Finding Your Mission in Life*
is A Mission for Intuition Development
Henry Reed, Ph.D.
Do you remember where you were when you realized that angels were being recognized by the popular media? Maybe you saw a book on angels, or an announcement about a TV special. If you can remember, what was your reaction to the growing popularity of angels?
For me, the recognition struck when I was in the checkout line of the grocery story, and saw a picture of an angel on a weekly newsmagazine. Angels were the cover story that week. To see angels appearing in the popular media, I rejoiced. It wasn't that I was pleased that the rest of the world was getting savvy. It wasn't so much that I was applauding the miracle of angels, although in a way, I suppose I was. My focus was on how perfect a messenger angels are--I mean, the idea of angels can take us somewhere that others have tried, but failed, to do.
The idea of the existence of angels takes us into the realm of intuitive realities. Such things are real to intuition, but not necessarily real to the materialistic consciousness.
One thing that makes angels a perfect messenger of intuitive reality is that there is a tradition for them: they exist in all religious cultures. They have the advantage of familiarity. Another thing going for angels is that they have a face, a personality. Some depictions of angels are quite beautiful, some are downright cute! So angels put a friendly face on the invisible realm. Whereas many "New Age" concepts are frightening to some people, full of mystery, potential danger in the unknown, angels are familiar and friendly, even if a bit bizarre to ordinary reality. Another thing going for angels is that they look like us, sort of. They are not diabolical, they are not alien, they are not pervasive invisibilities, like force fields, that are hard for the average mind to comprehend.
People can identify with angels quite readily, even though if they thought about it, the identification is quite uncalled for, at least in the context of materialistic culture. Yet, for all their surprising qualities and magical realities, angels seem familiar to us on many grounds. They provide a way for us to have a relationship with the intuitive reality. They give us a handle on something we can not otherwise touch. They are a bridge to a place we can not otherwise go. They are a messenger of knowledge that we can not otherwise understand.
Angels are a perfect solution to a pressing problem! So in that way I was praising the miracle of angels when I saw them on the cover of that magazine. They appeared when needed, saved us when needed, and heralded new things to come.
The Intuitive Popularity of Mission in Life
In a similar way, I am very pleased to see the uprising interest in the notion of "mission in life." More and more people are pondering their "soul's purpose." Even corporations, the current arbiters of shared social reality, are developing "mission statements." I bet you have thought about your mission in life. Do you remember where you were when the thought first occurred to you, "I wonder if my life has a special purpose?"
I can remember one time in college, for example, when I was out for a late night walk. I had been enjoying writing an essay in a philosophy class, and as I looked up at the stars, I had this feeling about sharing some important ideas with the world. I was a bit embarrased to have such thoughts, and decided to ignore them, but they never really went away. Those and other thoughts are now recognize to be the voice of intuition, where from within ourselves, we know something to be true.
Like talking about angles, paying attention to one's mission in life is another way in which intuitional reality is coming to life in our culture. There is something about the concept of "mission in life" that is acceptable to us. It's almost obvious, on the face of it, why we would consider such a thing. Yet it's not really an obvious concept, especially to the materialistic culture that would think instead of logical, cause-and-effect linkages.
Our standard cultural model of the human being would hold that each person is endowed with certain talents, or potential skills, and that these could be actualized in accord with society's needs, making a match between what you have to offer and what the marketplace wants. Perhaps a series of tests, combined with a market analysis, could yield a statistically favored matchup up between your talents and current market trends. That concept of mission in life would be acceptable, even laudable, to our mechanistic culture. Yet, the idea that we are each here with a purpose, a mission, something inborn that seeks fulfillment, goes beyond our typical thinking. Nevertheless, it is a popular idea. It speaks to people in some important way, and so it becomes a vanguard, a diplomat, a messenger, like an angel, that helps us form a relationship with something that would otherwise go unnoticed.
What really excites me about the idea of discovering one's "mission in life" is that it requires the development of personal intuition. You can't determine your mission without being intuitive. If you can recall when you pondered your mission in life, then you know what it feels like to be intuitive. When people wonder about their soul's purpose, they are exercising their intuitive faculty, attempting to become more intuitive in a very practical way. Most of the time we exercise our intuition, it is for practical purposes, and comes naturally. We do so without paying any attention to the fact that we are being intuitive, looking within for our informatoin, but we don't pay any attention to the process of our tapping into our intuition. Trying to discover our mission in life helps us pay more attention to intuition. That may be its value.
