“What is the meaning of life? To be happy and useful.” ~the Dalai Lama
One of the beautiful things about being an intuitive reader is that people are willing to go very deep very quickly. Vulnerability, shame, fear, and hope are all active players at a table set with Tarot cards. Often people start out their first session with me warning that “You might get bored, this is just another love drama.”
Of course I never do get bored—everyone has a unique and precious story and I feel honored to share in them, period.
Besides, underneath every question that’s related to the future, or an attempt to figure out our relationships or heart hurts is the most fundamental question of all: “Why am I here? To what end and for what purpose? What am I supposed to be doing right now?”
This is why in my work I always focus on where we are, right here and right now, because that is the most important thing to understand, and oddly, sometimes the thing that’s easiest to lose sight of—our here and our now.
I see it again and again with others and I know that it is true with myself: we ask questions about the future not because we want to control it, but because we are trying to figure out how we can live our best lives in this single, grace-filled, present moment.
Talk about pressure.
As a little girl and a young woman growing up in traditional South Central Texas, I was taught early and often that I could never expect a man to make me happy; I would have to provide that (and everything else) for myself.
Solid, safe, and sensible advice for sure, especially in a time when the women in my family watched mothers, sisters, and friends get trapped into loveless relationships and marriages.
Self-reliance was smarter and safer; after all, if the only person I really relied on was myself, how great were the chances that I would get hurt? Of course, college and my early twenties were a crash course in how a self-reliant life strategy, while helpful in some ways, is no guardian against pain and emotional difficulties.
And now that I have been with the same man for ten years and a mom to the most amazing little boy for two, I have had the limitations of the “find happiness within yourself” driven home.
It continues to be a safe and sensible approach, at least on one level, but I’m not sure how solid it is, and I’m pretty sure that safe and sensible are not the keys that open doors of greater understanding, wisdom, and joy.
Perhaps we are ultimately responsible for our own joy, but happiness is found and purpose derived from being in relationship to others—being in relationship with all the messiness, drama, kindness, frustration, and delight that any good relationship entails.
This is one reason why, whenever we feel that a relationship is going badly or may be on the brink of ending we panic: because we recognize that the joy in our lives is found through connecting with and being kind to others.
This is something we can do whether we’re in a romantic relationship or not.
We can be of service to others, not by just noting what we can do for someone else but by actually doing it. To put it another way, as the Dalai Lama so wisely said, being useful.
So often we think of “being useful,” especially when the Dalai Lama says it, as feeding thousands, healing hundreds, and compassionately embracing our enemies.
I firmly believe that these great and lofty acts are built on a daily practice of awareness, noticing what might have gone unnoticed—the older woman fumbling with her purse in front of you at the check out line when you are in a hurry, the quiet kid in the corner, the fact that your friends know when you are not really listening, and are hurt by that knowledge—and acting upon it.
Relate. Connect. Be useful. Be happy.
Our first acts of usefulness are usually close to home—calling your grandmother not for a special occasion but just to say, “Hi. I remember you and I love you.”
Really seeing and bearing witness to your child: being present with them, not on the computer, not on your smart phone—with them. Forgiving your dad…for whatever. Holding your beloved in an embrace that lasts longer than it has to because you have the time and it feels so good.
The interesting thing about being useful is that it cannot come into being by itself. We are useful when we are in relationship to honor someone else. In fact, I think of usefulness as the devotion of being in relationship.
We know ourselves in a deeper and truer way through serving, loving, and being present with others. We are not rocks, not islands—we are connection, kindness, and underneath it all joy.
You want purpose? Go be a blessing in the world and joy will be fast on your heels.
Photo by Steve Evans