This Ancient Hindu Text May Hold The Key To Living A Life Of Purpose

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GPS for the Soul – The Huffington Post
This Ancient Hindu Text May Hold The Key To Living A Life Of Purpose
Ralph Waldo Emerson called the Bhagavad Gita, an ancient Hindu text written around 500 B.C., “the first of books” and “the voice of an old intelligence.”

It’s difficult to overestimate the impact of this seminal text, which is commonly regarded as one of the most significant works in Indian history. Beyond India, the timeless lessons of the Gita (“Song of the Lord”) have captivated generations of Hindu and non-Hindu readers in the U.S. and around the world.

Henry David Thoreau, also an early student of Eastern philosophy and commonly cited to be America’s first yogi, said of the text: “In the morning I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagavad-Gita… in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seems puny and trivial.”

The Gita is the climax of the Mahabarta, an ancient Hindu scripture comprised of 20 epic poems (and often exceeding 6,000 pages in modern translations), which tells the story of a warrior and his dialogue with his divine guide Lord Krishna on the eve of a battle. It is both a practical guide to living a spiritual life and a comprehensive look at the nature of life and God in Hindu philosophy. And no matter what your belief system or life circumstances — other Western thinkers who have raved about the text include Albert Einstein and Aldous Huxley, for example — the wisdom of the ancient text may give you insight into living with purpose.

“The philosophy of the Gita is one that turns out to be especially suitable to us in the West, because instead of encouraging us to turn away from the world, it turns our lives in the world into spiritual work,” editor Marlene Roeder wrote in the foreword to spiritual leader Ram Dass’s guide to the Gita, Paths to God.

Here are five important modern-day life lessons from the ancient text that, in the words of Einstein, makes “everything else seem superfluous.”

What goes around comes around.


The law of karma — cause and effect, or action and reaction — is integral to Hindu philosophy. It’s also one of the central themes of the Gita, which suggests that each individual — either in this life or a future one — will reap what they sow. Even if you don’t believe in reincarnation, the law of karma can help you live well in this life.

“No one who does good work will ever come to a bad end, either here or in the world to come,” writes the Gita’s author.

The idea of karma can be individually empowering insofar as it suggests that we are all responsible for our own thoughts, words and actions, and thus control our own karma. According to the Gita, if we live in accordance with what is right, the dharma, we will create good karma for ourselves and be justly rewarded.

A peaceful mind (and happiness) can be cultivated through practice.

yoga india

The Gita presents the various types of yoga (meaning “union with the divine”) as a path to liberating the mind to achieve serenity and ultimately self-realization. A yoga practice can help us to overcome the tyranny of thoughts and distractions if we are dedicated in our efforts.

“The happiness which comes from long practice, which leads to the end of suffering, which at first is like poison, but at last like nectar — this kind of happiness arises from the serenity of one’s own mind,” says the Gita.

Krishna extolls the benefits of yoga to Arjuna as a practice that will allow him to steady the mind and overcome his indecision and inability to act when he is torn between competing loyalties. But yoga isn’t just postures and breathing exercises, as we so often think of it today: It also has to do with living one’s life with wisdom, cultivating a conscious community, and living in harmony with the dharma.

It’s how you act and treat people every day that matters.

hold child hand india

One of the three main types of yoga presented in the Gita is karma yoga, the “path of action,” which is the path that Lord Krishna advises for Arjuna. Yoga is “skill in action,” according to Krishna. And acting with kindness and compassion towards others is its own reward in that it creates a serene state of mind and puts one on the path to self-realization.

A wonderful message of the text is that self-realization, or awakening, is not the result of being blessed by God or foregoing the material world to spend our days meditating in the Himalayas. We can achieve self-realization by being and acting in the world. When we act without attachments and treat all beings with compassion, we will one day become “unmoved by pleasure or pain.”

It’s important to question your habitual thoughts and attitudes.

mindfulness benefits

The Gita is a story of awakening and letting go of the ego’s control, shedding layers of ego identification. In order to do this — to unify the fragmented parts of the self and gradually transcend the ego — we must let go of our habitual ways of thinking about the world and our place in it.

“The process of awakening brings you into a struggle with every habitual way you have of thinking about the universe, even the deepest ones, because every one of them has locked you into some facet of who you think you are,” writes Dass in Paths To God: Living The Bhagavad Gita. “That doesn’t mean you have to give up everything at once; we can give up things as we come to not need them as badly anymore.”

Self-realization is the end and aim of human life.


“It is better to live your own destiny imperfectly than to live an imitation of somebody else’s life with perfection,” states the Gita.

If you take one thing from the reading of this text, it’s to be true to your innermost self. Living one’s life authentically is the path to self-realization, which in Hindu philosophy, is the ultimate end and aim of human existence. To truly know the self is, in effect, to know God.

“The subject matter of Eastern philosophy leads the student through a systematic way of directly experiencing the truths of existence and the heights of Self-realization,” Swami Rama writes in The Perennial Psychology of the Bhagavad Gita. “After realizing one’s real Self, one knows that this Self is the Self of all.”