The Practical Side of Intuition
These days the practical side of intuition is receiving a lot of attention. People are often surprised to learn that the source of the most financial support for the study of intuition has come from business world! The world of corporations and high finance is quite removed from the fluid world of New Age metaphysics, and it seems significant that such an influential world force as big business would invest its time into intuition. But it is the corporate world that is paying--literally--the most attention to the details of intuition. They don't want to make trusting intuition a matter of luck. They want to know what they are doing!
To the businessperson, intuition is nothing if not a practical matter. As the world becomes more complex and change is the only constant, planning and decision making becomes more complex. Rational analysis fails. By the time you have analyzed all the pertinent facts, the world has moved and the facts have changed! As I heard one businessperson lament, "How do you keep your eye on the ball when you can't see it?"
At the first international convention of the Global Intuition Network, held in Hawaii a few years back, a representative from the International Institute of Management, in Geneva, Switzerland, presented the results of that prestigious think tank's analysis of the role of intuition in business. By interviews and other methods, they had concluded that intuition had three major roles in business. The first is to get a vision. The second is to determine a starting point to achieve that vision. The third is to make decisions at choice points along the way.
You can easily see the three uses of intuition as having to do with a journey. What mountain shall I climb? Where shall I begin the journey? And at each crossroad, which path shall I take?
The use of intuition to guide a journey also applies to an individual's life. What kind of life would be worth living? How can I get started? What choices do I make along the way?
Deciding upon a mission in life, or, as it's more likely, evolving a mission in life, would use intuition in the same way. Intuition speaks to our highest values, because otherwise we cannot envision a life that would be truly satisfying. Intuition has to be realistic and practical, or else we could not really get started on our quest to discover our mission. Finally, intuition has to have a "sixth sense," or else it couldn't help us see around corners when we come to an intersection.
Yet there is something more about the role of intuition in discovering and enjoying a mission in life. There is something about intuition that recognizes that special ingredient that gives a mission in life its extraordinary appeal, its wonderful feeling, its promise of something transcendent. Mission in life is more than a job description. It has something to do with the nature of soul. It requires intuition to be realized.
Have you ever experienced a moment when you felt really at home with yourself? Have you ever noticed when you were naturally "following your bliss?" Have you ever found yourself so connected with what you were doing at that moment that you felt that what you were doing you were meant to do? These little peak experiences in daily life are the ingredients in what some researchers are recognizing as moments of intrinsic meaning. We do those things for the joy of doing them, not for the rewards they bring us, because doing them is reward in itself. They are intrinsically enjoyable and rewarding. When we do those things, we often slip into a state of "flow," where everything seems to work out on its own, naturally, and without effort. Often there comes a sense of "meaning in life," or "purpose" in these moments, as if there were a "meant to be" quality about those experiences. They can be moments in our ordinary existence, or they can be special moments in our career, creative endeavors or relationships. At those moments, something deep within us has a chance to come out and participate with what is going on around us. Intuition and external reality melt into a special experience of meaning and significance. Sometimes these moments seem so natural that they slip by without our paying any attention, we are so lost in the moment. Think about how many of these moments you may have had and maybe only dimly noticed and now have forgotten.
For all its glory, being intuitive is quite natural. It's as natural as being yourself. Simply being yourself in this market-driven world doesn't seem very special. But consider this: how else can you be yourself except intuitively? Where is there a manual written on how you are supposed to be you? If there were a manual, it would have to be inside of you. So the way you be yourself is to improvise at every moment. In that way, you express your unique qualities, your unique response to any given situation, naturally, intuitively. No wonder, then, that in those special moments of flow, people have that sense of fulfilling their purpose. Yet these moments can be so natural, they are easily overlooked.
It is this subtle but intimate relationship between "mission in life" and intuition that I want to explore in this essay. And when I put quotes around mission in life, as in the idea of "mission in life," what I want to convey is not so much a particular mission, but more the idea of there being such a thing as a "mission in life." It is an intuitive reality.
Let me begin by telling you a personal story about how I began to discover that I had a "mission in life" to evolve.
