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Divining Purpose Spiritual Instruction Module

Divining Purpose Differentiating Between Gifts, Call, & Purpose

Cynthia Winton-Henry–A Mystic Tech SIM

Stuff they don’t teach in Sunday school, Temple, or PE

Introduction and My Story
Why finding purpose can be challenging
Dance to Divine Purpose
How To Divine A Poetic Purpose
Poetic Wisdom
Vocational Arousal from WOMEN OF POWER: 10 Visionaries Share


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O Holy Wisdom, Soaring Power, encompass us with wings unfurled, and carry us, encircling all, above, below, and through the world.  -O Holy Spirit, Root of Life


I am grateful to the following authors for helping me divine my purpose. Dorothy Astoria in the The Name Book, Laurie Beth Jones in The Path, Malidome Some’s The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature Ritual and Community and Gregg Levoy’s Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life.

I saw myself a ring of bone
in the clear stream of All of It

and vowed always to be open to it so that All of It might flow through

then heard “ring of bone” where “ring”
is what a bell does.

-­­Lew Welch

I was in my forties before I discovered that there is a difference between life purpose, a call, and my gifts. In spite of feeling that I had received a call from God to ministry and dance, I felt strangely restless.

I enjoyed my work in the arts and spirituality, and yet felt unfulfilled. Something deeper cried out for expression.

Using my gifts didn’t seem to be enough. I didn’t want to be known only as a dancer. I wondered why. If a calling couldn’t satisfy me, what could?

Howard Thurman, beloved writer and teacher, describes purpose as “the dream in the heart.” That’s how personal it is. He insisted that it’s “no outward thing. It does not take its rise from the environment in which one moves or functions. It lives in the inward parts, it is deep within, where the issues of life and death are ultimately determined.” This kind of depth lives in our body.

Searching for the “dream of my heart,” led me to experts who differentiate between gifts, calls, and purpose. Here is my story from Chasing the Dance of Life: A Faith Journey.


My Story

Questions plagued me. Like, how had a person with pastoral gifts flunked out of ministry? And why did I feel belittled when people called me a dancer? What was my purpose if not to dance?

Questions like these are provocateurs of initiation. And every initiation is physical. To exchange an old idea for a new one is bodywork. The questions that arose had to do with my directive, “clarity of vision.” What was I doing and why was I doing it? Little did I know that to gain such clarity is like trading in a VW for a jet. Ready or not, I was about to move into higher gear.

Dance came easy. It was as effortless as the grapefruits that fell from the tree outside my kitchen window. The tree blotted out the sun and dumped tart, yellow orbs year round until they rotted in a steamy stew. Like these grapefruits, dance was my nature, my gift, and my rot.

A gift needs to move, or, like fruit, ferments at our feet. Not a pretty sight. One day I decided to tackle those overabundant grapefruits. I got out the big black trash bags and tried to haul one to the curb. How would the trash guys lift hundreds of pounds of rotting grapefruits? My next strategy was to place an attractive bushel on the curb with a free sign. When no one took any, I tried going

door-to-door, asking “Would you like some grapefruits?” The neighbors glared back at me. We lived in an old grapefruit orchard. But, to the Irish priests and nuns I shared a massage class with, the grapefruits were a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. They couldn’t believe their good luck.

“Do you want more?”
“Is the pope Catholic? Yes! Bring us more!”

I don’t enjoy my own gifts the ways others do. A brilliant thinker, poet, computer wiz, or vocalist can take us places that we’ll never get to on our own. That’s why we get called.

I have visionary friends who are too good at office work. They are asked to administrate organizations and do accounting. It’s a call, but it’s not their purpose. Occasionally, they leave these jobs to risk everything to audition, travel, or learn an art like spiritual direction. Something pushes them to go places that are nowhere as easy or natural as their gifs.

Even the Divine calls on our gifts. “YOO HOO. DANCE AND RELIGION. CAN YOU GET IT TOGETHER?”

Thankfully, a call is not a command. When I knelt on the floor of my Culver City apartment and offered to hold dance and religion together, I was more than willing. But, was it my true-life purpose?

No one will beg you to fulfill your purpose. We may not be able to accomplish it much less articulate it. Worse, we may not even have a knack for it. Nonetheless, it’s our hunger.

