Saturday, June 9, 2012

Life's Purpose

Do you have a purpose in life? Is it something you can recognize? Something that impels you forward day after day?  For most people, I expect that purpose is family. For others, it may be their religion. For some, it's greed and climbing the corporate ladder to make more money to buy more things. Beyond that, I suppose there are a myriad of reasons that people get up every day and do whatever life demands of them.

I've never really had anything I could call a purpose in life. I got up and went to work everyday because I had to, if I didn't want to live on the streets. Beyond that, everything was empty. My two month bicycle ride through the Colorado Rockies when I hit 40 was a search for a purpose, although I didn't truly realize that at the time. Looking back, it's pretty clear.

That's not to say that there hasn't been any fun, any pleasure, in life for me. I had some good years in San Francisco, sailing. I had some good years in the Napa Valley. The bicycle trip was fabulous. There were plenty of good years in Atlanta, hiking/backpacking/maintaining with the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club. There's been something good about every place I've lived, everything I've done. Lots of fun rewards, but still, no purpose.

Now that I'm retired (or unemployed, however you want to look at it) I'm really seeing that lack of purpose. I may be old, but I'm not feeble. It's not enough for me to watch TV (if I had a TV), or read, or putter in the garden, or walk around town. Or sit on the front porch and watch people. All of this became abundantly clear to me this morning. Sometimes I'm a bit dense. I don't always see the signs or put thoughts and feelings together with other thoughts and feelings so that they become clear, but eventually they'll all become strong enough that I can't miss it. That's what happened this morning.

My drive to tread the path of Buddhism is my purpose. I've been pushed along that path for years, particularly in the last year and a half after some life-changing moments brought about through deep meditation. In the last week or so I've decided that since I can't leave here until next spring, the best I can do is spend as much time as possible at a Buddhist center, studying and meditating. I didn't recognize that as a purpose until this morning, and yet it so clearly is what drives me these days. So -- unless fate intervenes I will spend the two weeks at Aranya Bodhi in July. Then in August I'll drive down to south Georgia to the Southeast Vipassana Center, where I'll sit a 10-day course then stay on to serve (work in the kitchen) a slightly shorter advanced course that I would not otherwise be qualified to attend. That'll take about three weeks. And although I swore I wouldn't do it, I'm even thinking of returning to Bhavana for the year-end retreats. That'll depend upon weather at the time, since the prospect of snow stressed me quite a bit last year.

After that, I'll just sit and prepare for whatever becomes right for me to do next spring. Will it be Aranya Bodhi? It could be Bhavana, or if I become really adventuresome it could be a Buddhist center somewhere in southeast Asia -- Thailand or Malaysia, for example. Not sure I'm up for that at this age, but one never knows. And it's way too soon to tell. Many things will change between now and then. Wherever it is, it won't be someplace where I'll be alone. I seem to have programmed my life to this point so that I am essentially alone wherever I go, even though I've wanted companionship. I haven't put myself into places where I'm likely to meet people to hang with -- particularly here. Nor am I particularly good at meeting people, trying to establish friendships. What I seek at this point, and what I've been seeking for 6 or 7 years, is dwelling in a Buddhist community among like-minded people who understand this important aspect of my life. It's not all that matters to me in this life, but it's probably what matters most. I just haven't found the right place yet. I'm hoping Aranya Bodhi will be that place, but if not, I'll keep looking until I find something.

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