Finding your life purpose is overrated
Lessons learned from a week of Ayahuasca ceremonies in pursuit of my calling
(note: to read the first and second part of the journal, go here.)
I was on the way back to civilization after my third and the last Ayahuasca ceremony in the Ecuadorian rainforest, feeling extremely worn-out. Ken, the retreat facilitator, asked if this week was worth it.
I politely said yes, but deep down I was disappointed, frustrated, maybe even angry, that I didn’t get my answers from the supposedly life-altering, spiritual-awakening, consciousness-expanding psychedelic trips. “It will come to you in the next few days or weeks, be patient!” Ken sensed my exasperation.
Squeezing my eyes closed, I desperately tried to remember my experiences from the week. My body had definitely reset as a result of the strict diet and excessive, violent purging.
My mind had conceivably traveled to some kind of ineffable, transcendental realms: witnessing my inner child defying gravity, getting lost with the spiritual monkeys; while the grown-up version of me battled with my own sadistic ego.
My heart felt weightless and peaceful as if it could be blown away like a dandelion in the morning breeze.
But what about my calling?
What is the passion that I have to pursue?
What do I live for?
Why do I exist?
I had no answer. No epiphany, no inspiration, nothing. Why did the universe make me realize I couldn’t be part of the mediocre-capitalistic-modern-slavery anymore, and then refuse to tell me what I have to do? It’s just like a sudden plot twist at the end of a movie — you think there is a sequel to explain everything, and the sequel never comes.
I could have been “normal” — kept churning out money for big corporations like everyone else, bought a nice 2-bedroom apartment and a Toyota Prius, eaten at Michelin-star restaurants on my birthdays, been an Asian tiger mom, pretended to be spiritual by doing yoga twice a week, and died living a normal life — without searching for this life purpose bullshit.
A lot of people are okay about mediocrity, why do I have to be “special”?
The next few days I settled myself in a quiet historical town in Cuenca, Ecuador, almost in solitary confinement. I needed time to digest my thoughts.
Then one morning I woke up, I came to realize, maybe I have been too harsh on myself, maybe I have been too desperate to get to the destination, maybe there will never be the lightbulb moment to my million-dollar question, or maybe, I already have the answers:
I should trust life, and just go with the flow
There were moments in my cosmic traveling when I saw myself standing on top of a mountain, arms up in the air as if I was celebrating something, with a big grin on my face.
I had a deep sense of satisfaction, gratitude, and joy. I think the universe was trying to tell me that my life is awesome and I just have to enjoy living it, like really living it, not surviving it.
As long as I am doing things consciously that are not too outrageous, self-sustainable, and true to myself, I should let my gut guide me.
All my life up to the moment I quit my corporate job, I have succumbed to the expectations of the society, set imaginary milestones that I fought so hard to achieve without listening to my soul, compared myself to the so-called success stories.
Since I let go of my baggage, everything has changed. I stop giving fucks on what people expect of me, I feel free to explore, expand, learn, love, and let my life unfolds itself. I just hadn’t realized it. I came to conclude that “Follow your soul, it knows the way” might be my best life motto.
Thinking is pointless, I just have to act fearlessly
I spent many years feeling discontent about my life, and another few years thinking about what I should do with it without acting on it. Now I realize, thinking is just my ego talking.
Every time I think about who I should become, what I should do, what is right for me, my ego takes over and it is not the authentic me anymore.
I thought about setting up an online business, be a travel blogger, work for non-profit, be an artist, write a book, but my ego always held me back — maybe I am not good at this, maybe I won’t be successful, someone else is already doing the same thing, maybe there are better, easier things I could do. I ended up doing nothing.
It is super easy to let the ego be in charge, because it always benchmarks your past, what you knew, the people around you, or the Google search results, to create a sense of fear locking you up in your comfort zone.
You think you are safe when you can think about it, but it’s actually more dangerous when you are stagnant.
Not getting any answer from my Ayahuasca trips was, in fact, my best answer — it made me recognize that my ego had again been repressing me, making unnecessary excuses for not to act.
Any action is better than no action, even if it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it’s no longer a mistake.
Yoda in Star Wars says “Do or do not. There is no try” I think he has a point.
My life purpose doesn’t exist in the future
I always thought about what my dream life full of purpose would be like: imagining myself doing things I love, that make a positive impact on the earth, while living a location-free lifestyle, surrounded by people I care about.
But what I hadn’t realized is — I am already living it, at least to a certain degree of it. I had mistakenly considered my life purpose as a destination, the end game, and ignored the fact that the journey — what I am doing now — is already my purpose.
No one ever knows what their life purpose is until they live their lives fully and fearlessly, achieve a few things along the way, and think about it retrospectively.
Do you think Steve Jobs knew his life purpose that he would one day create the revolutionary iPhone and change how people interact with technology in their hands, while he built the first Macintosh in his family’s garage? I don’t think so.
My Ayahuasca experience revealed to me that every step I take now contributes to my life purpose. Without acknowledging this, I would forever be lost, searching for something that doesn’t even exist.
Now I know, finding my life purpose is a romantic illusion that I have set myself up for failure by default. But I learned, and I have to move on. Now I know, even I don’t know where I am going, I am already going there.
This article was originally published on Medium on March 27, 2019