I met a musical theater performer for whom singing was a gift. But, singing didn’t satisfy him. He wanted to make music. When auditioned for a musical, accompanying himself on guitar, the auditioner said, “Try again but lose the guitar.” It pained the performer. His father who was also a musician always discouraged him from playing music since there was no money to be made at it.

In spite of this, the man quit musical theater and opened a music studio. Playing music was his purpose.

Someone said, “Use the talents you possess: for the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except the best.” Dance may be a gift, but I knew it was connected to something else buried in my bones that wanted out. Having never studied political science, leafleted, or served a campaign, I was surprised when the 1999 U.S. Presidential elections illuminated my life purpose. The contest between George Bush and Al Gore made even the politically skittish think.

At an InterPlay gathering, Phil had us “babble” for thirty seconds about the election. It poured out from me that I was afraid that if George Bush won, the civil rights of gays and lesbians would be endangered and affect many of my dearest companions. I hate it when anyone is prohibited from expressing his or her nature. Down below my election fears I found something more, an unstoppable desire for freedom. It’s the very dream that the United States is founded upon: freedom of speech, freedom of religion; the dream that many an American will fight for.

Overnight I clarified my purpose: to foster freedom for all people, five words that rang like a navigational bell.

Freedom isn’t natural. In fact, I am tempted to control everything and everybody. But when I employ my gifts for creativity, dance, and InterPlay it comes easier. Questing for freedom enlivens me. It is a challenge that I can pursue for a lifetime.

Why finding purpose can be challenging

Our purpose is not an accomplishment, mission, nor something we are good at. It doesn’t require consciousness. Yet it is something we seek to embody.

D. H. Lawrence says, “The living self has one purpose only: to come into its own fullness of being, as a tree comes into full blossom, or a bird into spring beauty, or a tiger into luster.” What if your purpose is to be a tree?

To listen in on the deep spring arising from our bodies may require letting go of old religious and business models. Denise La Buda, Marketing Consultant said after a class on Dancing to Divine Purpose, “Unlike other courses I have tried that have relied on my reasoning and analytic skills to assess my life purpose, Cynthia’s remarkable class on Life Purpose offered a spontaneous and fun way to use body wisdom to get past the ‘should’ messages that have driven my life direction for years. I was able to discover a joy filled, ‘want to’ voice from within me, which I can continue to use to guide my life path from now on. I highly recommend others try her approach to exploring the question we all struggle with–so why am I here?”


Clarifying purpose can be hard because…

Multidimensional beings won’t be reduced to single ideas or acts. Sometimes the best we can do is to enter the vicinity of deep yearning. Brain Herring, a graphic designer, said that entering into the poetry of his own body wisdom enabled him to go beyond other mission statement work he’d done in the past, to go deeper and larger. Working in community, he received insights and words from others that resonated within. He found new language to describe his sense of purpose.

To enter into our purpose we engage our mystical heart. This heart communicates through image and sensation. This heart gets undone as well as done up. I hear this in the response of philosophy professor Barbara Levenbrook who found listening to her body wisdom “wholly clarifying! Joy and surprises! God at work here n all of us – plainly. Such a beautiful process. I got a big important reminder–thank you, thank you.”

The heart quests and knows. Zen Master Dogen wrote in “Actualizing the Fundamental Point,”

When you see forms or hear sounds fully engaging body-­­mind, you grasp things directly. . . . To study the Buddha way is to study the self. To study the self is to forget the self. To forget the self is to be actualized by myriad things. When actualized by myriad things, your body-­­ mind, as well as the body-­­minds of others drop away. No trace of realization remains, and this no trace continues endlessly…

When you sail out in a boat to the middle of an ocean where no land is in sight, and view the four directions, the ocean is circular, and does not look any other way. But the ocean is neither round nor square; its features are infinite in variety. It is like a palace. It is like a jewel. It only looks circular as far as you can see at that time. All things are like this. Though there are many features in the dusty world and the world beyond conditions, you see and understand only what your eye of practice can reach. In order to learn the nature of the myriad things, you must know that although they may look round or square, the other features of mountains and rivers are infinite in variety; whole worlds are there. It is so not only around you, but also directly beneath your feet, or in a drop of water.

I notice that words written about purpose often sound like poetry. Poetic purpose rings like a bell in the body throughout our entire life, sometimes loud, sometimes quiet.