Finding My Magic Elephant
Have you ever had a special feeling about a certain species of animal? Maybe you sometimes wished you could jump like a kangaroo? Or maybe you sometimes thought about what it would be like to have a lion as a pet, a special guardian to accompany you at school so you could get more respect. Did you have an imaginary crow as a companion, who would fly away to far off places for you to bring back important information? Today people talk about "power animals" to refer to special qualities that we can invoke when needed. Do you have a power animal?
When I was a youth, I used to enjoy watching a TV show about a boy who lived in the jungle. The story was set in India. I don't remember the name of the show anymore, nor the name of the boy, but I'll call him Jungle Boy. What I do remember was that the show's sponsor was Buster Brown Shoes. They would show you this special equipment, where you would try on a shoe, then look at your feet through a special x-ray device and see how your toes fit within the shoes. Several times when I would shop for shoes at Buster Brown's I got to try out that machine and see my toes through the shoes.
Why I liked the show so much was the life that Jungle Boy lived. He was orphaned and had no parents, but he was nevertheless a free agent within the jungle. He had an elephant for a companion. I don't remember the elephant's name, either, but I'll call him Rama, for it was some kind of name you'd expect for an Indian elephant. Rama was the key to Jungle Boy's ability to thrive on his own in the jungle without adult support or supervision. Jungle Boy would ride around the jungle on top of Rama, and whenever there was any problem, Rama would save the day. Sometimes Jungle Boy would get into a life-threatening predicament with the hazards of the jungle, such as being cornered by a wild beast, and Rama would come to the rescue. Sometimes Jungle Boy would encounter bad guys who would attempt something dastardly, usually endangering Jungle Boy. Again, Rama would appear on the scene to disarm the bad guys and protect Jungle Boy. Rama would guide Jungle Boy to treasures, help him find food, and generally act as an ambassador to the jungle, making Jungle Boy perfectly safe and at home in the wilds like no other human in the show.
If you had asked me when I was a kid why I liked the Jungle Boy show so much, probably all I would have said was, "He has so much fun! Wouldn't it be fun to have an elephant!"
In contrast to that pleasant fantasy life, reality gradually imposed itself into my world. Do you remember the first time you thought about what you would become when you "grew up"? I remember the rude awakening that came one day in junior high school. The teacher got out a chart that listed professions and careers. We were to choose one. What did we want to be when we grew up? A doctor? A lawyer? A baker? A fireman? You get the idea.
The list was long and I studied it for a long time. I couldn't find a listing for cowboy. I couldn't find anything that seemed like fun, such as being the boy who traveled with the circus. As I went over the list, from top to bottom, and over again, searching for something that I would like, panic began to rise. What was I to do? Nothing on the list appealed to me. What would become of someone who did not fit in to what society had available? Would I be left out? I was very worried. I don't know if you have ever felt as if you didn't "fit in." It's not a comfortable feeling.
Fortunately, that assignment was laid aside and I continued to do what I did best: get by in school with minimal effort and pursue my adventures in the off times. I liked to play marbles and jacks, walk in the woods, and collect comic books. For several years, being a good enough student seemed to be sufficient as a career. In that public role, I went through high school, and onto college.
In college things went well for a couple of years, and then I ran into some trouble. The trouble was about what happens after college. It began to become an issue. For some people, what to do after college was a pleasant thought of escape to freedom in the larger world. For others, it is the "end of the line" and the beginning of the imposition of the "real world." Do you remember what it was like for you? For me, it was a real threat.
I was a math major, and although I enjoyed working on math homework, as I progressed through the years, the idea of making a living at became less attractive. Teaching math would have seemed to have been a likely option, but I didn't find my math teachers to be inspiring role models. I didn't want to be like them. The other choice made available to me was to be an insurance actuary.
For a summer job, I went to the east coast to work as a student actuary in a large insurance company, to see how I would like it. It didn't take me long to learn: I hated it! I returned to college in the fall in a real predicament. I didn't want to be a math teacher and I didn't want to be an actuary. What was I to do? My work in math began to suffer. I fell into my first mid-life crisis at the end of my junior year.
