Excerpts from My Books:
My new book:
Life Purpose - Yours
Do you remember your dreams from when you were a child? You wanted to be some type of hero—someone who was inspiring for you—a cartoon character, a TV personality, a figure from a storybook, an inspiring family member, or some mystical creature that could magically transform your surroundings to the happy, fun place you hoped it would be. What happened to that dream?
Chances are it was squashed by other people’s expectations of you. “What are you going to be when you grow up?” people would ask. The acceptable answer usually was what they wanted to hear rather than what you felt was your life’s calling. You were supposed to be responsible; aiming for something that other people thought was proper and right for you. Your own hopes, dreams, and talents were almost an afterthought to them in many ways. They were seeing you through the lens of their own conditioning. Oftentimes, what they wanted you to take on was what they did or wished they had done; it had much more to do with their own hopes and fears than yours.
Then there is the media—glamorizing certain roles—movie and TV stars; athletes; rock stars; major business moguls; and the rich, indulged children of people with enormous wealth; and other unrealistic role models. These celebrities seemed to live charmed lives with little accountability and with nothing as mundane as bills to pay, dishes and laundry to do. Those subliminal messages crept into your mind, burrowed in deep, and emerged whenever you had a setback in your life; they made you feel inadequate, wanting, and unhappy.
Bombarded by the relentless conditioning of what you are supposed to be, you packed your own dreams away, so hidden that you may have forgotten that you ever had them. You internalized the message that society gave you: that you have to be rich, famous, multitalented, good-looking, and in excellent physical shape to be happy. Of course you also have to be accomplished in a profession, keep a beautiful home, have well-behaved and smart children, be self actualized, spiritual, do community service, and give back to the world. Oh, and you need to have the right—that is, rich, glamorous, and good-looking—partner on your arm to complete the picture. No wonder you may be confused as to your life’s mission!
Maybe you are one of the fortunate few who found their life’s purpose early and have stayed the course all your life. I am blessed to say that I am one of them. How do you find your reason for being? In my case it was through the realization that the world is a lot bigger when I am open to seeing it from other people’s perspectives.
I was shunted off to live with my aunt and uncle when I was seven in the hope that they would adopt me. They had no children after many failed attempts, and my parents had two daughters and three sons already. As the second daughter I was dispensable, and, in fact, as my mother frequently reminded me, I was worthless.
Staying with my aunt and uncle in the little fishing village where they lived exposed me to people of meager means who were nevertheless happy and productive. They liked the freedom of their lifestyle of being outdoors and in nature doing something they loved. My friends were the poor fishermen children and the child factory piecework workers with whom I worked. We assembled plastic flowers and embroidered needlepoint handbags at home or at special gathering places on the streets for pennies. Yet, I was comfortable. No one told me I was useless.
Then life changed again. My aunt gave birth to their first child, a son. I was sent back to live with my parents again. This gave me an even sharper understanding of what it means to be unwanted.
School uniforms are great equalizers; we have no idea of the relative wealth of each other. Without distinguishing clothes we lose a tool that is often used to judge other people. Rebecca, one of my classmates, turned out to be from a family of paltry financial means. With two working parents, my friend and her family lived in one room and shared a kitchen and bathroom with two other families. Often they didn’t have enough to eat.
I was filled with outrage when I found this out. It didn’t seem fair or reasonable that in spite of all their best efforts a family couldn’t maintain the basics of life. I realized that no matter how bad my life might seem to me, there were people who had it worse, much worse. No, not as some remote concept from TV, magazines, or books (this was before the Internet, after all), a real life person whom I knew was facing true hardship.
I vowed that I would grow up to help others attain what we all want—freedom from basic wants and happiness. My life mission was set; I was going to save the world. I was 11 years old.
It sometimes takes a defining event like my discovery of Rebecca’s home situation to ignite the inner passion of what drives us. Other times, your life passion may be so hidden that you are not consciously aware of it yet. But everyone has one. Finding out what yours is will propel you to another level of existence, one in which you are motivated to do what you are destined to do.