When words are illusive, another person may articulate our purpose better than we can, giving good reason to seek to discern purpose in community. A grandmother may see and name our purpose right off.

It is easy to get distracted when others call on our gifts and miss our purpose altogether. This is maddening. I have a strong desire to speak on behalf of the freedom to create and be; yet people only occasionally ask me to do that. Oh well. The hunger does not diminish. That is one reason I write.

Curiosity and Challenge are part of purpose! We shouldn’t expect it to be something we have perfected. Martha Graham wrote to Agnes Demille about her art

It is not your business to determine how good it is, Not how valuable it is,
Nor how it compares to other expressions.
It is your business to keep it yours, clearly and directly, To keep the channel open.

You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly
To the urges that motivate you.

Keep the channel open.
No artist is pleased.
There is no satisfaction whatever at any time.

There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, A blessed unrest that keeps us marching And makes us more alive than others.

One’s purpose can seem disturbingly ordinary, no big deal. Author James Twyman said, “My goal is to be ordinary, and in doing so reveal the extraordinary nature that dwells within all of us. And yet, this takes radical honesty and courage. That is what I am striving for now.”

I know a woman who claimed her purpose was “to make home.” As a lesbian in a long time relationship in a cohousing community this took on courageous proportions. When she lost her mother and father within a year and watched her nephews self-destruct, “making home” became an heroic journey. Do not underestimate the ordinary!


Dance to Divine Purpose

Here are some basics. To Create Play and Rest is the foundation of healthy humanhood. Each day I ask, “Did I play and rest? Did my contributions energize me and/or others? Did I create or make lists?

Beyond the basics of creating, playing, and resting our body has access to a high way and an ordinary way. These states don’t have to integrate. We don’t have to rid ourselves of anything. Wisdom teachers show us their fallible self and their Great Self. They frequently name the two realities.

Unfortunately, some teachers shame the little self. This rarely works. I like to think of Jesus’ encouragement, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.” As a statement of truth this is a no brainer. Love your life on earth and Voila! You got it, baby! Resist being on earth, resist your flaws and burls and you disinherit it. How often do we do this?

The purpose of the “higher self” is to support the beauty, learning, and wonder of ordinary life not to shove the “little self” up into the high self and hold it responsible for staying there. This only creates misery, shame, and self-­­disappointment.

The question is, “What am I here to make, play with, or receive?” If suffering and struggle are intrinsic to human life, the high way helps us to enjoy health and learn every day, every moment.

There is no requirement to know your purpose. The Universe is unconditional. Your primary purpose is to be human. Great job! You are already doing it.

However, if you feel restless and ready for the challenge and thrill then opening up to your role as an artist and mystic on a particular path is a lovely, creative, and provocative thing. Yes, restlessness is a symptom of a hungry purpose. Lots of guides, angels and spirits may pester you. Or, it could be something inside you! What do you ache to learn or create? More rest? Hmmmmm.

You get to differentiate between divine purpose and individual purpose. Free will is a beautiful technology that works brilliantly when we understand that we are not supposed to lose ordinary life.

You can play with both divine and individual purpose at the same time. This may feel like a tug of war if you need to create tension, upset an apple cart, or break rules.

You can surrender completely to Divine Will. This does not require a day job, a role, or a special outfit. I know lots of people who give themselves to the Divine everyday.

You can take breaks from Divine will. If you are uniquely sensitive to Mystery you may have a hard time sorting out when to take a break from being big, good, and as one of my counselors called me, a “Saint Cindy.” Don’t we want that infatuated feeling all the time? Not when it starts to feel forced. Let it go.

I am grateful that my guides want me to take some credit for my part in the Grand Collaboration. Of course, there is no separation between Mystery and me. But it is lovely to be able to embrace human freedom as fully as I can as a humble, ordinary gal.

Why dance, drum, or sing to discern purpose?

Thoughts are too small as vehicles for collecting holistic, divine information. And as we all know they seem to work diligently on serving the everyday self best.

Technologies that allow communication with the Divine require openness to images, senses, hearing, synchronicities and symbols. To see, to hear, to connect to heart, to ride energy or rhythm, and to see what is right in front of us is how we access the bigger “web.”

