(Although this chapter is also found in the second volume of the book «The Psychology of Happiness», I have included it here because I believe that it is especially important and relative to what we are discussing here.)
Many of us are discontented with our lives, or work, our way of living. But few of us know what it is that we really want to do, and fewer still have the courage to do what they really want in order to find happiness and fulfillment.
Why is there such a crisis of unhappiness today when we have so much more than man has ever had in the way of material security and various comforts? The average man today lives with the comfort only kings enjoyed hundreds of years ago. Yet statistics show that more and more people are disillusioned with the old recipes for happiness. They have money and material security, but their jobs have no meaning for them. It is as if they have sold their souls for the comforts of the material world. Many are now beginning to realize this fact.
I, for one, experienced this crisis at the age of 22 having worked for a year as a chemical engineer in a large industrial chemical plant. I had everything which society said I need to have to be happy. But I was miserable. I decided to find something more meaningful to me. This is not to say that such a job could not be meaningful to someone else, or that it does not have value. Such jobs obviously have great value for society and are interesting to many people if that is what they came to do. It simply was not what I came to do on this earth. Thus, what may be the perfect role for one person, may be boring and meaningless for another. It is well that the world is organized in this way, otherwise everyone would want to do the same job, and the world would fall apart.
Thus the search for our role in life is the search for the part which we, as unique individuals, have come to play in this theater of life. One who finds it, and plays it with all his heart, finds contentment and happiness. Those who do not find it, or do not have the courage to play it, live in discontentment and a type of superficial emptiness. There is little real joy or meaningfulness in their lives. Our lives are often mechanical and lacking in essence for us until we find our proper role.
Have you ever walked into a room to get something, but arriving in that room forgot what you came to get? I have. I have also found that, when I turn and start heading in the direction I was coming from, I remember what it was that I was searching for. This is true of our lives here on the earth. We are immortal souls who have come here for a short time to learn certain lessons and offer certain services to the overall evolution. But, upon arriving here, we forget why we came, and waste our lives occupying ourselves with various superficial pleasures and material pursuits. Eventually, through some series of events, often in the form of problems and difficulties, we are forced to look inward and remember why it was that we incarnated on the Earth at this time.
THE EARTH SYMPHONY
We, upon the earth, are like members of a great universal orchestra. Each has his part to play. The harmony of the universal piece (called life) we are playing depends on two basic requirements from each member of the orchestra. Each must first know his part and, secondly, must be capable of playing it. All the other beings in nature (the unconscious members of this symphony orchestra) know automatically their parts and play them with the help of the cosmic conductor called Nature or God.
Man, however, the most advanced aspect of nature, has a new quality called free will and has separated himself from nature and its laws. He has the choice to play his part or not. He also has the new responsibility to develop the inner qualities necessary to play the part.
At the present time we may say that the Earth Symphony Orchestra is considerably off key and its sound is quite discordant. Each is playing his own song, each trying to sing or play louder than the others, and the result is competition, aggression, strikes, violence, famine, poverty and war. This is happening because few have found their real part in this symphony, and out of discontent are competing rather than co-operating with the others. Thus finding our role in life is not only imperative for our own happiness, but also for social and world harmony.
Each of us then has the choice to make between money and meaningfulness, between comfort and creativity, between security and evolution, between satisfying the expectations of others and following our own inner voice of wisdom, between social «success» and social responsibility, between superficial happiness and real inner contentment. Let us choose wisely.
TUNING UP OUR LIVES
Let us examine what we can do to regain contact with our real purpose for being here on the earth, which will bring us and society so many benefits.
1. We must get free from our social conditioning concerning what kind of work has value. Society puts a certain value on each profession. This is usually based on the amount of money which one can make and how much prestige one gains in society. This money and prestige, however, may not make us happy. Society’s formula for success is based on a very superficial view of man’s nature. We are programmed as young children concerning our insecurity in this world and how we must strive and struggle for economic security. We are also programmed concerning how important the opinion of others is. We believe that we must do everything we can to make the others think that we are important, to envy us, to admire us, so that we can believe in ourselves.
As many people are beginning to realize, this is all a big mistake which not only does not lead to happiness, but most often leads to anxiety, fear, nervous tension, and illness.
In order to find our real role in life we must liberate ourselves from these programmings which we have received from society defining happiness, survival and success. We will also have to face the criticism of family and relatives who may feel intimidated by our changes in life style. Our changes may cause them to either doubt their presumptions about life or reject us. The second is easier for them. In such cases we will need plenty of inner strength so as to not be affected by their reactions, but at the same time to have enough love to forgive them and try to help them to understand that we are not running away from them or from life, but just asking for the freedom to be who we really are.
After passing through a period of self examination, we may find that we have been doing in all our lives that which we were born to do, but that we just couldn’t accept it. The simplest role can offer us the greatest spiritual lessons. Take for example the roles of motherhood or fatherhood. Not much importance is given to them today, most feeling that working in an office has more prestige. But there is no more important role than that of motherhood. The future of the world depends on the quality of today’s children. Their inner world and quality of being and behavior are clearly a product of how much attention and love they receive as children. Many parents believe that they can offer their children more by working more so as to offer them a better education. This is a great mistake. A person becomes great not because of his education but because of his character.
