“I don’t believe people are looking for the meaning of life as much as they are looking for the experience of being alive.” ~Joseph Campbell
With my legs extended out in front, I was sitting down on my yoga pad. My jaw clenched and I bent forward, puffed up as my mouth was pressed against the mat. I reached my fingers towards my feet with my fingertips. My anger was increasing by each passing second.
I was plagued by a series of bad thoughts.
It is absurd. It was supposed be relaxing, I thought. I’m so out of shape. This pose is easy for others. It hurts. It is a shame to do yoga. It doesn’t work.
At this point, my mat resistance was very strong. However, it indicated that there was a bigger problem. Doing the pose “right” wasn’t the issue here; it was my belief that unless I could bend a certain way, I wasn’t progressing in my yoga teacher training.
I wasn’t meeting my goal. I wasn’t being “productive.”
Yes, it was a greater sin.
A Collective Fungus
The idea that you aren’t worthy unless you are producing results has seeped like insidious black mold into every facet of our modern lives.
It is a pressure to achieve goals and go somewhere. “Doing nothing” is scorned as lazy. It is considered a waste to pursue a hobby that has no social or monetary value.
This planet only gives you a set number of days. If you don’t spend them hustling, you’re of no use to anyone.
You’re writing a novel? Are you ready to publish your novel? What amount of money were you able to get?
Oh, you’ve taken up jogging? Why? Is it possible to complete a marathon? How do you define your weight goals?
Don’t you want to leave a legacy behind? Don’t you want people to read off a list of impressive accomplishments at your funeral?
The truth is, the most important things in our lives have no clear purpose.
You can’t cash in on the beauty of a sunset. There’s no “purpose” to stargazing. Listening to a song that transports you out of time and space doesn’t pay the bills.
These moments are born out of joy and wonder and are the reason our lives have meaning. It’s time we gave ourselves permission to feel them.
1. Schedule time to do nothing.
Once I realized how much the burden of being productive was curdling my overall joy in life, I started setting aside time to simply “be.” For me, this involved sitting on my porch with a glass of wine in hand, trying to simply be present to what was going on around me.
No phone, no music, no screens.
The fact that I was so restless and unemployed became apparent very quickly. It made me feel guilty and lazy. I felt guilty and slothful. sitting Here, taking in the beautiful scenery. It would be nice to do something.
However, I tried my best not to feel these feelings and continued to attend to the allotted rest. The shame started to disappear slowly, I realized. As I allowed myself to be indifferent, I noticed a gradual shift in my spirits.
The boozy porch relaxations were just one method to cultivate stillness and gratitude. I tried other things as well, like bringing a more presence-focused—and less goal-oriented—attitude to my yoga practice.
The “5-4-3-2-1” meditation was another helpful centering practice. This is how it works:
You can take a look at the world and list five of your observations. Note four things that you hear, three you can touch and two you can smell. Finally, note one thing that you can taste. Mix and match the senses that correspond to each number.
These moments of “being time” will look different for everyone. It is important to notice what’s happening right in front of you.
Let go of the shame that is so often attached to being “unproductive.” Give yourself permission to do nothing, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day.
2. Abandon the idea that “self-love” means “selfish.”
Granting yourself the grace to “be” is an integral component of self-love—a complicated and guilt-provoking term for many of us because we have so often been told that “self-love” is the same thing as “selfishness.”
This misconception is yet another way our society has prioritized “hustling” over inner peace, and such an attitude often leads to the tragic dismissal of our own feelings and boundaries.
Labeling self-love as selfish doesn’t stem from a healthy consideration of those around you, but from a devaluing of your own humanity.
Self-love refers to the acceptance of your inherent worth as an individual who occupies space on this green-and blue marble.
In practice, it means doing things that reinforce this truth—in whatever way nourishes you emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
It means doing more yoga and eating healthier. It means respecting my creative process by resting so I don’t burn out.
This means allowing myself to be free from guilt and fear. Embodiment can be practiced through meditation and mental health checks.
These are my methods of self-love. They don’t have to be yours. Be aware of what makes you happy and free. Do that.
Until this realization blossoms into a daily reality, try to accept the fact that you’re worth prioritizing.
3. Give yourself permission to not have a “purpose.”
Have you ever been in a job interview and had the person sitting across from you ask, “So where do you see yourself in five years?’
Well, consider this your official letter of permission to have no clue what you’re doing in five years—or even one year. You don’t even have to know what you’re doing tomorrow.
The only “purpose” we have as human beings is to move toward and reflect love. This can be done in many different ways, so everyone should have the freedom to choose the one that suits them best.
Life is all about happiness, not success. Give yourself grace and allow it to be. The miracle of being alive is the gift of living.
Because you are, you can be enough.
About Bernadette Harris
Bernadette’s writing has appeared in a variety of magazines, including The Chamber Magazine: Ruminate, Braided, Introvet, DearAnd Mindful Word. You can find more of her work at https://www.bernadetteharris.net/.
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