4 Easy Steps to Spring Cleaning Your Life
When you spring clean your house, you take stock of what you have, get rid of things you don’t need, organize what is left, and clear space to bring in new things. You need to do these same things to spring clean your life. This means getting rid of things that no longer work for you, updating the way you do things, and freeing up some space for new and exciting opportunities. These are the four steps of spring cleaning your life: Taking Stock, Cleaning Out the Old, Tying Up Loose Ends and Trying Something New.

Step 1: Take Stock of Everything
Take a look at your life. Pull everything out into the middle of the floor and get honest with yourself. Ask yourself these questions:
• What in your life is wasting your time?
• What is draining your energy?
• What is holding you back?
• Where are your biggest sources of stress?

Whatever isn’t working for you should be addressed. And if it seems overwhelming to address every issue, make a list of the ones that bother you most and pick just a few on which to focus.

On the flip side, decide what things are positive in your life.
• What is working for you/what are you accomplishing?
• What is making you happy?
• What do you want more of in your life?

Pick what really matters to you and do more of it or keep expanding on it.

Step 2: Clean Out the Old
We all have useless litter and junk in our lives that can take many forms. It could be a negative attitude or bad habit you’ve been meaning to get rid of. It could be ending a draining relationship or an unfulfilling job. Sometimes we get so used to “being” a certain way that we lose sight of our ability to actively get rid of the negative from our life.

Air out your attitude: Anger, cynicism, fear, self-doubt, pessimism, denial, envy, and jealousy can take the sparkle out of your life. If you need to apologize, bite the bullet and do it. If you’re still angry and waiting on an apology from someone who won’t or can’t give you one, let it go. Think of any grudges that you are carrying and toss them. They are not contributing to your life, they are contaminating it — so they need to go to the junk heap. Only then can you put positives in their place and make some room for happiness. Second, pay attention to when and how you are negative and where your attitude might fall on a negative to positive meter. Then you need some intention and action that will help you become more positive and uncover the confidence buried under old attitudes. Chuck out all those boring useless old habits and make way for fresh and inspiring adventures.

Clean up your relationships: Air out your significant relationships at least twice a year. This includes voicing frustrations as well as talking about positive behaviors and actions desired from your loved one — covering everything from fidelity to money and sex. Throw out misunderstanding, lack of patience, gossip or lies. Polish your friendships. True friendships take work, time, energy, and thoughtfulness. They also require forgiveness and understanding. You don’t want to be a doormat to anyone, but you do want to find relationships that are equal and reciprocal. To clean up relationships that are not reciprocal, identify the difficult behavior and share with the family member, friend or partner how it makes you feel. Tell them face-to-face: “I’m not doing this anymore. This is your problem, not mine. I’m happy to have a relationship with you, but not with your current behavior.” Then stick to it. Don’t pick up the phone at all hours, don’t tolerate abusive behavior and don’t make excuses.

Look at your career: Take a look at how you feel about your job and career. Stack your job tasks up against your short- and long-term goals and evaluate how you feel when you go to work each day. If you’re not where you want to be in your career, don’t let the fear of failure paralyze you. Instead, take action: Sign up for online courses, join a professional organization or seek mentorship.

Step 3: Tie Up Loose Ends and Get Organized
Sometimes our lives get messy, not so much from negativity as from inertia. Inertia results in half-done tasks and never-ending to-do lists that clutter our minds. Delay and procrastination set you up for frustration. You’ll find yourself constantly in the past, trying to catch up. Prioritize the elements of your life. Consider what is most important: career, family, friends, health and fitness, a romantic relationship, travel or a special interest/hobby. List the desired elements of your life in order of importance. Each day take five minutes to review how your schedule aligns with your priority list. Is there something that you spend time on that is not really a priority, and takes up too much time? Name a step you could take that would change that. Enlist the people who have an effect on your daily organization and ask them for help. Be creative with solutions. Offer to swap child-watching duties with a friend each week so you both get some “me” time. Negotiate with your boss for a later arrival/departure time one day a week so you can go to the gym.

Below are a couple of useful strategies that you can incorporate into your routine to help you regain control of your life and experience a clearer sense of order and achievement.

Use a Master Action List: We’ve all experienced stress from having too much to do and not enough time to do it. The stress comes from that sense of discomfort, anxiety or dread because an undone task is a loose end. This state of mind is unproductive and drains your energy. Using a Master List will help you take care of unfinished business.

To begin a Master Action List, write down or type absolutely everything no matter how small. Develop the list without considering the importance or significance of each item. You will do this later. Remove everything out of your head and get it onto your list. Write down all things for which you have even the smallest responsibility to change, finish, get involved with or handle. Once completed, create sub lists by grouping and consolidating similar actions. Some tasks may be associated with certain days of the week or need to be done in a specified location or even with a particular person. Categories can be things like errands, calls to make/return, online actions, computer work, things pending or awaiting response, house projects, bills/finance, etc.