2. We will need to overcome our fears. Our fear of being unable to accomplish what we came to do. Our fears of what others might think. Our fears that we may not make it financially. We have a guarantee from God that if we do His work, our needs will be taken care of, as are those of the birds and flowers. It must be His work (which is the same as our real role) and not the role our ego wants to play. We need to overcome the fear of not being perfect in what we do, the fear of making a mistake. We are all in a process of evolution. If we were perfect, we would not have incarnated, we would have no need to come to Earth. Thus our existence here verifies that we are not perfect. Let us accept it, and accept that we are okay and lovable even though we are not perfect, and that we have every right to make mistakes as we learn to do something new in our lives.
We will also need to overcome various fears for specific objects and situations such as airplanes, elevators, boats, hospitals, dust, microbes, certain kinds of people, certain animals etc. These are obstacles to the fulfillment of our roles here on the earth. We want to become effective instruments of the Divine Will, able to play any part which the cosmic conductor asks us to play. Our fears are an obstacle to that effectiveness.
SUCCESS IS NOT REQUIRED
3. We will also need to free ourselves from our excessive concentration on success as a measure of our self-worth and effectiveness. It is not important to succeed. It is important to have pure motives and to try to the best of our ability. The results of any effort do not depend only on our efforts, but on many other factors which have to do with our pasts and the general situation in society and the world itself.
Think of the greatest examples of courage in history. Did they succeed in our terms? Did Jesus succeed? How many have lived their lives according to His messages throughout the last two thousand years? He was omniscient. He knew that few would really be able to live as He asked us. Yet He gave all of His life and finally His body itself to His purpose, to His role. Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Socrates, did they succeed? They were all killed by the societies in which they lived.
Success is not required of us. We must only ask ourselves whether we believe that what we want to do will offer something, however small, to man’s welfare and evolution. This offering may occur in many ways such as building houses for people to live, cleaning the streets, raising children, educating people, creating beauty through art, music and dance, cooking wholesome food, putting order and cleanliness to an environment, or listening to someone’s problems. The list is endless.
It might be useful here to discuss the Sanskrit word dharma. It is an interesting term which encompasses many concepts simultaneously. A dharmic act is one which is in harmony with the laws of the universe, meaning that it offers something to the whole and does not harm anyone. It follows the law, “do not do to others what you would not like others to do to you”, and on the other hand more positively, actively “do to others that which you would like others to do to you”. All roles which are in harmony with the universe will be in harmony with these two guide-lines.
No job, however, is inherently dharmic or in harmony with the universe. What makes an act or role dharmic is whether or not our motive is selfless and whether we are detached from the result. This is true even if the result is something we desire for another. We often have anxiety concerning certain results for others because we are lost in the belief that they are those bodies and personalities which we see and experience. We forget that we are all universal spirits who temporarily take on bodies for the purpose of learning lessons on this earth, and that often we must pass through certain situations in order to effectively learn those lessons.
Thus a dharmic act is one in which we are free from attachment to personal gain or any specific result. We would even be willing to perform the act or service without any form of reward. We know that we have found our dharmic role in life when the reward is the joy of performing the action itself. We might accept a certain amount of payment in order to live and to provide for those who depend on us for a living. But most people take much more than they need for survival and evolution. This creates a lack in other parts of the body of humanity and also disharmony in the symphony of the earth. Thus our role in life is something we would be happy to do even if we were not paid, although we may accept payment if we need such for our survival and evolution.
WE OF LITTLE FAITH
Those who believe that they have the obligation to leave large amounts of money and belongings for their children are, in my opinion, mistaken. In my personal experience this passing on of inheritances only undermines the child’s inner resources and often creates negative situations among the various inheritors. It would be better for us to will to our children self confidence, love, dedication to the needs of the whole and a feeling of interest in the welfare of mankind, rather than houses, money and furniture. The psychology of the average man is based on a psychology of the lack and the idea that man is incapable of surviving on the earth without help from the parents.
God has promised us, that He will provide. We have little faith. That money and time would be better directed towards social works which would better the condition of society as a whole.
This type of thinking is all based on a very limited concept of family; that only those who are products of my own physical body are my family. This is a very superficial view. We are all one universal spiritual family and, if we do not start thinking in this way, we will not exist at all – on the earth in a little time.
CONTACT WITH OUR INNER VOICE
4. We will need to develop a deeper contact with our inner voice through prayer, silence, and meditation. We need to quiet our minds from all the various voices which occupy our minds, so that we can hear the small voice of inner wisdom which seeks to be heard. We know, within ourselves, the role which we have come to play, but we are too full of the other’s opinions to hear ourselves. Each would do well to take a few days a year and go off by himself. (The others will survive without you, and you without them). By retreating inwardly for a few days, in order to get in touch with our real self, we can then offer much more to those around us. Daily meditation in the morning and evening will also help us to develop and maintain contact with this inner voice.
