During times of great change in our lives some may experience an existential crisis, marked by the pondering of our and life’s purpose. This is probably a normal process; many people go through it as they enter into adulthood and look at what they want their life to look like. As we get older and things we had created in the past change, familiar arrangements and structures break down or are suddenly no longer part of our life we may again be confronted with the question of purpose; our purpose, life’s purpose, the greater meaning of it all.
As changes in our external world may leave us feeling unsteady and ungrounded they can be the very catalyst we needed to really put down roots that can weather any storm and save us from the next existential crisis when yet another change comes along. But what are these roots?
At a holistic life coaching workshop I attended once the participants were asked to draw their “life tree”, representing their lives, with the focus of picturing what their roots are, where they get their stability from. I don’t think it is surprising that most people’s roots were their families, partners, careers, social network, or maybe even a particular faith. There is nothing wrong with being grounded in all that, but what happens when one of these things change?
Families can and do break apart, friendships change, as do jobs and other people. The problem with establishing changeable factors as the roots for our life is that we are always going to be shaken, torn apart and at the point of crisis if change in these ares really take place. Yet, what else is there to ground us? Could it be that we already have everything we need to be grounded and centred within us?
Consider that often people who are in the midst of a crisis turn towards religion or even sects to find some sort of stability. It seems like they have that something that many of us are searching for. However, religion or sects are nothing but an external manifestation just like family, partnerships and jobs.As we turn corner and corner to look for our security and roots in life and we might end up at religion to find it, yet, it is not actually religion we are seeking but the principles underlying the teachings. And these principles, not surprisingly at all, are really similar throughout all religious and other cultural traditions.
The 10 Commandments, the Niyamas and Yamas in Yoga, the Buddhist precepts or the Five Pillars of Islam for example, are not simply rules to live by, they are actually meant to teach us to act according to principles. It does not matter what name we put on it or what we choose to dress them up as, at the core are the same principles, which are the very thing that truly grounds us and can help us to go through changes and not feel like a rug is being pulled away from underneath us when life happens. The core of these principles also already lie within each and everyone of us and are there for us to be discovered and put into our lives.
The common denominator across all religious, spiritual and maybe even ethical teachings are simple principles such as Honesty, Faith, Courage, Integrity, Humility, Love/Forgiveness, Discipline, Patience, Spiritual Awareness and Service. Imagine how our life tree would look like if we swapped family, relationships, jobs, et as the roots for these principles. Branches that represented all these things we mistook for the roots would sprout from these healthy roots. Family, relationships, our hobbies and interests, careers and other important parts of our lives would be built on healthy principles. The leaves and fruits growing from these branches would be infused with the essence of honesty, love, faith, courage, etc. etc. and would make for a beautiful, rich, abundant and meaningful life.
As relationships change, jobs come and go, people leave and enter our life we are always steady in that our actions and our behaviour towards ourselves and others stems from principles that will always produce the best possible outcome for anyone involved. This is an unshakable foundation nothing can erode so quickly. And if you are at a point in your life where it feels like your whole tree is being taken down and uprooted it is a good sign for it will allow you to take a close, honest look at the foundation you built it on and will give you the chance to establish healthier, thicker and more stable roots.
Photo Credit: George Smyth