Dancing and singing is great for waking up to the web and evoking instinctual wisdom related to purposes that often get forgotten, lost, or dismissed. Lorrie Streifel, a psychotherapist said this is how she experienced validation of deeper purpose–soul calling and clarification of very old patterns that no longer stir her soul.


How being an artist and mystic relates to purpose

What am I to create? How am I to best contribute to love? Being an artist and mystic works hand in hand with Divine Wisdom. We are interpreters, messengers, keepers, and medicine bringers for grace and good. Art, Prayer, and Meditation may relate to the “how” of our purpose. My purpose is to foster freedom through play and practicing the wisdom of love.


How To Divine Poetic Purpose

Dancers, singers, and image-­­makers are in a good position. Intuitive listening practices help us sneak up on the words or hunches that gong the bell. It may not arrive in words. It may be a sense. Touch it. Breathe heart into it. Use easy focus. As the Elders Oraibi of the Hopi Nation say, “At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally. Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.”

Similarly Neale Donald Walsch says, “Your ‘life’s mission,’ is exactly what you say it is…Create it, stop trying to ‘find it’. You are on this Earth, friends, to decide and to declare, to create and to fulfill, to experience and to become Who You Really Are.”

To Divine the Poetry of your Purpose we’ll search for the keys to unlock The What, The How, and The Who of your deepest desires.

I start with four practices. You can exchange the word dancing for other words like sing, speak, and write.

1. Dancing to Praise Gifts: Effortless ways we act, create, or contribute.
2. Dancing to Claim the Yes! Invoke a memory of being seen and celebrated.
3. Dance of Longing: What we want most for others and ourselves, includes actions and realities that we hate or resist.
4. Dance to Release Former Calls: Gifts are not necessarily our purpose. Some say they are behaviors we mastered in past lives. The fact is gifts get attention. When a gift for caregiving keeps you from your purpose to create or play, then release is needed. You may need to shake out a former call if you keep getting drawn back into it.

Suggestion: Invite a witness to join you for these practices or try them out in a group. A witness can create grounding and reassurance to allow a seeker to let go of protection and enter into the wild wonders of higher and lower wisdom. If no partner is available, go for it on your own. Or ask me and I can accompany you on Skype.


Practice: Claiming Your Gifts

This practice can be done either with a partner as a witness or alone. Be aware that it can be easier to celebrate the gifts of others than to celebrate your own gifts. Having a witness help you “see” your gifts can be an eye-­­opening experience.

What do people say you are good at?

Either with a partner or on your own, brainstorm a list of what other people say you do well.
Even if they tease you about a “gift”—“You’re so nosey”; “You’re so stubborn”; “You’re so organized”—put it on the list.

If you have a partner:

1. First, dance on behalf of gifts you see in your partner, lifting up and affirming them. Don’t mime. Feel their strengths in your body and let these strengths move you.
2. Savor your partner’s inherent body wisdom.
3. Afterwards, notice those gifts together.
4. Name the gifts you see in your partner, and describe how they inspired your actions and movements.

Then trade roles as your partner dances on behalf of your gifts in a similar way. Again, take time to notice the actions and movements and how these energies relate to your gifts.

If you are alone:
1. Imagine someone dancing for you. What gifts would they embody?
2. Try stepping into a witness’ shoes for a few minutes and translate what gifts you see into movement.
3. Take time to notice and write down what you experience.

Remember that your giftedness might not exemplify your purpose. Are there actions or ways of being that would? Make note of words that intrigue you.


Differentiate between Gifts and Calls

Gifts make our bodyspirit shine. This is extremely attractive.

People want our gifts and literally call on them. “Yoo-hoo, can you come do this?” “You’re good at … cooking, nursing, running, singing, math. I need that.”

Gifts lead to calls. And, should the Divine reach out and ask for service, religious people describe this, too, as a “calling,” the most profound “yoo-hoo” of all.

Still, a call differs from a “dream in our heart” in several ways. Although our Higher Power may have called us, spiritual callings may not last a whole lifetime. Yet, our purpose often does, even in retirement. Our deepest longings and desires keep moving us to action. A call rooted in purpose is a fire that does not burn out, a source of meaning that the soul yearns to express.

