We call my friend’s five-year-old, The Tiny Zen Master, because of his unerring ability to cut through crap and tell it how it is. Maybe kids and teenagers are more certain about and who and what they are about, because they have had less life experience telling them otherwise. I was lucky enough to get a reminder.
Yesterday, a colleague asked me, “What’s your life mission?”
I admit, this question make me bristle with annoyance rather than thrill with purpose. It’s a very Western individualistic idea that we are all born on earth to do great things. It’s not enough to get up in the morning, put on fresh underwear, and not get hit by careening SUV’s. I am supposed to make an impact, become rich or famous, and at the very least design my life around some unique creative thumbprint. I am reminded of a story in Byron Katie’s book, “The Work,” where a woman was complaining that she didn’t know what her purpose in life was. Katie challenged her to consider that her purpose was to live the life that she was living. I found this refreshing.
But, the truth is that I wrote my mission statement 30 years ago.
“Elyse,” said my Dad, “There’s a letter here at the house for you.”
“What?” I had just had my 30th birthday, and was making big changes in my life. I was leaving modern dance to study physiological psychology. I had started the three-year training to become an Alexander Technique Teacher. My dad handed me an envelope with faded but familiar script. I broke the seal.
“Dear Elyse, I’m writing to you from 1984. I’m 15. Do you remember me?” Barely, but I did remember the assignment from Nancy Rubin’s Social Living class at Berkeley High. I tried to imagine Ms. Rubin’s filing system as I read about my life as a teenager. Several paragraphs were devoted to a crush on some forgotten boy, but the last line of the letter shook me to my core: “Remember the power of the mind to influence the body for health and creative expression.”
These words underscore the consistent interest in my life.
If I had to answer that pesky life mission question today, I would say:
“My Life’s Mission is to explore and celebrate the mind body connection from an experiential and literary perspective as it relates dance, acting, yoga, meditation and stress reduction. My role in this mission is as a practitioner, teacher, and writer. My primary lens is the Alexander Technique, but my work is inspired by insight meditation and scientific research.”
But maybe I should just call on my own teenage zen master and keep it simple and say, “My life’s mission is to remember the power of the mind to influence the body for health and creative expression.”
What’s your Life Mission?