TUNING UP OUR INSTRUMENT
5. We mentioned that the second prerequisite for playing our part in the earth symphony is to be capable to play the part. This requires that we tune up our instruments of expression here on the earth, that is the body and the mind. If we are constantly ill, tired, nervous, fearful or upset, even if we know our role, we will not be able to play it effectively. We can employ the various effective techniques for the purpose of developing a healthy body and clear mind such as exercises, breathing techniques, healthy natural food, deep relaxation and positive thinking. With daily practice of these techniques our bodies and minds will be capable of expressing that beautifully harmonious symphony called life.
Our first responsibility is to tune up our own instruments. No musician would dare start playing his part without tuning up his instrument and harmonizing it with the others. We must realize that exercises, breathing, relaxation and meditation, are not a waste of time. They are essential steps which must be taken if we want to play our roles harmoniously.
I often wonder how it is possible for people to ignore such an easy way to develop health and harmony in their lives. It is as if they are each holding an unlit flashlight and calling out simultaneously, «help, I cannot see in the dark». If they themselves are not willing to employ a little discipline in order to create health and harmony in their lives, they should at least not burden others with their complaints about problems which are totally within their own hands to overcome.
SURRENDER TO THE DIVINE
6. An instrument must surrender completely to its player. We are instruments of the Divine Flautist. If we say to the Cosmic Musician, «no, I do not want to play that melody, I don’t like it, I want a better part, a lead role», then we are not much use to that Cosmic Maestro who needs co-operative and selfless instruments in order to create harmony among so many different instruments. Finding our role in life means being open to what role is useful to the universe at this place and time. We must let go of ego needs and realize that, at times, we will be called upon to do great works and, at other times, simple tasks, which seem unimportant to us. But all are important to the harmony of the whole.
We must pass through the test of humility and surrender to the divine in our search for our role. Jesus washed the feet of his disciples as an example that humility is absolutely necessary for entering stages of higher consciousness. The ego thrives on the three lower stages of consciousness which have to do with security, pleasure, and affirmation. When a person feels his own inner worth, he is not concerned about whether he is going to find greater self recognition through his role in life.
In searching for our role in life, we must ask, «how can I improve the situation on the earth before leaving? What can I do to make life healthier, happier, more harmonious for those who live around me?». Those who are playing their own tune out of harmony with the cosmic symphony are not much use to the cosmic conductor.
PRAY FOR GUIDANCE
7. We can pray to become purified and remolded, guided in our role as instruments of divine harmony here on Earth. Through prayer and sincerity we can become transformers of spiritual energy into material harmony. Just as plants take the light energy of the sun and use it to combine oxygen and carbon dioxide in order to create sugar, starch and other forms of food for us, we too can take spiritual energy and use it to manifest thoughts, ideas, words and actions which make this world a better place. We can meditate daily and take in spiritual energy and inner peace, and then share that with those around us in the form of love, compassion, understanding and service. This will give us much happiness and contentment. And, because life is a mirror, we will be surrounded by love and harmony, . Do not expect the mirror to start reflecting your present actions immediately. Life is a delayed mirror and is now also mirroring your past actions. If, however, we keep on loving, forgiving and serving, we will at some point start experiencing the joy of love, unity and brotherhood here on earth.
BELIEVE IN YOUR SELF
8. Follow your intuition. Believe in your inner feelings. You may make mistakes in the beginning. You may go down some roads which are dead ends, or go to certain excesses. But there is no other way to get in touch with our inner voice than to believe it. At times it will be the voice of the ego, but gradually we will gain discrimination and will be able to tell the one voice from the other. And, eventually, there will be one voice only. Believe that you are here to perform a certain function which will benefit yourself and the world simultaneously. Desire to find that role. Maybe you already have. You will know that if you are happy, fulfilled and in harmony with your self and your environment. This does not mean that everyone must love you, but that you will love them and feel harmoniously towards them, regardless of their feelings towards you. The best indication as to whether we have found our role in life is whether we are happy and content, and enjoy waking up each morning because what we are going to do really has meaning for us.
USE YOUR TALENTS
9. Get in touch with and develop your talents. They will guide you to what you have come to do. Your talents are the tools which you have brought into this incarnation to perform the specific tasks associated with your role. Recognizing and developing your talents will help you discover your role.
There is no other more important task than this, to discover the purpose of our presence on the Earth.
Let us summarize the steps towards finding our role in life:
1. Free ourselves from social conditioning.
2. Overcome fears and limiting beliefs.
3. Let go of attachment to results.
4. Greater contact with inner voice.
5. Develop physical and mental harmony.
6. Surrender to the divine will.
7. Pray daily to become an instrument.
8. Follow your intuition.
9. Get in touch with and develop talents.
I wish you health, joy and harmonious unity with the family of man.