The Life-Changing Magic of Purpose

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Marie Kondo continues to get a lot of press – and a fair bit of flack as well – for her “KonMari” method of “tidying” your home. I’ve never read her books, but as a mother of three elementary-aged children, I regularly feel the benefits of my own spontaneous purge sessions. My own method consists of becoming so suffocated and overwhelmed by the clutter build-up that I simply surrender and proceed to dump everything that’s built up—and I mean everything—into a big, terrifying pile in the middle of the floor.

Then I sit down and begin sorting through it all.

It doesn’t take a genius or reading any books to know that the psychological benefits of decluttering and organizing your “stuff” are immediate and tangible. It’s satisfying to see results and to feel that you’ve lightened your load. If your discarded things can be useful to someone else, all the better.

So much for material possessions – you can touch them, hold them, evaluate them, and choose to keep them or discard them. It’s a linear, rational process. Not so when it comes to the thornier, invisible territory of inner baggage.

Recently I’ve been pondering the source and value of the time-worn phrase “life purpose”. As I approach midlife, and many of my friends join me or are already there, it seems that I keep hearing more often and questioning in my own mind: “Is this where I’m supposed to be? Am I doing all that I can? Have I lived up to my fullest potential? Should I be doing more? What’s the point of all this? What’s my purpose here?”

It seems to be an inevitable product of the human condition to actively question or search for an individual life purpose at one point or another in the journey.

In fact, this daunting subject of life purpose was at the heart of Viktor E. Frankl’s book Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl was an Austrian psychiatrist who survived three years in Nazi concentration camps during WWII.

“Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” —Viktor E. Frankl

If this is the case, and let’s assume for the purposes of this article that it is, then how does one grapple with feeling adrift in one’s life, without a guiding sense of purpose?

How does one find a life’s purpose?

I have no clue. But rather than Googling it, let’s ask the cards.

We’ll do a three-card draw without any positional meanings, and see what emerges. I’ll use the Thoth deck for its intense imagery and symbolism.

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In a quick overview of these three cards, we see swords, swords doubled, and taking flight.

There’s struggle, more struggle, then liberation. Cutting, more cutting, then release.

Specifically here we see in the first and second cards a visual representation of homing in on what’s really important. What are all the signs pointing to? What can be pinpointed as the central theme, the heart of the matter, what is really important? It’s about getting to that: cutting away the darkness, fog, confusion and extraneous matter, and all the points coming together into one central area.

Note also that this spread doesn’t have any pentacles, disks, coins—money isn’t the key here. Don’t confuse purpose with a job or the way you make money in the world. They aren’t necessarily one and the same, and most likely aren’t.

The progression of the first two cards also highlight that finding purpose, which we could suggest is that central point shown in both the Three of Swords and the Six of Swords, is a process. Finding purpose isn’t a one-time thing that happens and then is over. It is a continual process of carving away what doesn’t matter in order to get clear about what does matter, and then doing that over and over and over again.

The beginning of this process, as shown by the Three of Swords, can be painful. It can sometimes be easier to live in an “ignorance is bliss” state, sort of the blind leading the blind through the dark and not really questioning or wondering where the light switch is. This card says the start for finding purpose is taking a hard look at the darker sides of self and coming to terms with them.

That leads to the clarity of the Six, where things are lighter, more clearly defined and sketched out, and the power of the mind for pinpointing the purpose is doubled.

Finally we see the Prince of Cups, who has brought together air and water, swords to cups: mind and soul. The thought processes used to determine purpose have come together with the power of the heart to carry out the purpose.

These cards suggest that finding purpose, while an ongoing process and not a one-time event, is something that starts with a rational perspective and leads to a heart-centered one.

Note that in the first card, the Three of Swords, a snake is coiled around the sword’s handle, suffocating it in a way, controlling it; while in the third card, the Prince of Cups, the prince holds a cup with a snake rising out of it. In the beginning you feel controlled by the unknown purpose, it lurks below the surface, but in the end you grasp it and become its master. This comes after a process of continual reflection, introspection, and clear-eyed rational thinking about what lies in the depths of your heart.

These cards suggest that you search for purpose by pinpointing what is at the heart of your being.

What do all the signs keep pointing back to?

What keeps returning no matter what?

What pains you and yet has kept you afloat despite all of your struggles?

What would you be willing to fight for to keep or continue doing?

What washes you clean and makes you feel triumphant?

What do you wish to become a master of?

 

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