My teachers noticed that I wasn't my usual self. I had a frank discussion with my math major advisor. He seemed very concerned about my predicament and sent me to the college counselor. The counselor gave me a lot of tests to determine what I'd be good at and would enjoy. When I returned to his office to learn the results of the tests, he told me that the tests indicated that I needed to pursue a professional career of some sort, and, he wondered, based upon my scores, had I ever considered being a psychologist?
Have you ever received a suggestion that really clicked inside? The idea comes from outside, from the person making the suggestion. But the click that happens inside makes you realize the idea was inside you all along, just waiting to be noticed. Did you ever wonder why you hadn't noticed that idea before? Well, I had to think hard on those questions after the visit to the counselor.
When I heard the word, psychologist, I heard bells ringing. Literally, and I really mean it. Something clicked. A light flashed—those are metaphors. What happened was that I heard a cascade of bells ringing, and felt a flash of happiness. I said no, I had never thought of it, but that it sounded like a fantastic idea. He said, very seriously, that it would mean that I would have to go to graduate school. That was great news, because I could continue my career as a student. I was off and running once again.
I went to over to the psychology department and explained my situation to the chairman. I explained that since there was only one more year of college left, I couldn't switch to be a psychology major, but that I had to get into graduate school the year after that. The fellow was sympathetic and arranged for me to take advanced classes when fall started, and suggested I read up on basic psychology during the summer. I went to the bookstore and bought many textbooks. Then I spent that next summer, again working as a student actuary on the east coast. But at every break, and every evening and weekend, I read psychology books.
It was that summer that I experienced my first psychological "self-insight." I was gobbling psychology books with ease and my mind was filled and thrilled with the various concepts I was learning. I found myself wondering, "if I'm finding myself so naturally drawn to psychology, why didn't I ever think of it before?" Suddenly it hit me: my dad was a psychologist! I realized there was a block there, you know, the "I don't want to be like dad!" syndrome. Here is a clue that one's intuition into oneself can be blocked by developmental issues. When someone else suggested psychology, the way was made clear, it suddenly became permissible. Judging from the immediate and strong reaction to the suggestion, the idea was dormant and ready to be released. Would I have come to it on my own? I'll never know.
What intuitions about yourself are hiding within you waiting for permission to be known? I think that some people go to psychics hoping that some of their most dear, most hidden, intuitions will be voiced aloud by the psychic. What a clever way to release yourself to be your secret, real you! I'm sure that there are other ways to do it. I wonder if sometimes the things we stumble onto by accident, things that release new energy and motivation within us, were not encountered by accident. Do you ever wonder if your own intuitive wisdom was responsible for some of those remarkable synchronistic moments?
I was certainly experiencing a new surge of enthusiasm and motivation by the time I returned to college that fall for my senior year. I took as many psychology courses as I could, and applied to graduate schools in psychology. I had to take the Advanced Placement test in psychology, but since I had read so much, I scored a perfect 800! I subsequently went on to graduate school in psychology at U.C.L.A.
Since I had become a skilled student, graduate school was a breeze. Once again, for awhile, things were going my way. But as my studies progressed, I began to realize that the world of psychology as it existed in the university had its own constraints. Just like in the world "out there," I needed to fit in to the system of university research. I was exploring some interesting phenomena in human communication, but it wasn't readily amenable to translating it into numbers for statistical analysis. I found myself drifting into the work going on in my mentor's laboratory, and earned my keep by thinking up better experiments for his assistants to do. In fact, that's how I got my dissertation research done, by one of my mentor's laboratory assistants.
Meanwhile, I was exploring consciousness, meditation, and dreams. It was the dream stuff that was going to make the difference, but I didn't know it at the time. I know a lot of people who ask, "When did you get interested in all this spiritual stuff?" How do you answer that question? Here's how it happened for me:
A friend of mine inspired me with his dreams. His dreams were different than the kind we were learning about in graduate school. At that time, during the late 60s, dreams were viewed as something like medical samples: something best viewed by experts in their laboratory, and not something you would want done in public. My friend's dreams were inspiring, and he used them himself, without the aid of a professional's diagnosis, to guide his life. I was impressed, and asked him where he learned to dream like that. He said something about a guy named Edgar Cayce, and suggested that I create a dream diary.
Do you remember the first time you thought of dreams as something of value? What image did you form about the power of dreams? Do you remember?
