate. Separateness is generally cited as the crux of the problem (don’t all the wisdom traditions say that “God” is just another word for “union”?), but my experience is that when I am truly on the path, I feel really alone, truly separate, in an experience not of loneliness but of sovereignty.
In my relationships with other people, too, I find that nothing fruitful, nothing truly transformative, ever happens unless I refuse to enter into any typical form of “connecting” and instead act and speak only that which is deeply true and purposeful for me. This means noticing and refusing to act on all my impulses to “belong”, to please others, even, sometimes, to “help”—and all this requires radical sovereignty. I find that is what keeps the practice from becoming just a way of avoiding people, because true sovereignty feels like an opening, an expansion, and so is never defensive.
And last, I am finding sovereignty indispensable in my relationship with circumstances, whether small daily hassles, over-arching life situations, bodily difficulties, or emotional fluctuations. I am not really the creator of almost anything; I am not the do-er. Life is simply happening, and I am carried in its current or fighting that current—that is my only real choice. Sovereignty gives me a solid internal position from which to be in that current but not of it. I find that when I am anchored in myself, I do not need to be anchored in the world.
I’d love to hear what of all this resonates with you. Leave a post on the discussion board and let me know your own experiences with and reflections on sovereignty.