In my mid 20s, I left Manhattan and moved to Vermont. I was trying to decide what I was going to do with myself if I wasn’t going to be an actor—the only profession I’d ever considered. I went to see a career coach. I answered a series of questionnaires, filled out personality profiles, and spent a number of sessions trying to come up with a single sentence that encapsulated why I was here on earth.
I still have the sentence written in capital letters on a piece of lavender notebook paper: “My primary purpose in life is to express my independent, articulate, and authentic nature by interviewing people, illuminating the truth in myself, others, and life, and expanding others’ consciousness, thereby creating a world where people overcome their obstacles and realize their full potential.”
To the best of my ability, I’ve tried to live that life purpose. Professionally speaking, I’ve had work that’s aligned beautifully with my life purpose over the years, but there are also ways in which that work—which is filled with activity, travel, people, and commotion—can sometimes be at odds with my desire to live a quiet, gentle existence, close to nature, in communion with a loving partner. This latter desire seems closer to my “sankalpa,” which means “intention born from the heart” in Sanskrit.
“Usually, the heart’s purpose lies underneath the life purpose,” explains Kripalu invited presenter Rabbi Sigal Brier. “It’s our heart’s deepest desire, a subtle organizing value that’s guiding our lives.”
Sigal says that many of us decide on goals and set intentions that are disconnected from our deepest desires. I think I did that when I moved to Los Angeles, the center of the entertainment industry. Convinced that I needed to be there if I was going to continue moving forward with my life purpose, I spent almost three years surrounded by a sea of cars and concrete, at odds with the environment and my natural rhythms.
An announcement from my landlord that she was selling my apartment catalyzed a greater alignment with my heart’s purpose (I ended up moving back East), but you don’t have to be forced out of your home to find your sankalpa.
Sigal, who says that her heart’s purpose is to love and be free, suggests that practices such as meditation, restorative yoga, deep relaxation, and various forms of movement can help people uncover their heart’s desire. “All of these methods provide experiences that expand the understanding of who we are and clear the misconception that something is wrong with us,” she says.
In her TEDx Talk, Sigal explained that when we relax into our heart’s purpose, we stop obscuring the fact that we’re all interconnected, not separate from but part of the vast sea of creation.
I think that’s what I was missing in Los Angeles, where my apartment looked out on the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. For me, proximity to nature is intimately tied to my heart’s purpose. Trees seem to be part of my prescription. Every morning I wake up and look out at the trees surrounding my sweet little condo or step outside and take in the natural beauty all around me, I feel more closely aligned with my heart’s purpose and breathe a deep sigh of relief.
I asked Sigal how you know if you’re living your heart’s purpose, and her answer was simple: “It feels right. You aren’t wishing for another life, to be someone else or someplace else. You trust yourself in your life.”
Originally published by Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health