I envisioned having dreams that would guide my life. The image of a native making his way through the wilderness with his dreams to guide him inspired me. It was as if with dreams, you could see in the dark! They were like a compass, a pair of infra-red glasses, a super telescope, a crystal ball. As soon as I remembered my first dream, I was embarked on an adventure that would continue to this day.
Near the end of my days as a graduate student, I traveled north to Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend a psychology convention. On one of the days I played hooky from the convention, I spent a wonderful day in Stanley park. I had a vision of being at one with nature that was very influential to me. I hugged a tree for the first time. I remember looking across the water from the park and seeing the skyscrapers of downtown Vancouver. I recalled a vision from my youth, from around the time in junior high school, when I had to choose a career. I realized that even as a youth, I worried about being captured by the monster society. I saw myself marching off each day to a cubicle in a high rise building. Inside my cubicle I'd crank out my work, and I'd get in exchange coupons that I could turn in for food. At the end of the day, I'd march off back to home, on the way turning in my coupons for some food. The next day, I'd march back to work to crank out some more work. It seemed like the life of a prisoner of war. I looked at all the office buildings in Vancouver, and thought about my experiences working as an actuary student in a skyscraper in New York City. So many of us were prisoners of war, marching back and forth from our work cubicle to our home cubicle, cranking out work for food pellets. I compared that scenario with life in Stanley Park. Here in the midst of civilization was this beautiful nature sanctuary. Here I had seen that I was one with nature, and had discovered kin folk in the trees. I vowed that I would do all I could to make sure that I did not become a prisoner of war, but a happy and fulfilled resident of nature. How could I live in a park while enjoying the benefits of the city?
How do you balance creativity and security? People talk about having a secure job, but that security can be a prison. People are wistful about having a creative life, but creativity involves exploring the unknown and having a relationship with uncertainty. At that moment in Stanley Park, I was evaluating my own approach to balancing creativity with security. I recognized that there was a missing ingredient, and it came from within myself.
When I graduated from U.C.L.A. with my Ph.D., I continued my career as professional student by becoming a psychology professor at Princeton University. Yet I was leading a dual life. On the one hand, I was attempting to learn how to play the university game, and find numbers in my research. I was also studying my dreams and learning how to find messages from my higher self.
Isn't that what a lot of us have done? On the outside, you try to appear as "normal" as possible, but on the inside, in your private moments, you live the secret life of the "crazy" or "real" you? Is there no way to bring those two lives together? Near what turned out to be the end of my career in the university, I brought the two lives together for awhile.
I had spent my sabbatical semester away from Princeton University at the C. G. Jung Institute Sleep and Dream Laboratory in Zurich, Switzerland. There I helped design new types of laboratory experiments involving humanistic interactions with the research subjects. Along another track, I had found the source of my friend's reference to Edgar Cayce and had made the acquaintance of Charles Thomas Cayce. I had become a member of the research advisory board for the Association for Research and Enlightenment, in Virginia Beach. In response to an invitation to put on a youth program on dreams at the A.R.E. summer camp, I drew upon some dreams of my own to develop a "dream tent." I help kids prepare to sleep in the tent to have special dreams. It was a great success. The kids were having inspirational dreams, healing dreams, even out-of-body experiences and past life recall in the dreams. When I returned to Princeton, I wrote up this work in the form of a scholarly research article and submitted it for publication to the Journal of Humanistic Psychology. It was immediately accepted by the editor, with no revision required. That was a rare honor. But when I showed the article to the chairman of the psychology department, he was very upset with me. I had used no numbers in my research, but had advocated, instead, the use of symbolic ritual to tap into deep, spiritual levels of the dreaming mind. I thought I was opening an entire new approach to science, but instead I was accused of not really being a scientist. My contract at Princeton was not renewed. Bringing together these two parts of myself didn't seem to be working too well, or so it seemed.
I continued to work with A.R.E. and created a home-study dream project for its membership. My dream life was quite active, and I was discovering more and more about myself. My outer work and my inner work were coming together in another special way. The home study dream project led to the idea that the participants' interest in dreamwork could be well served by some publication devoted to sharing ideas about how to incorporate dreams into daily life. My own dreams were taking me into an exploration of the meaning of community. It had external meaning for me, in terms of getting along with others, cooperation in getting things done, and collaboration in being creative about it. It also had internal meaning, in terms of finding ways for the various parts of myself to work together in new ways, such as bringing my intuition and my studies together.