I found this to be true while teaching in India. When my friend “called me” to teach in Mumbai, it made me anxious. The challenges of travel, communication, and culture shock were demanding. In spite of this, using my gifts of dancing and creativity for a greater purpose inspired me more than I imagined was possible. I taught for twenty straight days. Though tired, I was never drained or fatigued. When I returned home, I began preparing for my next trip back.

More than an achievement, role, or job, our purpose advances something we value, a dream we fall in love with, yet can’t own. Howard Thurman’s inspiring words say,

It’s a quiet persistence in the heart that enables us to ride out the storms of our churning experiences. It is the exciting whisper moving through the aisles of our spirit answering the monotony of limitless days of dull routine. It is the ever­ recurring melody in the midst of the broken harmony and harsh discords of human conflict. It is the touch of significance, which highlights the ordinary experience, the common event.

Naming your life purpose is less like writing a mission statement and more like listening for the poetic ring of a Tibetan bell from within. A few well-­­chosen words will act like a gong hitting the bell of your body. When they do, your purpose will ring true, and your bodyspirit will say, “Yes! That’s what I’m about.”

A good place to start discerning purpose is to focus on your successes and joys. “Yeses” carry evidence of your purpose. In the following dance, feel free to invite a witness. When trying to unveil a thing so integral to who you are, a companion’s outside eyes is useful.

Yes! Dance

1. Recall a real Yes moment in your life when what you were doing felt exactly right.
2. Is there music that you associate with this time? Use your choice of music, to celebrate.
3. Dance your memory of Yes!!
4. Afterwards, notice feelings, qualities, gestures, the amount of space you used, and any connections you made. Where in your body did the Yes feel strongest?
5. Share your experience with your witness or write it down. Be on the lookout for words that resonate and ring true. What are the nouns? Action verbs?


Thank goodness, I learned that claiming purpose didn’t mean I had to get busier. Purposes like making a home or nurturing solitude are as much deep longings as cultivating democracy or saving the wetlands.

I once met a woman who unambiguously said, “My purpose is to be beautiful.” She wasn’t particularly gorgeous. There was no idealism in her words. Being beautiful was simply the fundamental truth her soul strived for. Her clarity of purpose helped me to see her as beautiful.

Oddly, I suddenly felt more beautiful, too. All she had to do was embrace her beauty and she had an impact.

Your purpose is your longing. You feel whole, fulfilled, and energized when you think about it, play with it, and embody it. It might not be the easiest thing in the world. In fact, purpose tends to be just out of reach, continuously propelling your curiosity and desire.

To discern between gifts, call, and your heart’s desire, you might imagine a nested stack of mixing bowls. The biggest bowl of purpose holds all the others, yet when they’re neatly stacked, you can look down and see the inside of the smallest bowl present itself, ready to be filled.

The “big bowl” of purpose supports the smaller bowls of gifts and call. They all fit neatly together. Dancing is a powerful way to name your “big bowl” and cook up batches of joy.

What is your heart’s desire? Dancing may lead you to find clarity of purpose.


Dance to Identify Longing

1. With no musical accompaniment, start with a posture that illustrates your dream of how you long to be in the world. Or, you could take a posture showing the opposite of what you long for. Don’t worry if you don’t feel much in the moment.
2. Take deep breaths in this posture and listen.

3. Begin to move. Be aware of any resistance.
4. Open to images or physical sensations you might feel.

5. What words come to mind as you dance?

6. Bring your movements to an end. Take a minute of stillness to recall parts of the dance that were particularly inspiring.

7. After dancing, share your noticing with a witness or write down your findings.
8. Become attuned to specific words or phrases that ring true. Are there clues to your purpose?


Your purpose is applicable to all relations, but there may be specific people, groups, natural wonders, animals, and objects to which you are drawn. Defining “who” you serve, and in what context, is key.

One friend is a warm and healing physical therapist and healer (her gift), but she’d rather create a nurturing home for herself and her family (her purpose).

Sometimes purpose is bound up with whom we want to serve. Past calls—jobs, volunteer activities, and roles—may be incongruent with those whom we wish to serve now. Past roles may continue to drain our time, thought, and energy until we release them. Sometimes we are so busy with people from our past that we can’t get a moment to reflect on the whom of our heart’s desire. This is where exformation can be helpful. In dance, you can physically release work or relationships that you want to let go of to help clear space to discern your purpose.


