There is a purpose to life, even if the current materialist position is that there is not. The meaning of life is to grow, or to evolve, into a state where you love yourself and others completely. The fundamental biological principle is evolution. Every living thing does it. You are no exception. You are born into this world, and you die, but in between, you grow, you learn, you evolve, and in that growth, you come to see the world and its inhabitants differently. It may happen quickly, almost immediately for some – a few well-known Yogis come to mind – and it may take decades, but the longer you live the greater you will realize this truth.
Something that people do not realize is the very fact that they are living at all is truly a miracle. Think about the details: It takes one unique combination of gametes (eggs and sperm) to form you. Any other sperm reaching the one monthly released ootid (immature ovum) would lead to a different person genetically and morphologically. It just would not be you. So that alone is miraculous. But, additionally, the birthing process is no walk in the park. In the early 20th century out of every 1000 live births 100 ended in death of the child (and 6-9 women giving birth per 1000 also died). Now, as a result of many public health and medical measures, this has been reduced dramatically for infant (90%) and maternal deaths (~99%), but nonetheless child birthing has its dangers. Both mother and child are transformed during the process, both evolve, as Joseph Campbell so eloquently described:
“Everyone is a hero in birth, where he undergoes a tremendous psychological as well as physical transformation, from the condition of a little water creature living in a realm of amniotic fluid into an airbreathing mammal which ultimately will be standing. That’s an enormous transformation, and had it been consciously undertaken, it would have been, indeed a heroic act.”
Then we move into life, first striving for independence, then to consume our desires and avoid our fears. We have beliefs and perceptions shaped by experience, which lodge into our memory, some as conscious recall, while others get buried deep into the hidden recesses of our mind. These hidden memories and experiences then sit in our subconscious minds, like little neurological software programs running underneath the conscious operating system, only to drive our behavior, or further perceptions, all completely unknown to our awareness. If you take the time to think about them, many of your reactive behaviors, emotions, and perceptual judgements are not really under your conscious understanding. You do not always know why you do what you do.
Our desires and fears are driven by passion – strong and barely controllable emotions. We want what we want and will do whatever it takes (at times) to achieve them (consume them). Many also often equally avoid their fears, pains, and traumatic challenges, without ever really knowing what caused these perceptions to begin with. And yet, we walk through life on an oscillating path of seeking pleasures and avoiding pains, all the while picking up more distorted perceptions of reality and bury quite a few that are simply too painful for us to process. And the cycle spins.
However, something happens to most people as they age. Each time they commit to self-reflection – through therapy or meditation/mindfulness or, for some, maybe even psychedelic substances – they begin to develop an awareness of mind. That is, they come to learn lessons from their experiences, both pleasureful and painful, and some may even gain deep insight into why they act, behave, think, react, or believe what they do. It is at these moments, especially when the experience involves another person (almost always), that a self-reflector may see him or herself in the other. They have that awareness of, “I do that!” These are usually “a-ha moments,” which catapult the self-reflector to the next level of understanding. When we comprehend that all the things we see in others – behaviors, traits, patterns, whatever – exist in us too, something miraculous happens: We develop true compassion.
To relate a personal story, on self-reflecting on a recent conflict I had with somebody very close to me, this awareness came like a flash of light – I have heard it called apperception. I immediately knew (not thought, knew) that I had done the same exact behavior myself in the past. So, naturally, my next question was: Why did I do said behavior? The answer became immediately clear: because I was hurt. Ah, I did the behavior because I was hurt…yes. And come to think of it, that is very likely the reason the other person did it. When I put that into perspective, I developed a whole new awareness around the conflict. I understood from where the person was coming. It was real compassion. I knew. I understood.
These moments in life lead to great spiritual growth – psychological, yes, behavioral, yes, but spiritual seems to capture the essence more completely. This is a magnificent evolution that a person goes through when they develop compassion by seeing themselves in others. The Yogis describe it as the seer, seeing, and seen all becoming one.
We can return to Joseph Campbell’s words now: “where [the hero] undergoes a tremendous psychological as well as physical transformation.” That is exactly what happens to all people when they have experiences of apperception, understanding, and evolution. We must ask ourselves the right questions. Sometimes we cannot get past the mind chatter of our emotions, and so we become passionate, maybe angry, maybe hurt. But in moments of clarity (and anybody who would love to learn how to flow through life with more clarity, please contact me), we often can, and do, see the truth: that we, our brothers, and sisters are all the same; we share every quality in existence with them. And this is the foundation of spiritual growth.
Every person gets better at accomplishing spiritual growth as they age. The longer one lives, the clearer this process becomes. We call it wisdom. When you have had enough pain, and enough conflict, and enough demanding to be right, you will ultimately come to a place of greater understanding – a more expansive awareness, if you will. It is as if when we evolve, we want more compassion, more understanding, and more connection with others. If you find yourself in this place, then I commend you on your growth. You will surely acknowledge that this process also cultivates compassion and love for ourselves. And your relationships likely thrive as a result. If you have not yet reached this place, do not worry, you will, to some degree, in time. If you would love assistance in speeding up this process, please contact me – I teach classes every month showing students how (I also give private consultations). Growth and evolution is the purpose of life – for all living things, and this includes you – to come to love yourself and others completely.