I had some dreams that suggested that I needed to research "Sundance" as a way of enhancing creativity in community. I was intrigued to discover that there was such a thing as a Native American ceremony called the Sun Dance. How did my dreams know that? The Sun Dance, as I discovered through some research in the library, was a community ritual. Its purpose was to help advance the cause meet the needs of the community. Part of the symbolism in the ritual was the theme of integrating the "many and the one," as in bringing together in community a oneness created out of the various individuals in the community. The way Edgar Cayce would express it was that each individual is unique yet one with the whole. I used the name Sundance for the name to our new dream publication. We called it Sundance: The Community Dream Journal. It was quite successful in providing dreamers a needed forum to empower them as to their ability to work with dreams on their own, and showed the wider world that it was possible to create a public forum for dreamwork, something that had not been attempted before. The creation of this journal, as historians would later note, helped spark the national "dreamwork movement" that brought dreams to the attention of the public, removed their stigma as "medical samples," and helped them to become more accepted as a natural personal resource.
It seemed that my inner life and the outer life was coming together after all. Maybe the secret was that I was working within a spiritual community, a place where people would accept you just as you are.
During that time period, I was invited to address young people about career development. Since I was so heavily involved with dreams at the time, I naturally thought about career choice and career development in terms of "seeking a dream," or of the Native American "vision quest." I reflected upon my own career path, and the role dreams had played. In my reflection, my early childhood memory of Jungle Boy came to me. It was at that time that I made the connection with Jungle Boy as a personal symbol of a life ideal. What I realized at that time I can share with you here. I had found my magic elephant! It was dreams! They had provided a vehicle that enabled me to venture into life, to go where my parents could not guide nor accompany me. It was dreams that provided me insights into new ways of handling problems and issues. It was dreams that helped me discover treasures beneath my feet. A promise inherent in dreams that I had dimly intuited when my friend introduced me to dreams those many years ago had now come to pass.
The personal philosophy that the dream elephant gave me pertained to the idea of the many and the one, being a unique individual among many other individuals, yet one with the whole, meaning connected and inter-related to the whole and somehow analogous to the whole. There is a community within and a community without. The idea of having a job, a place within the communal structure where I went every day to work, was a lifeless vision. It was like riding the school bus, where much of my personal preference was overridden in favor of the bus schedule. What a thrill it was to ride my bike to school, getting there and back on my own steam. I had wanted to find a way to be myself, to really be me, with my interests and talents, and yet fit in, make a contribution. Can the inner me be honored and valued and find a place in the outer world where my individuality is a blessing and not a curse? I had wondered about that, I had had my share of difficulties with that, but through dreams, I was now on my way toward achieving that goal. The magic elephant of dreams was taking me into that jungle and it was leading me to find my own sacred spot.
I had found a match between my skills and interests and society's needs and mode of fulfilling its needs. I was good at nurturing creativity in others, and it made me well suited as an editor of a journal on dreams. I was helped to fulfill my own vision about dreams as well as help others gain confidence in their own skills at dreamwork.
Three years after we created the Sundance journals, A.R.E. decided to stop publishing it. Some people referred to the criticism that the journal wasn't "Cayce-oriented" enough. Whereas I thought I was following in Cayce's footsteps by helping people find the power in their dreams, some people in authority thought it more important to refer to and study what Cayce said about dreams than it was to celebrate what people today were finding out about their own dreams. So, even though I was working in an visionary organization, a spiritual community, I found myself in a position where what I was doing was beyond their notion of conventional standards.
My magic elephant had proven its worth, but having a magic elephant doesn't mean the jungle clears itself and the way is made plain. You can't rely on being among "like minded people" in order to fulfill your mission in life. Sometimes life steers us into new territory that we would not have ventured voluntarily. Have you ever wondered if your problems and life crises haven't brought you some blessings? There is more to my own story of finding, willy nilly, my mission in life. It really is a never-ending story and it contains it share of mistakes and misfortunes. Yet the story of finding the magic elephant in dreams shows how I was led, in my own unique way, to the intuitive discovery of some kind of matching between inner and outer "fit" and how fluid and evolving this fit must be in order to be a comfortable one.