Examine each list daily or as often as you need to get them off your mind. Look at your pending tasks and then rank them in overall importance and put a due date on each one. Identify the action items that will give you the greatest return on your investment. Also note those action items that hold the greatest potential to escalate into a crisis situation if ignored. Schedule a time to review the list weekly, and reevaluate and reassess for the coming week.

Backward Scheduling: Too much to do every day? Use this simple technique to determine a realistic schedule. Write down everything you want to get done today. Then put a time estimate on each task (make sure it’s not a multi-day project!) and add up the time. Things always seem to take more time than we expect so overestimate a bit Compare what you have to do with how much time you have available and adjust to fit. Of course, some things will have to move to tomorrow. At least now you’re in control. Schedule your tasks into the day beginning with the time you need to finish.

Identify Time Wasters and Schedule Focus Time: Minimizing outside interruptions is a crucial aspect of managing your time effectively. The first step is becoming aware of how, why, and when interruptions prevent you from completing work. Then consider ways to deter these common breaks in your schedule. Schedule focus time every day. This is the time you are not to be disturbed. Turn off the phone, shut down email and determine your biggest need for action at this time. Then set your timer and get it done!

Step 4: Try Something New
Open the windows of your mind to new ideas and a fresh perspective on living a happier, better, easier life. Change takes action. There’s no silver bullet, no magic pill. But if you’ll open your mind to some different ways of doing things, if you’ll try some new habits, if you’ll work your mind muscles and your organizational skills in a different way, you’ll find that you’ll create the life that you truly want, not just the one that you end up with. One important step is to enjoy the person you are. If you don’t like yourself, find out why, and start working on becoming a person you do enjoy and that others will enjoy too. Find inspirational quotes and post them to remind you of a positive state of mind. Or make a list of all the positive benefits of a renewed point-of-view. In relationships, acting more friendly toward people you encounter each day would potentially gain you new friends, make you more attractive to others, and draw positive people into your circle of friends. In your career surround yourself with positive people, especially those who can open your eyes to new opportunities related to your expertise. Or add a new expertise or skill; take a class or workshop.

How to Find Purpose and Meaning at Work
By Jan Bruce

When the chips are down at work — the deadlines jamming up like bumper cars and the inbox screaming for attention, more fires to put out than all the fire extinguishers on the Eastern Seaboard can handle, there’s one thing that gets me through.

I believe my work has meaning.

According Daniel Pink, author and expert on the nature of work, meaning and purpose are core motivators, alongside autonomy and mastery. Money alone isn’t enough to push us to do our best. Instead, we are driven and inspired when we believe that what we doing serves something important beyond ourselves. We long for this meaning.

“More and more organizations want to have some kind of transcendent purpose,” Pink noted in his TED talk on what motivates us to work harder, better, and with more satisfaction. “Partly because that’s the way to make coming to work better [for employees], and partly because that’s the way to get better talent.” (Watch a clever animation of Pink’s talk by London non-profit RSA.)

Purpose Means Connection
Meaningful work comes from one of the building blocks of resilience: connection. When you believe what you do has a positive purpose in the world, you are connected to your values, to your ideals. You are likely connected to a group of people whose lives you somehow want to make better. You are part of a long line of others who worked in this field or in this manner, and you’re connected to all those to come who will build on your contribution.

The wonderful side effect of purposeful work is that improved resilience. We know that the higher level of connection, the greater your resilience — your ability to cope with stress and bear up under tough times. In fact, the more engaged and connected you are to the work itself, the lower your stress levels will be overall. As Andrew Shatte, Ph.D., one of meQuilibrium‘s co-founders, has discovered in his research, those who create connection in their lives feel more confident and secure about their lives. (Read more about connecting to something greater than yourself.)

But what if you’re just there for the pay and the benefits? What if the work is good enough that you simply don’t hate your job? For some, that’s as much as they think they’ll ever get.

The truth is, if you want more out of your work, there’s more purpose to be found. Doing meaningful work needn’t be some elusive cultural ideal reserved for the wealthy or the lucky. Instead, it starts with what you most deeply believe. Here are four questions to help you find your path to purpose.

1. How do you define success? What do you wish for yourself to achieve and to experience?

2. How does your family inspire you? What do they depend on you to do or be? How does your work help you meet the goals you have for your family?

3. What are your hopes for your community? Think big here — your state, your country, even humanity. Is there a problem in this community that you want to fix? Is there a way to start that work at your current job? Or have you outgrown where you are, and is this the time to find a place with the mission you want to call your own?

4. When do you most feel aligned with your core values? What work are you doing in this case? Who are you with? What work projects or outcomes resonate most strongly with those values? What’s one thing you can do to make these activities a greater part of your life.

Connecting to purposeful work might mean serious effort and soul-searching. The change it will foster in you is worth it. You’ll be less stressed and more motivated when you work — and you may even help make the world a better place.

Jan Bruce is CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, the new digital coaching system for stress, which helps both individuals and corporations achieve measurable results in stress management and wellness.

For more by meQuilibrium, click here.

For more on stress, click here.

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