Freedom from Life’s Purpose and Meaning

Most of my 20s and mid-30s were spent hustling for money, fame, recognition, and professional growth. Being in the highly competitive software development industry, it was challenging to keep up with its ever-changing demands. Yet, I was determined to make it big. I was willing to compromise anything and everything to get there.

Underneath this blind chase for success and happiness was a debilitating depression and high anxiety that I conveniently chose to ignore. I shoved down my feelings because I had to prove myself to the world. I thought I had to earn my worth in the world to be adored by others and gain their acceptance.

Isn’t this a popular belief? We’re told that we need to make a name for ourselves. That we have to be somebody; only then, will we get society’s acceptance. Apparently, being oneself is not enough. At some point, an awareness came about, and I questioned, “Who defines these rules? On what basis is this life’s blueprint created and handed out to us? What if I choose an unconventional path?”

A child is purposeless and does not seek meaning in life but remains happy. Children never need anything to be happy. Even when left alone, they can keep themselves occupied. There is a quality of playfulness in the innocent minds that adults lack.

As children grow up, environmental conditioning takes place, and their innocence is destroyed by filling their minds with concepts, beliefs, and ideas, which are mostly a repetition of what has been passed on through generations. The child is taught to fear, follow the traditional time-proved blueprint, and be made obedient to fit the social structure. What we call our dreams and aspirations were handed out to us by others.

When you go against your inherent nature, you will find yourself in conflict. If you form relationships based on what you have acquired so far, you’re building a house made of glass. It is fragile. If your happiness depends on the start of the month when you receive your paycheck or when you buy something flashy from the store, you will remain stuck with that inner void – a feeling of emptiness.

The idea is not to renounce the world and run off to caves in the Himalayas or join a monastery in the forest or become a hermit. Wherever you go, you take your mind with you. How do you free yourself from your mind? If you force yourself to go to the caves, you’ll start missing home. When you’re at home, you wish to go somewhere else. Isn’t that your dilemma?

Nisargadatta Maharaj said that the maya (illusion of life) is wanting to go somewhere else for happiness when the true happiness is this present moment here and now. As I’m writing this article in my usually visited cafe, there’s an elderly lady behind me speaking loudly on the phone, talking about her health and social life.

She’s speaking to someone about her anxiety problem and how many medications she is taking to control it. I don’t mean to pry, but she’s so loud that virtually everyone can hear about her problems – anxiety, insomnia, relationship conflicts, and so on. After every couple of minutes, she calls someone to talk about her problems.

I’m not judging her. We are all bound by our destinies. In fact, I empathize as I have been in her situation myself. Having gone through severe anxiety in my early years, I understand how debilitating it can be. It’s tougher for elderlies as they have to go through a lot of loneliness and aging-related challenges.

The thing is that the more we speak about what’s wrong in our life, the more it adds to the personal story, which becomes a load to bear in time. While I don’t see anything wrong with sharing, if keep repeating the same stuff, which most of us do, it creates pathways in the brain that become stronger with time.

It’s like repeating a negative affirmation all the time. Therefore, the body learns to remain continuously in survival mode (fight or flight). As the suffering increases, at some point, we start questioning and contemplating the meaning of life. We think that by getting answers to existential questions, our suffering will get alleviated.

The search for meaning and purpose drives us away from this present moment. It is in times of despair that we’re handed out our purpose. When you were young and confused, someone told you to do something or you’ll be miserable. Therefore, out of fear, you made a few choices that now control virtually all aspects of your life.

When you are vulnerable, the people around you are eager to thrust a purpose on you. It is not that they have malicious intentions. It is just that they operate unconsciously, detached from their core – their true feelings and emotions, and they project their limited worldview onto you. Most times, this projection comes from fears and insecurities, and not compassion and love.

“Get a good job or you’ll end up on the streets, get married or you’ll be lonely, make money or people will not value your presence, have children otherwise you’ll miss out on the joy of motherhood or fatherhood, invest in stocks for a better future, you have to be successful otherwise no one will care about you, money makes the world go round, survival of the fittest,” and so on and so forth.

Take a moment to sit back and reflect on your present situation. I’m sure most of you diligently followed whatever you were told so far, but you’re still confused about your meaning and purpose. Isn’t it? You can’t get over that inner lack or the empty feeling that haunts you. Notice that these questions about purpose come up only when we are in despair or unease; when our mind is either lurking in the dead past or an imaginary future.

Children never concern themselves with existential questions because they function spontaneously as the situation demands. That is why they are so creative. It is adults whose overcluttered and conditioned minds remain involved in thinking and blocking their creative potential.

When I was a child, there was no sense of purpose other than playfulness. After passing college, I was given a purpose, and I spend a decade fulfilling it, but happiness was nowhere to be found. Now, in my 40s, I’m free from the search for meaning and purpose. My work does not define me. I’m back into the same childlike playfulness. I live in the now. Not in the dead past or an imaginary future.

Every prescription for a better life gets us more and more entangled in it. Ramana Maharshi said, your job is to be, and not to be this or that. Your being is the true source of happiness. While you struggle to find happiness in the external world, it is right here, closest to you. Once that recognition happens, the Heart opens up, and the search for happiness in things of the world comes to an end.

You don’t have to “do” or change anything. Just be totally present to this moment. In this moment, all of your stories will dissolve. Without stories, there is no one to suffer. There is no one to fulfill a purpose. The recognition of your aliveness to life frees you from following an artificial purpose and meaning. The goals will show up by themselves. Some will come to fruition, while others will be abandoned. “You” have nothing to do with them. You are the eternal presence – the silent observer of all phenomenality.

The universe awaits your surrender. Surrender to this moment or now. This is your refuge. Your place of calm, stillness, restfulness, and unconditional love. This is your real home. Surrender is true liberation and the deep love that we desire so much. It puts an end to the search for meaning and purpose in life. Then each moment is lived with joy, vitality, peace, and harmony.

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Jagjot Singh
Jagjot Singh

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