Is Your Life Lacking Meaning and Purpose?
SEPTEMBER 15, 2015 BY BEV JANISCH 3 COMMENTS
Bev & Mark at the mountain Summit
If you feel your life lacks meaning and purpose, you are not alone!
This picture was taken of my husband and I at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro, one of the highest mountains in the world. The ironic thing was that I was standing literally on top of the world and yet on the inside, I was as low as I could ever remember being. I was in total denial that my life was lacking meaning and purpose.
“People travel to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”- Saint Augustine
I was 50, retired and splitting my time between my home in Calgary, Alberta and 2 beautiful vacation homes. I had 2 grown children that were successfully launched, a great husband, family, friends and the opportunity to travel to many exotic places.
I had a long and fulfilling career as a nurse that I was passionate about. When my husband retired and wanted to start traveling more, it seemed like the right thing to do to leave my career and explore the next chapter of my life.
Everybody that knew me was envious of my life and thought I had it all and was living the dream. I was healthy, wealthy and sometimes wise and that’s when it all fell apart.
I found myself becoming increasingly unhappy with my retirement lifestyle. I tried many different things to find meaning in the life I had created. I traveled, golfed, socialized, painted, volunteered, did triathlons, took courses in interior design. Sounds great, but I was deeply unhappy and was trying to figure out why with so much to be grateful for was I so unhappy?
I got to the point that I felt my soul was dying and I knew that I needed to make some changes.
I had experienced low points in my life but this was different. I now know that I was going through what has been described as the “dark knight of the soul”. The dark knight of the soul goes back a long way and has been described by Eckhart Tolle in this article (https://www.eckharttolle.com/newsletter/october-2011) as “what one could call a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life of a deep sense of meaninglessness.”
During this confusing time, I intuitively knew that the answers were not out there somewhere but that they were inside of me. I began to learn about the power of meditation and decided to give it a try. As I established a regular practice, a shift and transformation began to happen.
My meditation practice enabled me to quiet my mind in order to hear my soul and the little voice inside of me. I had profound insights recognizing that I’d lived my life to meet the needs of others and that my decision to retire was made for my husband and not for myself.
I realized that the brief retirement ended up being the bridge between the first half of my life and the second half of my life. When I connected with my soul, I knew that I had not finished serving and sharing my gifts with the world. I experienced what Eckhart Tolle described as a “ kind of rebirth. The dark knight of the soul is a kind of death that you die. What dies is the egoic sense of self.”
As I transitioned out of retirement and made changes to reconnect with my soul’s purpose, I experienced many challenges. The biggest one was that the people around me didn’t want me to change. My changing had a ripple effect. It was a painful period of time and difficult to keep moving forward in a different direction. Meditation gave me the skill to be present with my thoughts and feelings without going to battle with them.
I explored endless tools and practices to help me get in touch with myself and heal the parts of my life that needed healing. I tried journaling, meditation, mindfulness, forgiveness practices, self-compassion practices, traditional counseling, mindful walking and eating, weight training, sleep habits, hormones and supplements, affirmative prayer, affirmations, daily inspirational readings, communication skills to use my voice, time in nature, gratitude, daily habits tracking, time alone, time with people and countless books. I turned healing my life into a full-time job.
Each of those tools helped me in some way grow and evolve into the person that I was meant to be. In that process, I developed peace of mind, slept better, got my stress hormones under control, began loving myself, lost some weight, became clearer in my thinking, felt less anxious and lost, and most importantly began listening to that inner voice about how I was meant to live my life.
Today, I am forging ahead into the second half of my life ready and committed to make a difference. If you’re feeling lost, confused or that your life is lacking meaning and purpose, I have the tools and the firsthand experience to help you on your journey.
Vera sought out counseling with me because her doctor advised her to discover the emotional causes of her chronic fatigue. Vera, a successful stockbroker, was in a loving 18-year marriage. On the surface, everything in her life was fine. She had enough money, good friends and a good relationship. Yet Vera awoke each morning battling fatigue and depression.
David sought my help because of chronic feelings of inner emptiness. David is very successful in his manufacturing business, has a good marriage and two adult children. Like Vera, everything seemed fine. Yet the feelings of inner emptiness drove David to overeat, overspend, and indulge in porn on the Internet.
While both Vera and David were successful in their careers, neither loved their work. They worked to make money, but their work had little meaning for them. Yet when they looked inside, neither could discover what did have meaning for them. Both reported that they had never experienced a sense of meaning in their adult lives, and that the emptiness and depression had been with them since adolescence.
As I worked with Vera and David, it became evident that each had made a decision early in their lives to shut down their feelings to avoid the deep pain of unbearable loneliness and heartbreak. Vera shut down because she was unable to tolerate the loneliness of her mother’s behavior toward her. Her mother would say she loved Vera, but Vera never felt her love. Instead, she felt her mother energetically pulling at her, trying to suck the life out of her. As a very sensitive child, Vera could not tolerate this confusing experience, so she put her feelings in a box and decided to live from her head instead of her heart.
David, also a very sensitive child, shut down because he was unable to tolerate the loneliness of being with two emotionally unavailable empty parents, and the heartbreak of rejection from peers.
As adults, both Vera and David were still shut down from their feelings. They were still afraid of feeling the pain of loneliness and heartbreak — feelings that are actually everyday facts of life. Loneliness is present when your heart is closed or another’s heart is closed, or when there is no one with whom to share love. Loneliness is the primary feeling when we want to connect with another and the other is unavailable. Heartbreak can occur when others who are important to you are unloving to you. If you were completely open to your feelings, you would feel moments of loneliness and heartbreak or heartache a number of times a day. However, most people never feel these feelings and are completely unaware of them, because the moment there is a twinge of emotional pain, they move instantly to various addictions and addictive behaviors, such as substances, activities, thoughts, shame and blame. Yet when we shut out pain, we also shut out joy and a passionate sense of purpose.
Pain and joy are in the same place in the heart. Vera and David could not discover what has meaning for them and what brings them joy while keeping a lid on their feelings. The very act of keeping their hearts closed to their feelings was creating their depression and inner emptiness.
Imagine that your feelings are a child within. If you ignore this child — by ignoring your feelings — this child feels abandoned. Vera’s and David’s refusal to feel and take responsibility for their own pain is an inner abandonment and results in anxiety, depression and inner emptiness.
It is your child within — your feeling self — that has the blueprint for what has meaning for you, for your passion and purpose. Each of us comes to this planet with a deep purpose to express, and when we don’t express this purpose, we end up feeling empty and depressed. Yet we cannot discover this purpose when we keep a lid on our feelings.
Learning to manage the pain of loneliness and heat is no way of managing loneliness and heartbreak without a deep and personal connection to a spiritual source of love and wisdom. We cannot manage these feelings from our mind alone.
You will find deep meaning in your life when you decide to opening to learning from your feelings of loneliness and heartbreak, rather than continuing to shut them down. And you will open to these feelings only when you do not feel alone inside — when you begin experiencing the love and wisdom of your spiritual Guidance. Opening to Divine Love and opening to your feelings will bring you the fullness, joy, passion and purpose that are the yearnings of your soul.