I sought my life’s purpose as if there was something Out There that had my name on it. I was convinced, in my adolescence, that there was a Right Path that was mine and all I had to do was to find it. I was so convinced of this that I changed life paths, or at least career paths, quite precipitously in the middle of my university education.
Now I see things differently. Actually, it isn’t a matter of seeing things but more a matter of knowing in my body, in some deep place of knowing that isn’t cognitive, isn’t verbal or imaginal or even conceptual. Which, of course, makes it pretty hard to describe in words.
If I am weeding this garden, then right now, that is my purpose. If I am writing this blog post, then that is my purpose. If I am helping someone to express a feeling that he or she has long held captive in the recesses of mind and body, then THAT is my purpose, right there at that moment.
Somehow, I guess, that purpose isn’t something outside of me that I have to find. It is more about doing whatever I am doing with the intention of doing it fully and with all of myself.
How do you learn new information? We usually think of learning as the process we tried to engage in school. Someone told us something, and we “learned” it, meaning that we could, perhaps, parrot it back, or maybe even state the concept in other words (“in your own words…”). However, learning happens in lots of ways. I have learned more through my cooking experiments than from any cookbook or cooking class. When I notice that my cake is flat, or that my smoke detector is going off, or that this soup is just not, ummm, right….then I have an opportunity to learn something from my body’s response. This is more bottom-up than top down.
When we feel a “gut reaction” or some kind of unaccountability in our bodies, and we acknowledge and use that information, we are using bottom-up processing to help us manage top-down information. We’ve spent years and years refining our top-down methods, and really ignoring the messages that have been available through less verbal channels. It makes sense, though, for us to use, actively and with awareness, all of the information we have to make decisions, to problem solve, and to just check in with ourselves.
Try this: take a moment to just sit and notice your breathing. You might find yourself paying attention to how your body sits in the chair, or how your feet feel on the floor, but try to attend to the ways that air moves into and out of your body. Then open up a little space to see what else is in there? What else do you notice besides the fact that you are breathing? What other sensations are available to you? Just check it out and see if there is anything happening inside you that you might not have been aware of before you took time to check in on your bottom-up processes.