The religious traditions may disagree on the exact nature of the soul or spirit that animates the body.
They may differ on the details of what happens to us after we die.
But they're unanimous in their proclamation of a great truth: who we are, at our core, is greater than we can imagine.
Call it heart, soul, spirit, love - we are not just human beings. As Theilard de Chardin put it, "We are spiritual beings having a human experience."
Who you are, at your core, is Love. It's not something you need to prove yourself worthy of, and it's not something you can achieve.
It's who you Are. And the purpose of life is to Remember.
Now that's a rather bold claim, and not everyone will agree with it. So let's focus on what we can agree on.
Let's say that as human beings we're made up of three parts: body, mind, and spirit. These are the three selves. And while there are a host of voices scattered between these selves, the primary voice of the body is the voice of fear. The primary voice of the mind is that of reason. And the primary voice of the spirit is that of intuition.
Each of these three aspects has its own set of needs. The body's needs are all about survival - sex, hunger, safety, and shelter. The mind's needs are all about success - approval, achievement, fame, and fortune. The spirit's needs are all about fulfillment - growth, contribution, connection, and creativity.
We experience fulfillment when we do something meaningful. When we have a wave of personal and spiritual growth, that's fulfilling. When we give to others or make a difference in someone's life, that's fulfilling. When we create connection from a place of love and caring, that's fulfilling. And when we participate in the act of creation, in any realm of life - art, business, science, or family, that's fulfilling.
If we were to talk to a thousand people on their deathbeds and ask what mattered most to them in their lives, we'd hear a thousand stories about these same four things.
These are the needs of the soul. Fulfilling these needs is the meaning of life.
The meaning of life is growth, contribution, connection, and creativity.
When we're on purpose, the voice of intuition lights up. We feel a sense of joy and inspiration and we develop in consciousness. We increase in our awareness of our true, loving, spiritual self. At the same time, waking up is scary. It triggers our deepest fears.
Almost everyone wants to find their purpose in life, yet most people misunderstand how this concept of purpose works. In some form, most people keep looking for "The One" - that one special career, activity, or relationship that they were put here to take part in. As I wanted when I was dating my wife Nicole, most people want to be told, "This is it. This is your purpose. Go do this one thing and you'll be safe, successful, and fulfilled."
But that's not how it works.
There are millions of ways your purpose can show up. If something involves growth, contribution, connection, or creativity - you're on purpose. Some things will light up brighter than others: there are definitely areas where your calling will be stronger than others, and your purpose can change direction at any time, but there isn't any one thing that you are meant to do.
In talking about words like God, soul and Spirit, I'm less interested in talking about religion than in spirituality. In my experience, spirituality is synonymous with meaning. If something is truly spiritual, it has meaning. And if something has meaning, it's spiritual. It's on our soul's path.
All the great religions are rooted in spirituality. It forms their common core. And they cover a lot of other territory as well: theology, morality, tradition, hierarchy, ritual, power, pride - there's a lot that can get wrapped up in the quest for the divine.
For me, religion is like a stained-glass window, filled with patterns and pictures. Spirituality is the light that makes the window shine. Both are beautiful and important.
Spirituality doesn't cause conflict. It's based on experiences (such as growth, contribution, connection and creativity) upon which we can all agree.
At the same time, spirituality is scary. It challenges us to embrace growth at our deepest levels of being. It takes us far beyond our comfort zone. It requires taking regular Leaps of Faith.
Spirituality - which is at the heart of all religion as well as the heart of all of life - is about action more than belief. It's about courage more than comfort. And ultimately, it's about the practice of leaping and being caught.
This article was created as an excerpt from Yes Yes Hell No! The Little Book for Making Big Decisions. To eliminate your insecurities, transform your fears, and develop total trust in your ability to make big decisions, purchase the book on Amazon or download the first five chapters for free. Photo credit: pixabay.com