Joan Borysenko shared her own personal journey to finding her life purpose. Now looking back she realized that she discovered her life purpose in a defining event at age ten and then it took many years of development for her life mission to fully emerge as it is today. So it may be with you, your mission may have appeared as a shining glimmer at one time. Whether you followed it consciously or subconsciously or was distracted by something else, it is still there deep within you.
When Joan was ten, her parents took her to a horror movie with poisonous snakes, headhunters, and ferocious animals in the jungle that scared her so much that she believed that the frightening scenes will happen to her and her family. Being a precocious and sensitive child, Joan developed a fantasy belief that the only way her family could be saved was by what psychologists now define as an obsessive-compulsive ritual to keep harm away. Joan started a series of habits, hand washing, specific sayings and other patterns, which she did repeatedly all day.
Understandably alarmed, Joan’s parents took her to a therapist to seek help. Joan’s behavior was so consuming that she was held back from attending school and her beloved Jewish girl camp, which was upcoming. Upon learning that she would be denied the many things that gave her joy, Joan prayed fervently for help. In that place of prayer and reflection she found a powerful sense of peace and love, and she knew how to she get well. She had to stop all her ritualistic behaviors at once, cold turkey. And with the inner peace she received from her deep prayer time, she found the strength and wisdom to cease the rituals completely.
After she regained balance, Joan realized that what she experienced was a profound spiritual phenomenon, and wondered if other people had similar experiences. She wanted to bring back that sense of enveloping love and peace she felt at that time. It became Joan’s life mission to understand and develop that deep sense of stillness, wellness and love, and to share that with others. How does a normal functioning child become obsessive-compulsive and back again? She wanted to find out, she was going to become a psychiatrist when she grew up.
Joan majored in biology and psychology in Bryn Marr and worked at Wyeth Labs researching objective conditioning while she was in school. She was fascinated by the advances in neuroscience and cell biology and entered Harvard Medical School to study for her doctorate in cell biology. Along the way she had many inspiring mentors who guided her and her research in biofeedback, and in cell biology on how cells interact with each other, the primary communication system that determines our body’s health. Her interest in cell biology and biofeedback led her into cancer research.
Joan flourished in her work, and for a while was teaching and doing research at both Tufts Medical School and Harvard Medical School. It was a fascinating and energizing time. And then tragedy struck. Joan’s beloved father was diagnosed with a virulent form of leukemia and was placed on large doses of steroids that left him unable to think and caused severe psychosis. In a small window of time when he was taken off the steroids for another operation, he realized his mental condition and committed suicide rather than face the prospect of being put back on the steroids that would render him again incapable of normal cognitive functioning.
Joan was devastated - a cancer biology expert who could not help her own father. She switched from research into working with people and helping them use all the tools of mind, body and spirit to regain and maintain health. She started sharing the entire body of work she was integrating, from the newest medical science, to the ancient wisdom of yoga, meditation and prayer. It was a transformative and exciting time for Joan as well as in the field of mind, body and spirit in health and wellbeing.
In her relentless zeal and fervor Joan’s overworked world came crashing down, literally. She was severely hurt in a car crash. It was a wake up call. She could not sustain her research, clinical work with patients, write leading edge books on her work, be a good mother to her teenage sons and have a meaningful relationship with her husband all at the same time; much less maintain her personal physical and mental health too.
It was time for her to truly embody what she found out at ten years old. She was primed and ready to follow her life purpose of developing inner peace, wellness and love and to share how with others. Joan resigned from her Harvard post and devoted her time and energy to writing, speaking and to her personal and family life. It took Joan many years from that ten year old’s first inner knowing to fully living her mission. And when Joan looks back, she says that each step along the way was blessed with mentors, synchronicities and lessons that lead her to her following her life mission.
And that can also be for you. You may not be completely clear on your life purpose and what makes you happy. Keep leaning into it. Ask yourself why a particular situation is developing the way it is. What can you learn? Are you moving closer or further away from what you want? Like a sunflower that always grows facing the sun, are you turning towards what give you energy and life or are you moving away?
Next – the Four Stages in Life……