Dance to Move Out Prior Calls

Take time to review any calls, roles, or relationships that have ended. Are there any that you need to release?

1. Take a deep breath.
2. Shake out one hand, the other, your legs, and your middle.
3. Shake out your voice.
4. Swing and sweep your arms. Imagine clearing your space.
5.With intention,dance to playfully release any completed calls. Send any unfinished business from prior jobs or roles back to whoever called on you in the first place. If you need to, send your unfinished business to God.
6. Bow in gratitude for any opportunities you were given.
7. Reflect in your journal or with a witness on your body wisdom. As you danced this dance of exformation, did you experience shifts? Increases in clarity? What are you discerning now?

The How of Purpose

It is not only the “What” of purpose that compels us. Imagine “How” you want to manifest. Below you will find interesting verbs. Circle five that compel you.

accomplish appreciate acquire ascend adopt associate advance believe affect bestow affirm brighten alleviate build amplify call

collect combine communicate compel complete compliment gather compose generate conceive give confirm grant connect heal consider hold construct host contact identify continue illuminate counsel implement create improve decide improvise defend inspire delight integrate deliver involve demonstrate keep devise know direct labor discover launch discuss model distribute mold

draft mitigate dream move drive negotiate educate nurture elect open embrace organize encourage participate endow pass engage perceive engineer perform enhance persuade enlighten play

enlist possess enliven practice entertain praise enthuse prepare evaluate present extend produce facilitate progress finance promise forgive promote foster provide franchise pursue further realize

reclaim reduce refine reflect reform regard relate relax release rely remember renew resonate respect restore return revise sacrifice satisfy save

sell serve share speak stand summon support sustain take

tap team touch translate travel understand validate value venture verbalize volunteer work worship write yield

Do you notice anything about your five words? Do you have a longing to embody certain levels of intensity in relations to this verb? If you were to dance your purpose how would this dance appear? Would you like to try it? Consider dancing the “how of purpose.”

In his book FLOW, Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, proposed that there is a state where we are “fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and success in the process of the activity.” It requires an action and desire greater than our ability to perform it. Feeling challenged actually helps us to maintain attention. An action that is too easy it becomes tedious. An action that is too hard it overwhelms.

When you look at the list did you seek a word that vibrates with challenge, neither too easy nor too hard?

Foster is my word. I like the alliteration of foster with freedom and the fact that it conjures the majestic neutral love that I encountered in one of my experiences of the Divine. To foster is to offer, not control. It evokes creative cultivation and implies patience, something different than my impulsive nature. I enjoy the challenge of becoming more balanced and open in the act of fostering freedom.

If you can, sing or dance with a witness. Ask your witness to describe what kind of energy they see. Ask them if there is an energy that they want to see? Somewhere between these two may be your “how.”


The Who of Purpose

Consider how your purpose interplays with relationships. Getting your needs met is foundational.

Sikh teacher Gururattan K. Khalsa Ph.D. advises, “Ask the following questions and listen to your body for answers. Tune into your sensations so that you connect to the instinctual/intuitive messages of
your soul.”

Do my relationships support the expression of who I really am?

Am I able to nurture my emotions and achieve the emotional balance within myself that supports deep connection and co-creation as opposed to igniting ego conflicts and creating traumas-­­drama standoffs.

Can I compassionately communicate what I want from the perspective of win/win and upliftment for all as opposed to victim communication that creates conflict?

Does my internal connection, home and family create supportive environments from which to pursue my destiny path in the world as opposed to internal fear of the world and critical, non- nurturing home environment?

I’ve seen healthy relationships promote repressed healing and allow old dreams to surface. Clarifying purpose may reorganize our relationship to persons, communities, where we live, or what we do.

With supportive community I could chose a broad focus, big picture that inspires my visionary hope for freedom. My purpose is to foster freedom for myself and all people.

Who are your circles of connection?

What circles do you relate to? Draw and name them below: Family? Spiritual Groups? Political? Geographic? Draw some very small circles of connection and very large ones. Your purpose may not relate to people at all. Are you drawn to animals, a place, or no one? What grabs your focus?

Are there circles that you could live without? Any that you want even more from? Any that are tedious and duty bound? Any missing?

