Thich Nhat Hanh tells a story about asking some children, “What is the purpose of eating breakfast?” The first kid answers, “To get energy for the day,” but another child says, “The purpose of eating breakfast is to eat breakfast.”
I find watching aspects of nature fearlessly, proudly and patiently growing into their purpose is a great teaching for me, so here’s poem on that topic, which I wrote while on retreat a couple of months ago.
I met a young apple tree
in the chill bright of pre-spring
i only knew that’s what it was
because it had a label
without which I’d have been forgiven
for thinking it was a forgotten walking stick
upright and strong
though perhaps unusually knobbly
as the weeks went by
we met several times
and I witnessed with wonder
the transformation of the bulbous knobs
into the white pink softness
of new life
sprung as if from dry death itself
with unrepentant joy
and unhurried patience
for the softness birthed mere tantalizing millimeters
in the weeks that followed
and so I learned to slow down
until I breathed, and noticed
and I let my skin tell me
it was being touched by the sun
and drank it all in to feed my own ripening
So that was the lesson from an apple tree, and here is what I wrote more recently based on the exercise I mentioned yesterday. This time I chose to go with, ‘the most important thing life has taught me about why I’m here is…that it changes.:
I’ve had so many passionate purposes in my life, some I identified with deeply and held with great dedication and sincerity, and oh so tightly. Now I find myself without one single, overriding, all consuming ‘purpose’, and I really miss it and I notice and acknowledge this as life’s invitation to let go, for my purpose, my passion changes, at least certainly outwardly, and there is great value in digging deeper to find those elements of my reason for being that do not change, and yet, I seek and seek and, though I feel like I must be close enough to touch them, I reach out and…there’s nothing there, just life, living, responding, inter-being, and interweaving just as the elements, and more, came together to create this me that I am now.
So where to go from here? I need to let go of my need to find an expressible, definable purpose that’s impressive, visible, meaningful and positive. The purpose of my life is to live, and if I can, to reach that level of acceptance of my own humbleness and simplicity, then perhaps I will recognise just what a complex, creative and magical being I at essence am. A flower being a flower, an apple tree being an apple tree, me being me. Perhaps it’s really that simple.
Any more thoughts friends? This purpose topic is a biggie, no?