Mission Making: Matching the Individual to the Whole
The idea of a fit between inner and outer is a universal theme and is important to the intuitive reality of "mission in life." It's that theme that I want to address now.
In the "Perspectives on" section of this issue of New Millenium, you will find summaries of ten books that are on the theme of purpose and finding your mission in life. Each of them touch upon the universal theme that was reflected in the motif of the Sundance, that of the many and the one, of the inner and outer that is contained in the "mission in life" idea. The idea of a "mission in life" is that there is something on the inside of a person, quite different in each of the many persons living, that is seeking a unique fit with the outer world, that is proprelling the unique individual to be one with the whole. In Richard Bolles' book, How to Find Your Mission in Life, for example, he defines the mission as "the place God calls you to, is where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet." In The Power of Purpose, Richard Leider describes how having a person purpose helps you to claim an issue, or something the world needs, and make your own special impact on that domain. Deepak Chopra writes that our purpose is to express our unique talents helping others. Is there a pattern here? Yes, indeed. It is an intuitive vision of reality, mythic and full of meaning, a vision that is different than a mechanistic, materialist view.
I used to tease my students that what we all want is to simply be ourselves and make a living at it. Have you ever had that wish yourself? We sometimes laugh at the idea because the joke relieves some tension, the tension of having to suppress a bit of ourselves in order to fit in with everyone else. Sigmund Freud had an important insight into human nature in this regard. His insight was that society is important for human survival and progress, but it exacts a price--it requires each individual to surrender some of its natural pleasure seeking in favor of a higher order of adaptation.
Do you recall a time when you were punished for what amounted to simply being yourself? Have you ever felt the sting of shame that made you wary of letting the world see some part of you? If you can recall such a moment, then you have lived your own version of this universal dilemma.
Part of the reality principle is getting along, fitting in with society. Yet there remains a part of us, hidden away and suppressed, that wants to do as we please without having to be concerned about fitting in.
Beneath Freud's insight lies an archetypal, mythical memory. It is a soul memory of a time when we did not have to suppress our natural spontaneity in order to fit in. We fit in naturally without effort. This memory is reflected in the myth of paradise and its correlate, the peaceable kingdom. In the time of paradise, as in the Garden of Eden, there was a naturalness to all life. No one had jobs or had to work. There were no laws. People acted spontaneously yet everything worked out well in a natural harmony. People and animals were in telepathic rapport. All of creation functioned as a natural whole.
Of course, paradise didn't last forever. In most paradise myths, humans did something that wrecked the situation. In the Garden of Eden, it was disobeying God and eating of the tree of knowledge. Then Adam and Eve had to leave paradise and go get jobs, earning their bread by the sweat of their brows.
When we look at this myth of paradise, its demise and consequences, we can see that during the time of paradise, natural intuition reined. When we act spontaneously, we are acting on the basis of inborn intuition. We improvise at every step of the way. In the time of paradise, it worked out well for people to do that. The telepathic rapport with the other creatures also suggests an intuitive level of awareness. Everything could be in harmony because everything was intuitively connected with the other creatures. A natural synchronization of actions, reactions, and creations occurred and the world flourished.
When intuition was supplanted by thinking, by the birth of the rational, conscious mind that could behold things by way of thoughts, could contemplate experiences as separate from the experiencer, the natural intuitive belongingness fell away. Now it was a problem, how to fit in. Now that there was not a natural spontaneity to actions, rules, laws and customs had to be invented. Work is having to do what you would not ordinarily do on your own, and now people experienced much of what they did as being required of them rather than coming from their own free will and inventive spirit.
Paradise fell and society was born. Society expects conformity. No more Mr. and Mrs. Natural, but rather Mr. and Mrs. Sociable. Rules and jobs replaced joy and play.
The concept of "mission in life" reflects the memory of paradise, the notion still alive in us that it should be possible to match our deepest joys with what the world most needs from us. It suggests that we can rediscover that spiritual ecology that makes a perfect fit between what comes natural to us and what the world needs from us, and what the world will support us for offering it.
What is the way back to this awareness and spontaneity? It is through intuition. Through intuition we are in harmony with that mystery of life Confucius called the Tao. It is the "just so" flow of life, the "just so" integration and harmony of all the moving parts, so harmonious that there really are no parts, only energy transformations we experience as events.