Now, consider the scope of your energy and desire. How far beyond yourself do you long to reach? To how many? What circle of concern and care can challenge, satisfy yet not overwhelm you? How much support will you need?

A former student wrote, “I realized that I couldn’t change the world by working as a journalist; the corporate media erected too many structural barriers to doing good, penetrating work. Nor did I want to work directly in the political mainstream. I decided I would rather try to help specific individuals in particular situations, as a teacher and chaplain and hospice caregiver. That work has been much more satisfying for me.”

Here is a way to imagine the scope and scale of your purpose from my book What The Body Wants, to gather your spirit home.

Reach out your arms as wide as you can and feel the extent to which you are open. Wrap your arms around your torso and feel yourself close in

Reach behind you and, using your kinesthetic imagination, and grab your energy from all the places in the past that you might have left it. (You don’t have to consciously know where.) Bring this energy up to a place just over your head.

Now reach into the future where you project your concerns and plans. Imaginatively grasp hold of your projected spirit and bring it back.

Reach out to either side of you and gather your energy from all who you love and hate. Bring this energy back to the bubble above your head.

Now with your hands on this bubble full of you, bring your spirit back into your body. Squirm around in it.

Give yourself the gift of dancing your spirit home. Play with opening and closing your spirit. What images or senses arise as you move?

Purpose orients us to things that we don’t want as well as to things that we do. Again, purpose never offers one thing only. Let your mystical sense lead you. As Kim Rosen, author of Saved by a Poem would say, a mystical poem resides within you that may not save just you and me but save all of us.

“What is god’s will for a wing? –every bird knows that.” –Saint Teresa of Avila

Are any words starting to ring in you or in others when you speak them? Do the words dance?



How? Where?

What poem, chant, song or text do you hold close? Write down any that come to mind.


Poetry of Purpose

Whether or not you ever articulate your purpose, you can feel it ring true, like a bell inside. And, if sometimes you cannot feel it ring, perhaps it is not important to know your purpose at that time. You may be doing exactly what is required of you. If you are dancing the sacred and seeking wisdom, your ongoing spiritual growth and development are purpose enough.

If you feel a longing, a whisper, an energy moving…it may well be the genius of purpose. Reading poets who speak to the deep dream is a good way to nurture the seeds and shoots of your own soul.

These words ring with the wisdom of purpose.

May we choose to inhabit our days, to allow our living to open us,
to make us less afraid,
more accessible,

to loosen our hearts
until they become wings,
torches, promises.
May each of us choose to risk our significance; to live so that which comes to us as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which comes to us as blossom
goes on as fruit.
-­­Dawna Markova


Now I Become Myself -May Sarton The Land of Silence

Now I become myself. It’s taken
Time, many years and places;
I have been dissolved and shaken, Worn other people’s faces,
Run madly, as if Time were there, Terribly old, crying a warning,
“Hurry, you will be dead before -­­-­­ ” (What? Before you reach the morning? Or the end of the poem is clear?
Or love safe in the walled city?)
Now to stand still, to be here,
Feel my own weight and density!
The black shadow on the paper
Is my hand; the shadow of a word
As thought shapes the shaper
Falls heavy on the page, is heard.

Ravenous wants define our treasures so truly. They create a Christmas list that no department store could supply: time to stop and enjoy, in a space of quietness and contentment, all the things we were put on Earth to do; space to give and receive love reciprocally; grace to seek and find our spiritual joy; freedom from the tyranny of others expectations and judgments; acceptance of ourselves as we truly are.” -­­ Caitlin Matthews, The Celtic Spirit


All fuses now, falls into place
From wish to action, word to silence,
My work, my love, my time,
my face Gathered into one intense
Gesture of growing like a plant.
As slowly as the ripening fruit
Fertile, detached, and always spent,
Falls, but does not exhaust the root,
So all the poem is, can give,
Grows in me to become the song,
Made so and rooted so by love.
Now there is time and Time is young.
O, in this single hour I live
All of myself and do not move.
I, the pursued, who madly ran,
Stand still, stand still, and stop the sun!


