What Is Our True Purpose?

On my commute to and from class this morning, my phone automatically connected to my car's bluetooth and began playing Jess Lively's newest podcast (TLS #180: The Good News: Why our "suffering" only exists in the past). I wasn't planning on writing a blog post for today but the discussion really opened my eyes to something in particular: being present in the 'now' and the purpose of that moment.

Of course, throughout the podcasts and shows I've listened to, the videos I've watched, and the books I've read, I've heard plenty about the importance of the present moment and letting go of both the past and the future. But the way Lively's guest, Byron Katie, explained it really resonated with me.

No one desires to suffer but they do desire the exact opposite: pleasure. Pleasure in work, pleasure in relationships, pleasure in life in general, etc. That is, we strive for happiness. She argues that true happiness is the result of freedom.

Freedom from what exactly?

Some things that were mentioned during the podcast were our ego, our thoughts, and our future just as much as our past. That doesn't mean denying the importance of them or failing to care for our future, but it is thought that the only way we can attain happiness in the present moment is by being present in the moment. Simple.

How do we do that, though?

Byron says that our pasts and our futures cannot bring us happiness because they are nothing more than our imagination. Think about it: the only real thing that exists now is... now.

Her exercise was to try imagining your mother. You have an image of your mother in your brain. But is that image your mother or is it your imagination?

Clearly, it's your imagination. Your real, true mother is elsewhere. Similarly, our past and our future are not real. They are just a part of our thoughts and imagination. When our imagination recalls a sad past moment, we begin to suffer because we are imagining what that was like. Our own thoughts cause us to suffer. The same goes with our future: worrying about what will happen tomorrow, or whether we will fail our test, or if we will ever find the perfect spouse are not real. It is just our imagination and thoughts that are making us suffer.

Byron isn't suggesting we completely block off these thoughts. We can't really do that. What she is saying is we need to be aware of their presence in order to let go of them (think Buddhist art of meditation -- allow the thoughts to come, but let them pass like clouds in the sky). If we happen to recall a sad memory or start feeling anxious about what tomorrow will bring us, we must let go of those thoughts. They are no longer and not yet real. The only reality that is left is your present moment. And even that present moment is gone and replaced by another by the time you're even done reading this sentence!

Think about it... how lucky are we not to be forced to be attached to one moment forever? Be it a happy moment or a sad moment. This simple fact gives us the ability to change our own lives by changing our perspectives! Nothing is permanent.

Plus, she also suggests that if you understand the past, you won't have to worry about the future. If you understand that the past is gone and no longer real, you will know the same is true for the future. These two facts allow you to intentionally decide to live in the present and appreciate this current moment for what it is.

So, what about purpose? If life is just a collection of "now" moments, what is the point of now? For this "answer," it's best that I use the exact words that Jess and Byron spoke:

Jess Lively: But why, if everything is in the past ('cause the now is all that's real), does existence bother to be?

Bryon Katie: It doesn't.

Jess Lively: Can you expand on that?

Bryon Katie: It's an illusion.

Jess Lively: Why is there an illusion? Why is the video game existing?

Bryon Katie: What existence are you pointing to? What existence are you talking about?

Jess Lively: It's so trippy to really think about that, that everything is in the past the moment it happens...makes me go, why?

Byron Katie: You're not even left with an "it happens." You're awake, so you can say and do anything, it's just that when you're awake it comes out of this... it's a beauty, it's a song of nature, nature beyond definition.

Jess Lively: What do you think the point of all of this is? This moment?

Byron Katie: And what moment was that?


Read that again. Now, maybe even read it once more. Ponder it. Try to really understand it, and if you can't understand the writing, try listening to the podcast itself (this portion of the conversation starts around the 38-minute mark).

And what moment was that?

Wow. What a way to think about it.

Our moments flee the second we realize they were even there. How precious must a moment be that we can only hold onto it for a mere thought? A mere breath? A mere smile?

Why are we so concerned with "but why?" With the purpose of life? I know, I know. It's not as simple as that -- I get it. I question it frequently, too. But why isn't it as simple as that? 

Really, though. When you open your mind to this idea, then why can't life's purpose be just to live in a moment? Do we really need a greater purpose than that? What's your opinion on this?



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