In my own case, prior to getting in touch with dreams, my focus was totally outward. What are the job choices? When I began to focus on my dreams, I began to discover things about myself, values, abilities, mysteries, special gifts and talents. Expressing these talents became part of the process of discovery.
In my own story, as the years went by, my interests expanded beyond dreams to include creativity, psychic ability, and intuition. In response to a request from A.R.E., I developed a program of training in psychic development that was in the spirit of the Edgar Cayce readings. The crux of the approach, to resolve the traditionally perceived conflict between the psychic and the spiritual was to use the psychic to experience the spiritual. So rather than just mouth the words, "you and I are one," we could, using the methods I developed, actually experience our oneness.
In the process of working on this project, I developed a better relationship with my own intuition. Going within, I discovered a perfect term for the spiritual approach to psychic development that I had created. I called it the Intuitive Heart. The heart is in touch with the personal and the universal, values and truths, a loving way to know. I felt a special confirmation when I found a quote from Edgar Cayce that supported my insight: "...the purpose of the heart is to know YOURSELF to BE yourself and yet one with God...." (281-37). I thought it was quite appropriate that this quotation from Cayce not only describes the heart as an organ of knowing--intuition--it also points to the theme that we've been discussing: how the individuality meshes with the wholeness through intuition. That meshing is the realization of soul, the seat of psychic awareness.
Through the use of this psychic awareness, I was able to experience my own soul awareness. It helped me to see that my mission is to express myself, both for the pure joy of doing so, but also as a way of sharing with others. My mission in life is as a communicator, using various guises, platforms, and media. Effective communication requires that I learn the language of the audience I wish to reach even as I attempt to communicate something they haven't heard before in the way I express it. The purpose of sharing is to help people realize the truth that is waiting for them inside themselves. Just as I have traveled many roads, some unwillingly, to learn to find myself within myself, so I have to communicate in extraordinary ways to help people discover themselves within themselves. Discovering these effective forms of communication for sharing something uniquely mine to share is the creative challenge of my particular mission.
When earlier in life I had portrayed dreams as the vehicle, the magical elephant, to steer me through the jungle, I now realize that it is the higher consciousness lurking in dreams that is the guiding awareness. When I think of it now, with years of hindsight, I realize that it is intuition that is the most important connection between my story of inner knowing and career development.
The sponsor of the Jungle Boy show was Buster Brown shoes. I especially remember that X-ray device that enabled the person to see their toes through the shoes. This kind of X-ray vision, that enables us to see beyond appearances, to the inner reality, is intuition. To see how the shoes really fit is to see intuitively the inner reality of the outer adaptation.
Shoes, as a symbol in dreams, reflects, as the cliché goes, one's "standpoint," the attitude that one brings to a situation, the methodology, method of approach, or understanding that enables one to either progress gracefully and sure-footedly, or muddle through, or get bogged down. It is intuition that is the guiding awareness, that goes and picks the shoes that fit.
From my study of shoe dreams, I know that it is a real treasure to find a pair of shoes that fit the occasion, that are helpful to the task at hand, and yet that also fit on the inside, that are comfortable to wear! How can we find such shoes? With the X-ray vision that intuition provides.
These shoes will feel so comfortable on the inside, it will almost feel as if we are going barefoot, or that we are wearing slippers, or wearing our most worn-in pair of sneakers--you know the feeling I'm talking about. That's how they'll feel on the inside. On the outside, the shoes will appear so very stylish, so appropriate to the situation, to in keeping with the world around you, so well matched to the environment, they almost do the walking for you, no effort required, no slipping or sliding, just the perfect walk, the walk that helps others get up the mountain just by walking along with you. Those would be the shoes that we'd wear while on our mission in life.
You probably can't find these shoes in any store. If we're lucky, while we sleep, brownies will craft for us some custom-made shoes. If we're blessed, some animal will lend us their feet to use as special shoes to make our way. Each of us has a special path to walk, to create our mission in life, to leave footprints no one can imitate, nor follow, but which help inspire others to find their own way through the jungle back to paradise. That's my mission, your mission, our mission in life, as your own Intuitive Heart‘ will tell you.
* © 2000 Henry Reed