We Have Come to Be Danced by Jewel Mathieson

We have come to be danced
Not the pretty, pretty pick me, pick me dance
But the claw our way back into the belly
Of the sacred, sensual animal dance
The unhinged, unplugged cat is out of its box dance
The holding the precious moment in the palms
Of our hands and feet dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
But the wring the sadness from our skin dance
The blow the chip off our shoulder dance
The slap the apology from our posture dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the monkey see, monkey do dance
One two dance like you
One two three dance like me dance
But the grave robber, tomb stalker
Tearing scabs and scars open dance T
he rub the rhythm raw against our soul dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the nice, invisible, self-­­conscious shuffle
But the matted hair flying, voodoo mamma
Shaman shakin’ ancient bones dance
The strip us from our casings, restore our wings
Sharpen our claws and tongues dance
The shed dead cells and slip into
The luminous skin of love dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow
end of the floor dance
But the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath and beat dance
The shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
The mother may I? Yes you may take ten giant leaps dance
The olly olly oxen free free free dance
The everyone can come to our heaven dance.

We have come to be danced
Where the kingdoms collide In the cathedral of flesh
To burn back into the light
To unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
To root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced. We have come.


From the Elders Oraibi, Arizona Hopi Nation

You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour. Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered:
Where are you living?

What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.
This could be a good time!
There is a river flowing now very fast.
It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.
They will try to hold on to the shore.
They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.
Know the river has its destination.
The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of
the river, keep
our eyes open, and our heads above the water.
See who is in there with you and celebrate.
At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all, ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!
Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.
All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
We are the ones we have been waiting for.

Keep alive the dream in the heart –Howard Thurman

The dream in the heart is the outlet…

The dream need not to be some great and overwhelming plan;
it need not be a dramatic picture of what might or must be someday; it need not be a concrete outpouring of a world-­­shaking possibility of sure fulfillment. Such may be important for some; such may be crucial for a particular moment in human history.

But it is not in these grand ways that the dream nourishes life. The dream is a quiet persistence in the heart

that enables us to ride out the storms of our churning experiences. It is the exiting whisper moving through the aisles of our spirit

answering the monotony of limitless days of dull routine.
It is the ever-­­recurring melody in the midst of the broken harmony

and harsh discords of human conflict.
It is the touch of significance which highlights the ordinary experience,

the common event.


The dream is no outward thing.

It does not take its rise from the environment in which one moves or functions.

It lives in the inward parts,
it is deep within, where the issues of life and death are ultimately determined.
Keep alive the dream;
for as long as we have a dream in our heart,
we can not lose the significance of living.


P.S.  The Power of a Woman’s Passion

The Power of Vocational Arousal is real. In 
WOMEN OF POWER 10 Visionaries Share Their Extraordinary Stories of Healing and Secrets of Success (1989). Among them Barbara Marx Hubbard says, “When a woman falls in love with a purpose, she is as powerfully driven as when she is pregnant.” She calls this drive for vocation “supra-­­sex,” and it is that energy which fuels her nonstop participation in life-­­giving projects.”

She goes on to say,

“Supra-­­sexuality is the joining of genius and vocation to create works in the world. While sexuality is the combination of genes, male and female, to create a new baby, supra-­­sexuality joins genius, not genes, through creativity and attraction, to a vocation. The result is gifts, projects, and activities. These acts fulfill people and serve the world. People experiencing supra-­­sexual co-­­creation feel attraction, joy, spontaneity, and service. It activates the same passion that falling in love, sexual intercourse, gestation, birth, nursing, and nurturing activate.

“Being in love with a purpose is not professionalism. It is not careerism. It is not self­expression alone. It has the quality of self-transcendence and is comparable to loving an unknown child. When women become passionately attracted to creating something in the world, they don’t have to know what the reward is. They are like mothers, and their energy is the pure energy of creativity.”

Barbara says the reason supra-­­sexuality is happening now is that masses of women are having fewer children, thereby creating a “hormonal reserve.” This reserve is a new, untapped maternal energy not going into pregnancy. Men experience it secondarily; they too have more creative energy available because they no longer have to support large families. “A signal has gone out to the human race that we are to have fewer children….This newly available force is the most profound energy there is in life.”

Barbara also points out that our extended life spans mean even more untapped energy. Whereas people used to live to their mid-­­forties, they are now living to their mid-­­seventies and beyond. Having more time and more energy, people are looking for new meaning in their lives. Barbara calls this desire for self- expression “vocational arousal.” One indicator that one is being aroused is the frustration of feeling there is something in life to be and do.